The Brick House (the "fine dining" restaurant in Wyckoff, NJ) was ripped a new one (update: that link won't work. I have to stop bothering trying to include links to the North Jersey Media Group's websites. They are constantly changing, and as of today, I cannot even find their review of The Brick House. It seems they have very little respect for their reviews, and don't care if anyone ever sees them. Maybe that's by design) by the Bergen Record yesterday. And just like clockwork, critics of the critic came out of the woodwork, defending the restaurant, and questioning the reviewer's food knowledge (you can read the comments at the bottom of that link and here as all of them here). One commenter suggests that a reviewer should "educate me and enrich the dining experience". That's good stuff. I can't even make that stuff up. And, of course, some made it known to the world that one little review was not going to change their opinion of the place (ummm, is that the goal of a review? ever?)
I guess this phenomenon has something to do with these places being "local institutions." My take on "local institutions"?: generally not very good.
While I've had several meals at Biagio's to support that hypothesis, I've had none at The Brick House. But not for lack of trying.
Our visit a few weeks ago went like this:
- Pulled into the parking lot and was greeted by a valet. OK, so I don't dislike this practice as much as I used to.
- In front of us was a early 2000's luxury sedan with a coupla older folks getting out. Not a good sign, to my mind. "Well that's ageist!" you scream. No, it's not. I'm just pretty damned sure that what they like in a restaurant and what I like in a restaurant are two completely different animals. Just as I'm pretty sure that what I like in a restaurant and what someone who is who 30 years my junior likes are different as well. Although that's not to suggest I don't like a couple of Happy Meals every now and again.
- Walked into the foyer, which looked and felt like a wedding factory. In fact, there's a big old room right off to the right for just such events. Big, empty room. Just tables and chairs. Maybe they should keep that door shut when it's not in use. And when it is as well.
- We were walked to the bar by a pleasant host, where we thought we'd have some food. The barroom is quite opulent. Dark woods. A thick, heavy feeling room. Just what I expected, and not horrible in the least. I figured I could get a nice bourbon cocktail of some sort at a place that looks like this.
- Asked for some menus and reviewed them for a while. But I couldn't concentrate on the mostly old-school selections (think: shrimp cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, escargot) because all I noticed was the drunkard sitting next to us, bleary-eyed (it was about 6 pm on a weeknight), and essentially sexually assaulting my wife (and maybe me for all I know) with his eyes.
- I gave him a few chances to stop, with the usual techniques, including, but not limited to: staring back at him, asking loudly enough "is that drunk asshole next to you bothering you?" "He's about 2 seconds away from being knocked on his ass." Things of that nature. To no avail.
- The other patrons seemed a bit more refined, but I could tell that this was NOT gong to be one of those experiences where we're all sharing a laugh discussing our recent meals at Scarpetta or the pork belly at Chengdu 23.
- Up and out we went, and it's very unlikely that we'll return.
Ended up at Park Ridge's Esty Street, where proper cocktails were made (a Perfect Manhattan and a martini in this case), seasonal ingredients were used, "clams casino" were nowhere in sight, and the patrons didn't fantasize about making love to either of us. As far as I know.