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New Jersey Restaurant Review

Daniel's on Broadway

(Restaurant Closed at the End of the 2005 Season)
416 South Broadway
West Cape May, Cape May County, New Jersey
(609) 898-8770

By The Artful Diner
Special to New Jersey Online

If you appreciate fine food, a junket to the Garden State's southernmost region is an Epicurean's sine qua non. One minor problem: deciding where to throw on the feedbag--there are just too many worthy restaurants from which to choose. My wife and I have, however, discovered a solution to this rather delectable dilemma. We simply ask our dear friends, Joe and Joanne Tornambe, proprietors of The Trellis Inn (our home away from home in Cape May), to make that decision for us.

Their latest recommendation, Daniel's on Broadway, certainly confirms their powers of predilection. Open only since Memorial Day weekend, and already the recipient of Atlantic City Magazine's Gold Award as the "Top New Restaurant in '98," this charming establishment has succeeded in tantalizing taste buds in a community that is clearly no stranger to the pleasures of ingesting gourmet fare.

And this eatery is of historic as well as gastronomic significance. The back of the building, dating from the time of the American Revolution, is undoubtedly much older than other portions of the structure. While many changes have taken place over the course of the years, the major expansion was the front of the house, completed in the 1870s. Most recently, the new owners, Chef Harry Gleason and his wife, Kristin, thoroughly renovated the interior and also added state-of-the-art kitchen facilities.

There are five diminutive dining rooms: four Victorian with French accents and one colonial. My preference is clearly for the latter. Located away from the hustle and bustle at the rear of the first floor, you will immediately be enchanted by the huge fireplace, the rustic wood beams, and the cozy space that accommodates a mere sixteen diners. So just settle in comfortably... but be sure to BYOB. And a superior vintage is clearly the order of the day. With the onslaught of cooler weather, you may prefer a red wine; and the 1996 Steele Pinot Noir Carneros (approximately $20.00) is an excellent choice to complement Mr. Gleason's ambitious New American/Classic cuisine.

From the moment the homemade bread arrives at table, you realize that a superb dining experience is in store. The poppy seed roll with onion and garlic is wonderfully tasty, as is the focaccia with herbs and caramelized onions. You will, of course, be tempted to slather on the butter... or the utterly addictive lemon, dill, garlic cream cheese spread. But go easy, the best is yet to come.

Mr. Gleason's appetizers, for example, are carried off with considerable panache. The coconut beer-battered shrimp ($9.00) are accompanied by a tangy Creole honey mustard sauce and garnished with grilled scallions. The plump and succulent Prince Edward Island mussels ($8.00) arrive swimming in a subtle ancho chile garlic herb broth. And the jumbo lump crabcake ($9.00), which has become something of an eatable redundancy of late, receives just the right amount of sprucing up from a tomato roasted corn salsa chipolte remoulade and chive essence.

In many eateries, salads are little more than perfunctory preparatory fodder; at Daniel's, like all of the chef's offerings, they are exceptional. There is, of course, the ubiquitous classic Caesar ($7.50), or the house salad ($8.00), which is comprised of baby greens dressed up with Stilton blue cheese, caramelized vidalia onions and tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. However, should you be in the mood for variations on a familiar theme, the Tuscan salad is not to be missed. Layers of tomato alternate with slices of fresh mozzarella, proscuitto and basil, with cracked black pepper and a drizzle of aged balsamic olive oil adding the crowning touch.

As extraordinary as the appetizers may be, the entrees actually manage to go them one better. And a perfect place to begin is with the grouper Charleston ($24.00), one of the chef's signature dishes. It is accompanied by chunks of lobster, sweet corn, plum tomatoes, and finished with a rich lobster sherry sauce. And the pan blackened tuna steak ($22.00) is also up to the mark. It arrives exactly as ordered (medium rare), reclining on a delicate bed of vidalia onion crisps, accentuated by a creamy leek sauce and balsamic drizzle. Feeling a bit expansive? There's always the seafood trio, the chef's seasonal piscatory preferences, available at market price.

And carnivores need not feel slighted. A special filet mignon with vegetable strata ($25.00) is enticingly innovative without being outre. Two 4-ounce cut-like-butter filets are layered with roasted eggplant and peppers, a portobello mushroom cap, tomato and goat cheese; a savory red wine sauce consummates this perfect picture. If the aforementioned item happens to be unprocurable the night you call, the filet mignon from the printed menu ($24.00), replete with Stilton blue cheese stuffing, finishes a close second. And for those who like to "mix 'n' match," the Southwest mixed grille ($26.00) has a great deal to recommend it. Grilled marinated quail, dry spice rubbed pork tenderloin, and a petite filet are augmented by chipolte mashed potatoes and a roasted shallot/raspberry reduction.

Speaking of mashed potatoes... Mr. Gleason's garlic herb version, which accompanies a goodly number of main courses, is nothing short of a gustatory magnum opus. So if your entree happens to arrive without benefit of same, don't be shy about bribing your server into snatching a side from the kitchen. Trust me, you'll beg, borrow or steal to lay your hands on the recipe.

And don't worry about desserts ($6.00) letting you down... they are every bit as worthy as their forebears. The frozen Grand Marnier souffle with a light chocolate sauce is a favorite here, as is the triple berry Napoleon with mascapone whipped cream, fresh raspberry sauce and creme anglaise. Other possibilities include creme brulee, Key lime pie and the special apple turnover garnished with a mellifluous caramel walnut sauce.

If there is one ghost in this otherwise well-oiled machine, it is the fact that the service is not up to the same high standard as the cuisine. It can, at times, be both rushed and distracted, failing to deliver appetizers in an expeditious manner... and then dumping entrees on unsuspecting patrons while they are still munching away on their starters. Or, during a particularly slow period, one server filled in her time ostentatiously recounting various and sundry social deprivations to a table of friends. Needless to say, this loquacious litany hardly endeared her to the other diners present. However, I have no doubt that Mr. and Mrs. Gleason will move quickly to remedy these transgressions (immediately after reading this review, I would suspect). Fortunately, you will find that the pleasant ministrations of hostess Carol Kinder more than compensate for any of the aforementioned minor glitches.

The bottom line: A superlative, casually elegant dining experience awaits you. This fine establishment has already made a significant impact upon Cape May's culinary community... and surely the best is yet to come.

Cuisine: New American/Classic
Hours: Sun & Mon, Weds & Thurs, 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Sunday Brunch, 11:15 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.; CLOSED TUESDAY
Credit Cards: All major except Discover
Attire: Casual
Smoking: Smoking is not permitted in the restaurant
Reservations: Essential
Parking: Onsite
Alcohol: BYOB
Price: Expensive
Handicapped Accessible: No
Specials: Excellent three-course Sunday brunch at $19.95 per person

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