River Mill Restaurant Informative - Disappointment, Thy Name Is River Mill Restaurant

Review by Dave in South Jersey on 2009-04-13
BORDENTOWN, NEW JERSEY -- I decided to surprise my wife at work this afternoon by showing up out of the blue and taking her to lunch. Since we only had an hour, we thought it best to go someplace close and decided to try River Mill Restaurant in Bordentown, NJ. Sadly, I think we would have received a better meal at the McDonald’s across the street.

We arrived to a fully-empty parking lot and weren’t even sure they were open. It turned out that they were indeed open and we were the only ones there. That should have been my first clue as to what was in store. Long story short: the food was of poor quality and took far too long to arrive.

The menu consists mainly of Portuguese, Spanish and American cuisine and the restaurant’s interior is decorated nicely enough. After showing us to our seats, the waitress brought us flat soft-drinks, some bread and several packets of rock-hard butter. When will restaurants realize that rock-solid butter and soft, fluffy bread are not usually a winning combination? Serving it at room temperature at least allows one to spread the butter without demolishing the bread and elevating one’s blood pressure.

My wife ordered a simple hamburger with swiss cheese, mushrooms and fries and I ordered a soup with salad. Pretty simple, right? Given our modest selections and the fact that she and I were the only two customers in the entire establishment, I can see no reason why it should have taken almost 25 minutes for our food to arrive (and this was only after I politely asked them to please step it up since my wife's lunch hour was quickly ticking away.)

Judging the degree to which the burger was cooked, it became fairly obvious that the chef was timing the cooking of said burger with a calendar. From the look of it, he or she waited until about mid-August before giving the burger its perfunctory flip.

It arrived with a handful of somewhat pathetic-looking overcooked french fries and on a role that aroused thoughts of the late Clara Peller. It might have started life as an 8 oz. patty but it sure didn’t end up that way. Since time was quickly becoming something of a critical factor, we did not send it back. Instead, my wife broke out her hacksaw and commenced consumption of we could only assume had once been at least a reasonable facsimile of meat. This she did to the less-than-soothing strains of—I kid you not—“Here Comes the Bride” emanating from their high-powered sound system.

As for my meal, I ordered a bowl of shrimp bisque and a caesar salad. The “bisque” arrived with something of a skin on it, was very runny and the shrimp appeared to be half-pieces of those tiny little ones that come in the cups of Raman noodles. Not only was it runny, the portion size appeared to be that which might come in a cup, only poured into a bowl. Given its poor quality, I suppose I should be grateful to have received so little of it.

The salad was even worse. It might have been okay except for the fact that it was drowning in dressing. The anchovies that were supposed to accompany it were actually three small dollops of anchovy paste. Together they combined to form an indescribably salty mixture that I’m certain took my already elevated blood pressure (remember the cold butter?) and sent it skyrocketing to potentially life-threatening heights. I’m as far from a finicky eater as you’ll ever find and I found it impossible to finish both the soup and the salad. They really were THAT bad.

River Mill Restaurant seems to sell itself as an intimate, upper-echelon bistro and the prices attest to as much. It just goes to show that you can sell yourself as anything you want but in the end you’re only as good as your food and your service. This being the case, it is my humble opinion that River Mill exists only to make other restaurants look better by comparison. In that light it would seem that River Mill is unintentionally providing an invaluable service. And for this I think we should all give thanks and praise.

Comments:5 Replies - Latest reply on 2009-04-13
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-04-13:
What a fun review to read! I find myself hoping the OP will have other, unfavorable dining experiences just so I can read his well-composed reviews. Outstanding job, sir. Reminds me of my experience in an authentic Indian restaurant, they completely replicated a Mumbai slum in their restroom.
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-04-13:
guess we know why they were empty at lunch time
Posted by BokiBean on 2009-04-13:
This place sounds like a challenge that Chef Ramsey should take on.

One of the few things that makes me nervous about any eating establishment just at a glance is the lack of cars in the parking lot. I generally keep driving, but I know how it is to be on the clock at lunch.

VH review!
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-04-13:
We also scout out the inside before sitting down. If it's an Asian place, there better be Asian folks eating there. If it's a Mexican eatery, there better be a LOT of Hispanics enjoying dinner. If we walk into any ethnic restaurant and find only white meat, we hit the door. Like some comedian said about an 'authentic' sushi bar..."It was prepared by a very angry-looking, eighteen year-old, Latino guy."
Posted by Anonymous on 2009-04-13:
Great review! Empty restaurants scare me, too, Boki. And Ghost, we also avoid any ethnic restaurants with only white people eating there. Neither scenario is ever a good sign.

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