New Jersey Restaurant Review
167 Perryville Road
Perryville, Hunterdon County, New Jersey
The Artful Diner
Special to nj.com
Paul and Lorraine Ingenito's Perryville Inn has long been
considered a prime destination for those in search of a cozy dîner à deux.
The Federal-style building boasts two dining areas: an original room dating
from 1813 replete with huge stone fireplace and accoutrements
appropriately rustic, and a larger, modern space offering two walls of windows
that afford a lovely view of the restaurant's finely-manicured greenery. The
Inn is the perfect setting for a gastronomic romantic rendezvous -- if you get
the right table, that is.
On two separate occasions, our hostess (not Mrs. Ingenito, who often handles
the hosting chores) plopped us down in circumstances that were about as
conducive to romance as dining in a major outpost of the U.S. Postal Service
several hours before the April 15th deadline for filing income taxes.
In the first instance, our party was seated in the homey 1813 room. This
arrangement would have been perfectly acceptable, had it not been for the fact
that the entirety of the larger dining area had been reserved for a surprise
birthday bash. Hence, we had a bird's-eye view of the tumultuous arrival of
various and sundry guests -- and they of us. It was somewhat akin to chowing
down in Bloomingdale's front window. Then, as if to add insult to injury,
sometime later the very same hostess seated parties on both sides of our table.
Once again, this would have been fine... except that the two parties knew each
other and spent a good deal of the evening engaged in spirited clamorous
During our second visit, my wife and I were escorted into the larger modern
dining area. As it was early in the evening, only one table was occupied. And,
you guessed it, with the entire room from which to choose, the hostess with the
mostest seated us right next to the occupied table. Even more disconcerting,
however, was the fact that we were situated in a direct line to the kitchen --
close enough to hear the doors to the nether regions creak with nauseating
regularity and the sound of spirited chopping (the noise was so loud, it was
actually discernible on my tape recording) and conversations from within... Ah,
Apart from the hostess, though, service here is both professional and personable
and is perfectly exemplified in the gentleman who presides over the
establishment's attractive diminutive bar. So feel free to unwind with one of
the Inn's specialty martinis ($8.75) -- recently sampled, for instance, was a
fabulously refreshing white watermelon martini -- and take a gander at the
first-class wine list.
If you'd prefer to order by the glass, I can highly recommend the 2002
George Faiveley Bourgogne Blanc ($8.75), 2003 Dr. Loosen Riesling ($7.00), 2002
Aquinas Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.50), and 2002 Sterling Merlot ($8.00).
Bottle-wise, try the lush 2002 Cambria "Katherine's Vineyard"
Chardonnay ($36.00) or the incomparable 2001 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir from
Oregon's Willamette Valley ($65.00).
When contemplating the menu, it's helpful to bear in mind that Mr. Ingenito
characterizes his modern American cuisine as "classic country." This
is, indeed, an apt description, as presentations are generally quite robust in
nature and several of the appetizers -- unless you happen to be gifted with a
ravening appetite -- are certainly suitable for two persons.
... And the "Portobello Club ($9.50), a contemporary takeoff on the
time-honored club sandwich, is surely a case in point. Mushroom caps are
layered with roasted peppers, slices of Yukon gold potato, and herbed goat
cheese; the "sandwich" is then quartered and anchored with sprigs of
rosemary. A delightful and delicious presentation... but also quite prodigious.
A related concept is the special fried green tomato "BLT ($9.75). A
tower of fried green and vine-ripened red and yellow Jerseys are interspersed
with pancetta crisps, greens, and basil mayonnaise. A neat idea... but the
green tomatoes were conspicuous by their absence; on a second go-round, however,
they managed to make a miraculous reappearance.
Other ample appetizers include the grilled filet of lamb tenderloin ($10.75)
and oven-dried tomato ravioli ($12.75). The former is comprised of luscious
medium rare slices draped over a savory goat cheese pancake and surrounded by
an invigorating red pepper coulis dotted with slivers of kalamata
olives. The latter tempts the palate with tender pockets filled with sweet
lobster meat arranged around an epicenter of angel hair pasta tossed with rock
shrimp. Both, in my view, constitute the chef's finest efforts.
Among the entrées, the presentation of pan-seared filet mignon ($28.75) may
be considered standard restaurant issue -- especially when accompanied by a
stylized mound of whipped potatoes, haricots verts, and sautéed crimini
mushrooms -- but the quality of the beef is superb. Boasting a cut-like-butter
texture and remarkable depth of flavor, this is one of the best filets it has
ever been my pleasure to ingest. The breast of Long Island duckling ($26.00) is
also quite excellent. Rich, succulent slices adorn a provocative California fig
and toasted almond tart and are consummated with a stone fruit relish and port
From the piscatorial perspective, the red snapper ($28.00) is a standout.
The filet is beautifully prepared, moist and flaky, arranged on a seabed of
wilted spinach, and crowned with a tiara of sweet jumbo lump crabmeat. The
pizzazz is provided by a colorful circumscription of sherried lobster sauce.
Desserts, like many of the appetizers, are quite generous. And the
chocoholics' sine qua non is most assuredly the retro "Ring
Ding" ($8.50) -- layers of devil's food cake with white and dark chocolate
mousse and chocolate ganache -- a delectably decadent culinary ode to the classic
Drake's snack cake. The caramelized banana tart ($7.50) is also highly
recommended, as is the almond lace cookie "cannoli" filled with
citrus mascarpone and embellished with blackberry sauce ($7.50). Those who
prefer a somewhat lighter touch in the sweet endings department would do well
to treat themselves to the "palette" of house made seasonal fruit
sorbets garnished with fresh berries and raspberry coulis ($7.50).
Despite the general overall quality of the cuisine, however, there remain a
number of inexplicable and frustrating ghosts in the machine. The
aforementioned strange case of the disappearing fried green tomatoes, for
instance, or the obviously stale sourdough bread that should never have been
allowed to make its way to table.
And there are also more serious issues: Apart from the aforementioned red
snapper, finny creatures don't seem to fare terribly well. Halibut isn't a
terribly exciting fish -- always in dire need of a persuasively puissant
pick-me-up -- but the innocuous representative encountered here is strictly the
bland-leading-the-bland. Served on a bed of angel hair pasta and surrounded by
a sea of uninspiring lobster consommé, it is famine for both the eye and the
But the real culprit is the porcini powder-dusted George's Bank grey sole
($26.00). Set on an herb vinaigrette-infused mishmash of roasted fingerling
potatoes, asparagus, and hen-of-the-wood mushrooms, the overall presentation is
depressingly dark and brooding. And not only is the sole completely tasteless,
its off-puttingly mushy consistency is sufficient to repulse the likes of a
How a restaurant of this caliber can turn out something so utterly horrific
is one of those unfathomable mysteries. Although, I harbor the suspicion that
Mr. Ingenito may be spending a considerable amount of time at his new venture,
the nearby Grand Colonial, perhaps leaving the kitchen in less accomplished
The Perryville Inn has enjoyed a justifiable reputation for
excellence precisely because of Mr. Ingenito's constant presence as the power
behind the stove. I would humbly submit that patrons would be better served if
he spent as much time romancing his old flame as he did courting his new love.
Cuisine: New American
Hours: Lunch: Mon - Fri, 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Tues - Thurs,
5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Sun, 4:00 p.m. -
8:00 p.m.; CLOSED MONDAY
Credit Cards: All major
Attire: Smart casual
Smoking: Smoking is permitted in the bar and lounge only.
Reservations: Highly recommended
Alcohol: License; extensive wine list
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Web site: http://www.theperryvilleinn.com.