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Ryland Inn


Steve Plotnicki
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Depends. First of all you have to remember that Michael and Craig are friends. With that being said, I would go back there but I live in NJ! I had a dinner there about 6 months ago that was fabulous/memorable. Bring a few credit cards. I have also had Michael's cooking and he is a winner! Did you know that he used to work in NJ?

Rosalie Saferstein, aka "Rosie"

TABLE HOPPING WITH ROSIE

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Rosie-Is his working in New Jersey a plus? Just kidding. Considering how close it is (I live in Manhattan), I NEVER eat in New Jersey. But something  about how Michael described it made it sound like it could be good. So I thought it might be worth taking a road trip, even if it's Jersey :~).

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Ryland Inn is excellent. You might want to visit it in the spring/summer when Craig uses the herbs and vegetables from his garden. The surrounding area is lovely.You hinted that it would be a schlep so that's why I was hesitant to tell you to drive out. Is it worth it. Yes.

Rosalie Saferstein, aka "Rosie"

TABLE HOPPING WITH ROSIE

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Steve,

While I've never eaten at the Ryland Inn, you would be surprised at the quality of some of the restaurants in NJ.  

When Allison and I moved this past August I was skeptical about the quality of the restaurants and the markets in NJ.  While many of the markets still leave a good deal to be desired (they are cheap though) I have eaten at two places that provide a great meal at very un-NYC prices.  The kicker is that neither have a liquor license and you can BYO to your heart's content.  Check out my review of Le Rendez Vous lower on this page and also on the travel page at WLDG.  The other restaurant is Jocelynes also reviewed on the WLDG.  I'll post that review here later.  Both places are about 40 minutes from midtown depending on traffic.

Sorry I missed you at Beacon.

Mike Cohen

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Steve

  I believe the Ryland Inn to  certainly be one of the best restaurants in the entire Tri-State area. Immaginative, superbly prepared meals, with each and every detail perfected in both preparation and service. It has been about a year since I have been there but the meal that I had  was one of the top 2 or 3 that I have ever experianced. I also concur with Rosie about Craig Shelton's use of the home-grown herbs - a distinguishable touch to the dishes. In lieu of a few credit cards however, considering a second mortgage may be more appropriate - but in all honesty, if anywhere is worth the price - this place is it!

A.D.S.

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However, be forewarned:  It's the chef's way. or the highway!  WE were unable to substitute, request a dish from the tasting menu, etc.  WE were there a year ago, party of six, 8 pm on a Saturday night, and they were out of the premium tasting menu, only had the regular one, a la carte, or veg. And it was the "premium"  ( I forget the menu's choice of words to distinguish it from

t he regular)  tasting that sounded the best.  Went for Valentine's day this year, and had a sublime dinner, even on a night like that...other than a dense chocolate dessert,w ith no option or other choice ( fruit, sorbet, etc)  we had a great meal. Wonderful wine list, wonderful service, it's surrounded by beautiful grounds, and worth a "day in the country" ...it can be a real dining destination.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 2 months later...
  • 3 years later...

has anyone eaten here lately? I'm having dinner here on sunday what with so many restaurants in nyc being closed on the weekend of the fourth and I was looking for a special place. already rented a car for the day, but is it worth the trip? anything worth trying in particular? and can my date and I order two different menus or could one order the traditional and one the gourmand for example?

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You people who are from "NYC" make me laugh becouce your really from mid america eating Sonic. So come off your high horse. Some of the best NJ restaurants the chefs have worked in NYC or Europe. Ok I will come off my soap box and say if you speak to most chefs in the area they started at The Ryland Inn. Craig is the person that started most of the chefs out.

Edited by cibo susci (log)
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I hope that last comment wasn't targeted at me for reviving this forum. it's a rare indulgence that I rent a car to go out of my way to any another state for what's probably going to be close to a four hundred dollar dinner; I just wondered if anyone had any positive, recent experiences they can share about eating at the ryland. if not, worst-case scenario it'll be a pleasant surprise come sunday night.

and what's with the "mid america eating sonic" comment?

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adamru--Welcome to eGullet. We look forward to your report on The Ryland Inn. I haven't been to The Ryland Inn in many years but I have heard very good comments about the Bistro. Haven't heard any buzz on the restaurant recently.

Rosalie Saferstein, aka "Rosie"

TABLE HOPPING WITH ROSIE

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I think the Ryland Inn is the best restauran in New Jersey. Though this is only my opinion, I've eaten at nearly all of New Jersey's highest regarded restaurants. Though some may gripe that the service may not be up to NY Times 4-star standards, the experience is decidedly very un-NYC. I've eaten at all of the NYC's 4-stars with the exception of Masa and Per Se (though in about 2 weeks I will be experiencing Per Se) and find that food at the Ryland Inn to be less challenging but also more feminine and seductive. The addition of Chef Shelton's fresh vegetables and, especially, herbs does volumes for the light, ethereal aspect that characterizes much of his cuisine. Although I cannot say that the Ryland Inn is better than the best restaurants in NYC, it is somewhere that should be experienced. I also suggest taking advantage of two different types of tasting menus, allowing you and your partner to try as many things as possible.

