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Re-entering Stage Left

Food Excellent
Ambiance White tablecloths; changing atr exhibits; bistro feel
Service Excellent

We made a day of it: a matinee performance of "Wedding Dance" at Crossroads Theatre followed by an early supper next door at Stage Left.

Associate Taster Lee and I were enchanted with the food and with the very good service from our waiter, Kyle.

He knew all about the food and what wines would go well with what. A sure sign of good management.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Moondance Cellars 1993 Merlot from the Napa Valley in California, $45. It was a perfect accompaniment, both to my rare duck breast and Lee's seared salmon.

But first, there were perfect little openers.

The team at Stage Left: From left, Mark Pascal, Lou Riveiro, and Francis Scott

Lee began with a grilled portobello mushroom with polenta squares, leafy greens and an aged balsamic vinaigrette, $9.95. There was a wonderfully smoky flavor to the mushroom; the steak-like feel of the portobello is so satisfying to us meateaters.

I opened with a stingy, although delicious, appetizer of fresh American sturgeon caviar and salmon roe on a potato pancake with dollops of creme fraiche, $10.95. I would gladly pay more for a heftier portion of caviar.

That was the only low point of a meal that otherwise soared.

We chose from the menu for our main courses and asked for simple green salads to be delivered after the entrees if we had the space.

Lee is a salmon fancier, and chose the seared salmon with sauteed escarole and black-eyed peas with roasted tomato, $22.95. It was a nice portion, perfectly and moistly prepared, perched upon the vegetables and legumes. Just amazing what a good job the kitchen did.

My entree was equally delicious. I asked for the duck to be crusty on the outside and rare on the inside. That is exactly the way it arrived. The sauce was a rich cherry port and the carbohydrate was a firm slice of herbed cornbread.

Both entrees were rich, so salad was definitely in order to clear the palate. The house salads are generous in size for $6, but not undoable if you choose to eat them after the entree as they do in Italy.

You could also order a Caesar salad for $7.95 or a golden beet salad with wilted spinach and orange vinaigrette, $8.95. That might make a very good appetizer instead of what we chose. There is also a venison carpaccio with heart of palm salad or lobster dumplings with daikon and ginger, which intrigued.

But, wait. The best was still to come. Lee is always appalled when she realizes she must order dessert at a review. That lasted until she saw the dessert card with a molten chocolate cake with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, $7.95. Sold.

When it arrived, it looked like an upside down souffle from your mom's 4-ounce bakeware cups. Plunked next to it was a generous portion of homemade ice cream. When she cut into the warm cake, out poured this marvelous looking milk chocolate sauce. Oh, heaven. Great coffee, $2, completed the picture.

I chose a warm banana compote with ginger ice cream, also $7.95. It was very much like Bananas Foster, but with a citrus character to the hot sauce, and a gingery zip from the ice cream and the candied ginger strips that topped it. I chose espresso (the real thing), $2.95.

There is a bar menu that offers a cheeseburger with chipotle mayonnaise, calamari, fish and chips, a Vermont Cheddar fondue for two or a chipotle hummus. Prices range from $4.95 to $14.95 for the fondue. Perfect when you merely want a drink and something to nosh.

Now the question: Should I move to New Brunswick to be near Stage Left?

Stage Left | 5 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08901 | T: 732.828.4444
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