Harvest Moon Inn, Ringoes, NJ – A Review

by artfuldiner on June 20, 2018

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, New Jersey, Review, Wining and Dining

Harvest Moon Inn

1039 Old York Road

Ringoes, New Jersey

(908) 806-6020


Harvest Moon Inn - ExteriorAs I’ve mentioned on more than a few occasions, it is always with somewhat mixed emotions that a food writer returns to a restaurant he/she has previously reviewed. Will it have improved… slipped a notch or two… maintained its status quo? And since my initial critique of the Harvest Moon Inn had been posted over 15 years ago, I wasn’t quite sure what the story would be.

Checking out my old review, apart from two minor faux pas – occasionally convoluted presentations and a penchant for teaming up a majority of entrées with whipped potatoes –  Harvest Moon had been a most satisfying dining experience. After all, chef/proprietor Stanley Novak, a CIA grad, had held culinary court at such esteemed Garden State kitchens as Fromagerie and the Frog and the Peach. So, my dining partner and I had high hopes that the restaurant would be as good as we both remembered.

Unfortunately, things got off to a rocky start – our server had significant difficulty locating the bottle of wine I’d ordered, coming back several times to apologize for the delay – and then proceeded to go downhill from there. Once finally located, the server had equal difficulty extracting the cork; thus, the bottle had to be handed over to the bartender for oenological surgery… which failed, sending the cork, and various bits and pieces thereof, into the body of the bottle. Which meant, of course, that even though this was a white wine (and a rather expensive one at that, I might add), it had to be carefully decanted into a carafe in order to eliminate the debris.

But wait – and I do mean wait – there’s more… The wine, for some unknown reason, was at room temperature, not properly chilled; and, therefore, it had to be chilled at table before it could be thoroughly enjoyed… And the server had yet to take our order!

When we finally did get around to the food, it was something of a mixed bag. Appetizers measured up; but the entrées, in my opinion, fell far short of the mark. The Arugula Salad, for example, had a great deal to offer. Toasted pistachios, feta cheese, and red onion crisps all had strong supporting roles; but it was the sweet Vidalia onion-ginger vinaigrette that really sealed the deal.

Harvest Moon Inn - Veg Spring RollsEven better, though, were the Crisp Vegetable Spring Rolls. Set on a bed of sautéed spinach and Napa cabbage, the rolls were, as advertised, quite crisp and crunchy. The pool of sweet chili sauce added a nice splash of color as well as flavor. The dish makes a first-rate starter… or a great preprandial snack if you happen to stop in at the bar.

Harvest Moon Inn - Duck BreastThe entrées, unfortunately, don’t fare nearly as well. The Sautéed Long Island Duck Breast was hardly exceptional, harkening back to the ill-conceived convolutions of the past. Mr. Novak teamed the thick, overly fatty slices with snow peas, wild rice, orange confit… and cilantro and Napa cabbage… and sweet Vidalia onion & ginger vinaigrette… and tiara of crisp wontons… and whipped potatoes. There were simply too many ingredients here; all fighting with each other like riled up strangers… and the potatoes were totally superfluous.

Harvest Moon Inn - Pork MedallionsAnd those very same spuds also put in a guest appearance with several other dishes, including my Grilled Pork Medallions. In this presentation, however – companioned by braised red cabbage, bacon & caramelized onions, and black currant demi-glace – they were somewhat more essential. The pork medallions themselves, though, were the real problem: Obviously overcooked, they were as tough as Clint Eastwood’s Rawhide saddle. To the restaurant’s credit, however, a hefty percentage was removed from the check.

Harvest Moon Inn - Peanut Butter BrownieDessert – a luscious peanut butter brownie – hit a high note… but it still wasn’t enough to salvage the evening. Portions, especially the entrées, were as prodigious as I remembered; but I would gladly have sacrificed portion size for a touch more subtlety with regard to both ingredients and presentation.

Sad to say, Mr. Novak’s cuisine, which seemed “both creative and contemporary” when I penned my initial review in 2002, now feels ponderously out of date. The au courant dining scene has witnessed a host of exciting developments in the past sixteen years; and, in my opinion, the Harvest Moon Inn has failed to keep pace.

Bon Appétit!


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