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my intention was to find a special restaurant to take my girlfriend for her birthday dinner two weeks ago, somewhere neither of us had been before which was locally very limiting, and the friday prior to her birthday weekend I was watching the today show, saw charlie palmer was on, and realizing I'd never been to aureole, it seemed like a luxe and romantic option. the food on that last night of the spring tasting menu was heavy - no room for dessert - and the courses rushed - we were out in under two hours - and our hotel, the hotel on rivington, was a disaster anyway so I saw the weekend of the 4th, america's birthday instead of hers, as a do-over. we stayed at the mandarin oriental - preferring room service to asiate - and rented a car to go to the ryland inn which I'd never have known about had I not seen it on the relais & chateaux website while looking at aureole.

it was easy to find, no traffic on the holiday weekend and, tunnel to turnpike to 22, we were there in about forty minutes. we parked near the front entrance and it was nice to see there was no valet which could have made it showy and less intimate. instead you step out your car to total silence - unlike most of 22 which is strip mall after strip mall, things quiet down about ten minutes before you reach the inn. going inside, you open the first door to the house yourself, they open the second as you walk into the foyer, hear the piano from the bistro / bar to the right which is lit in a dim contrast to the host desk where the hostess was very welcoming standing before the james beard award medal hanging framed on the wall behind her, adjacent to a painted portrait of the chef. I've had a couple days to think about it, and considering it's part of the history of the space it seems at home hanging in the inn along with all the historical new jersey prints in the rooms, the restaurant after all is new jersey lore.

we were seated in an upstairs dining room where there were only five or six tables, and counting us, only four of them occupied. this sort of intimate space was what I was hoping for at aureole and at complete contrast to the dining room at daniel, although there the tables are better spaced than at aureole. despite the jacket requirement everyone seemed casual, relaxed if not celebratory, and anonymous. not to offend anyone, I'm absolutely aware there are wealthy and powerful people in this state, certainly moreso than me, but this was so nice in contrast to somewhere like daniel, to not naturally assume everyone in the room is more important than you and that they will likely receive better and more attentive service. it even brought to mind early reviews of per se that I read from people who would say if you didn't know the chef you'd suffer not getting the extras served to the tables around you. we knew no one at the ryland, we didn't suffer and the food and experience improved with most every course.

since we weren't required to order the same menu for the table, my girlfriend had the traditional menu, I had the gastronomique. the menus vary slightly from what's currently described on the website, but the site gave a fair preview of what was to come. to begin we were poured a complimentary glass of champagne. we didn't do the wine pairing because eight courses offers a lot of pairings and 1. we didn't know how to drive back in the dark nor did we know 2. who was going to drive back but we definitely regret not getting to learn better from the sommelier as I can't recall one so unpretentious or enthusiastic. and one thing that may have added to the relaxed feeling of the environment is the all-around lack of accents. not that the staff should have the same accent as the nation of the type of cuisine they're serving, but if they're going to announce and intricately describe each course upon its arrival over the din of the room, to hear the description in a clear confident precise voice without having to bark it is a precious thing and such a thing we found here. I think of eating at the bar room of the modern last monday and hearing a hurried mumbled description when the plates were brought as if they learned the descriptions but not what the words actually meant. most times I think to myself since I know what I ordered I'd rather the server say nothing at all. this was not the case here. and with the exception of one female server who seemed very nervous even though she remembered everything just fine, she was one of three servers who were so baby-faced they couldn't have been in the service industry that long and yet behaved as if they'd been doing it happily all their lives.

okay, the food. up until dessert, the traditional menu meant larger portions of less exotic ingredients but more than enough to sample from one another's plates. and while at aureole, where we both had the same menu, we were full halfway through the meal, we would have been satisfied here if dinner ended one third the way through but had room and anticipation for each following course.

the amuse to start was a sablefish in a foam - I think yuzu - with a floral garnish, topped with a piece of dried seaweed over the bowl. this would be a precursor to a number of outstanding foams / purees / creams that would highlight a number of courses that night. a cherry foam in a shot glass with two fresh stemmed cherries on the side served as a palate cleanser, a foamy green garlic puree would top the cote de boeuf, a carrot puree would underscore one of the traditional courses and an almond cream was beneath one of my fish courses. the almond cream, maybe because it was the only combination of sweet and savory that night stood out in my mind as one of the most memorable tastes of the meal and I thought it would foreshadow creativity I would see in the dessert course. it did not.

