55 Main Street
Flemington, Hunterdon County, New Jersey
By The Artful Diner
August 25, 2008
Printable Copy of this Review
Chef Jonas Gold is the owner of some impressive culinary credentials.
Not only is he a 1991 graduate of the CIA, but he also assisted at the James
Beard House and made significant contributions to the kitchens of Harvest Moon
Inn, Pittstown Inn, and the Fox and Hound Tavern.... So when news began to
circulate that Mr. Gold was returning to his hometown of Flemington, the
opening of 55 Main was eagerly anticipated.
And the critics have been positively effusive... ditto the comments of
patrons on various food/restaurant forums. After several recent visits,
however, I must confess that I've come away with decidedly mixed emotions.
I do like the restaurant itself. The former ice cream parlor is a long,
narrow space that has been lovingly renovated -- a good deal of the work done
by Mr. Gold himself -- and now boasts a minimalist décor of ice blue walls,
white napery & large white china plates, and classic black and white framed
photographs. The interior lines are clean yet warm and completely
unencumbered... but they stand in sharp contrast to the cuisine, which, at
times, seems ponderous and heavy handed.
But let me immediately qualify that statement. The desserts, simple yet
seductive, are, in my opinion, the most consistent items produced in 55 Main's
kitchen. Appetizers are something of a mixed bag: Several border upon the
sublime, while others suffer from either too much or too little of a good
thing. Entrées, though, are problematic. Some seem cumbersome and/or
convoluted; still others look like the various components have been piled
willy-nilly upon the plate with little or no thought given over to possible
To paraphrase an old axiom, life is short... so let's begin with dessert.
Both the lemon tart and the Key lime pie are superb. In both cases, the crusts
exhibit just the proper texture, and the fillings are mouthwateringly tangy.
The individual Kahlúa cheesecake not only boasts a firm but lusciously creamy
consistency, but also a fabulous Oreo cookie crust and consummatory Kahlúa
anglaise. Other closures include a benchmark crème brûlée and a homey peach
cobbler served à la mode. There is also a cheese platter, which was not
Desserts are clean of line and clear of countenance. Simple yet seductive,
they definitively demonstrate that, in many cases, less is more and that the
kitchen is surely capable of a great deal of finesse... as a number of
appetizers also bear witness.
The Asian duck pot stickers, for example, are a superlative effort. Their
consistency is a study in ethereality, the sweet duck meat tantalizes the
palate without overwhelming it, and the coconut-sweet chili sauce is the
extraordinary catalyst that brings all the constituents together.
And a special starter of ravioli with mini Black Angus meatballs is nothing
short of addictive. The pasta exhibits just the proper texture, the meatballs
are lusciously moist & perfectly seasoned, and the pinot noir reduction is
a revelation to the palate.
In both the aforementioned cases, not only is the integration of ingredients
spot-on, but the portion size -- neither too large nor too small -- is also
right on the money. With the starter of udon noodles, however, changes are in
the wind. The portion size begins to escalate, and the dish could surely
benefit from a good deal more pizzazz than the peanut vinaigrette provides.
The crisp oyster-calamari combo was also amply proportioned and certainly
demonstrated possibilities... but it was sabotaged by a number of factors: The
delicate bivalves were smothered beneath a blanket of breading; the rings of
squid, though marvelously tender, were lost in an overbearing sesame glaze; and
the entire presentation came off as rather dark and brooding.
A special salad of arugula teamed with morsels of mozzarella, sun-dried
& diced tomatoes sounded good... and the Parmesan-balsamic vinaigrette had
a great deal to offer in the flavor department. But the leaves were
inordinately large (at first I thought spinach had been substituted for
arugula) and not well trimmed. The plating seemed haphazard at best and the
entire presentation was not terribly attractive.
Some of these faux pas might have been overlooked if the entrées had
been up to snuff. However, in my opinion, the main courses excited neither the
eye nor the palate. And the special pork scaloppin proved the chief culprit.
The pork medallions, which could have been mystery meat, completely lost any
identity beneath a topping of melted Brie; and an equally assertive balsamic demi-glace
only added to their woes. Vegetable accompaniments included asparagus and an
all-too-typical medley replete with underdone broccoli florets. Once again,
aesthetics seemed to take a backseat. All constituents looked like they could
have been dropped onto the plate from twenty-thousand feet. The only redeeming
feature: delightfully crispy wedges of Yukon gold potato.
Two seafood selections suffered from what might most adequately be described
as visual and gustatory "whiteouts" -- both color and flavor
conspicuous by their absence. The first, herb-roasted codfish, came swimming in
an undistinguished broth surrounded by inordinately chewy littleneck clams and
crowned with a white anchovy tempura; the second, white-on-white crabmeat
topped tilapia, arrived in a white wine butter sauce in desperate need of
The grilled chicken breast and penne pasta, a relatively simple dish, also
fell short of the mark. The morsels of chicken were overcooked, and the roasted
garlic cream sauce, which should have propelled the dish into orbit, never got
off the launching pad.
There is absolutely no question in my mind that 55 Main has
incredible potential. And it is also quite obvious that, judging by the
desserts and a number of the appetizers, Mr. Gold surely knows what he's about
in the kitchen. I just wish that the entrées were less "muddled" and
demonstrated a bit more finesse. They have ingredients aplenty... but their
combinations often fail to yield a meaningful coalescence of flavors.
Hours: Lunch: Mon - Fri, 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; Dinner: Weds &
Thurs, 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; CLOSED
Credit Cards: All major
Parking: Street parking
Price: Appetizers, $6.50 - $10.00; Entrées, $17.00 - $26.00; Desserts,
$8.00 - $10.00
Handicapped Accessible: Yes