when we went to aureole, an elderly couple were both finishing their desserts when we were seated. both from a selection ordered the warm chocolate and hazelnut pyramid with chocolate sauce poured over them. this followed a lemon frozen yogurt inside a shot glass filled before you with a berry consomme, both desserts followed by about a half dozen petit-fours and a housemade fruit and nut chocolate bar. and then a bag of madelines. no one sitting around us that night were able to finish their desserts and one table unsuccesfully offered thier untouched plate of chocolates to the table next to them. my own dessert was three full-size portions of creme brulee (en parade) topped with different fruit garnishes and the two of us could hardly make it through one. but in that case at aureole we really wished we could have eaten them all. at the ryland inn, there was no selection in the dessert process. the traditional menu ended with an unmemorable chocolate tart and the gastronomique menu ended with a chocolate souffle with white peppercorn ice cream. the souffle was like a dense chocolate muffin, not particularly warm, fresh or tasty. the petit-fours, a bite-size pecan tart, a piece of dark chocolate and something else, were unimpressive as well, not as good as the jacques torres chocolate bedside in our hotel room back in the city. I was only so supremely disappointed by dessert because prior to that, it was the best meal either of us had ever eaten (applewood in park slope where I ordered almost the whole menu one night would come in second.) and even now it's not a question of whether or not to go back, but when. at the very least I'll return to experience the tasting menu seasonally and maybe even some a la carte items even sooner.

I wish they offered a selection of desserts from which to choose even if they aren't more creative than these two were. I didn't see a dessert menu on the website and don't recall seeing anyone else eat anything different. does anyone know?

but back to the savory, the chicken from the traditional menu was so rich and tender. both beef dishes delicious as well. her lamb outshined my cote de bouef which came with a small portion of braised oxtail and a salad I believe with some sort of smoked meat. both these dishes, I can't imagine if they were ordered individually as full-sized entrees that they could be any bigger a portion than we received. I was excited to try the quail eggs in brioche which were on the online menu but in the course of the actual meal the only quail egg was paired with a roasted mushroom, great in its own way and paired with the fish that was in the almond cream.

the squab and foie gras on the gastro menu was the best course I've had anywhere ever. I believe it was at this point the sommelier returned to pair the course with a complimentary, complementary glass of red wine.

after the cheese course we were invited downstairs to tour the kitchen and meet the chef, it was all so impressively calm considering how much had to be prepared for all the parties ordering the tasting menus upstairs. (I thanked God I didn't have to choose my own cheese from a cart as it's an area of great ignorance to me.) the gastro menu came with three blue cheeses which I was happy to try and increase my awareness but nothing beat a soft cheese dripping off a spoon on my girlfriend's plate. I'm sorry I don't know what it was.

the check was a little over $300 which is my dining budget for a week but the price perfectly matched the value of the experience whereas at aureole the bill was $260 with tip and I felt I was being cheated. also drinks were relatively affordable as well. I had a macallan twelve year for $10, which goes for about $14 anywhere else I drink, and $16 at the hotel bar.

it was my first great meal in new jersey and I look forward to my next. no car rental this time, I'm going to try the jefferson in hoboken this weekend.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can finally comment on all the aforementioned comparisons between Nicholas and the Ryland Inn. I very recently dined at Restaurant Nicholas and between my dining partner and I, we tried every dish on the tasting part of the menu.

With that said, the food there is very, very tasty, though not consistently transcendent. There are certainly great items on the menu that I enjoyed thoroughly, but it simply falls short of some Chef Shelton's delicate creations. As albie states, The Ryland Inn is in a class by itself in New Jersey, in price, food quality, and experience. While Nicholas is a great restaurant by nearly any standards and a good value, The Ryland Inn is more impressive and memorable overall.

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Rosie-Is his working in New Jersey a plus? Just kidding. Considering how close it is (I live in Manhattan), I NEVER eat in New Jersey. But something  about how Michael described it made it sound like it could be good. So I thought it might be worth taking a road trip, even if it's Jersey :~).

I was just there last week and I was disappointed- nothing stood out. I didn't go with huge expectations either. Service was very slow and I had to ask several times for the sommelier to refill my wine. And of course he felt the need to explain to me that he had two other bottles two open (had he pour more attentively, I would have ordered a third bottle myself).

We had the tasting and the only thing I remember was the Scallop "raviol" with caviar. Dessert, by the way, is a waste of time. Do they have a pastry chef?

I'm from the city and wish I hadn't taken the trip. You are better off going to Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

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I'm sorry you had a poor experience. Having recently been to Per Se, I can honestly say that Chef Shelton's cuisine is the closest thing that New Jersey has to a Thomas Keller-esque experience. To me, both restaurants share similar philosophies; they both focus on the intricacies of fresh ingredient based flavors.

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If anyone is interested, I recently published this article about Chef Shelton. I've worked with him for a number of years now, and find him to be one of the most fascinating thinkers in the business.

The Science of Running a Restaurant

I'm also glad to see mostly positive reviews of his cooking here -- I've had many memorable meals at the Ryland Inn.

Jennifer L. Iannolo

Founder, Editor-in-Chief

The Gilded Fork

Food Philosophy. Sensuality. Sass.

Home of the Culinary Podcast Network

Never trust a woman who doesn't like to eat. She is probably lousy in bed. (attributed to Federico Fellini)

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If anyone is interested, I recently published this article about Chef Shelton.  I've worked with him for a number of years now, and find him to be one of the most fascinating thinkers in the business.

The Science of Running a Restaurant

I'm also glad to see mostly positive reviews of his cooking here -- I've had many memorable meals at the Ryland Inn.

Great article. I wish you could've delved into the science even further.

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