On Long Beach Island in the off-season, traffic lights blink yellow over empty streets. Most shops and restaurants go into hibernation, but Beach Haven’s Gables Inn and Restaurant remains open on weekends from September 17 to May 17, when it reopens full-time. The atmosphere is beckoning, with silver and glassware sparkling on white tablecloths under the warm light of chandeliers.
But the solace of the setting is outweighed by overpriced and inconsistent food. Gables has been called the best restaurant between New York City and Washington, D.C. That was under chef Adolfo de’Martino, who departed in 1999. Under executive chef Paul Simon, who started last Valentine’s Day, Gables doesn’t carry the same cachet.
Slices of house-made raisin-walnut bread, though excellent, were ill-suited to the accompanying hummus, olive oil, and olive tapenade. Chorizo added a pleasant smokiness to excellent steamed mussels in citrus-lobster broth. Also good were mixed greens with marinated goat cheese, green apple, and shallot vinaigrette. But three diminutive grilled shrimp were served with an underwhelming trio of sauces—a decent basil crème fraîche, a bland saffron sauce, and an insipid banana sauce, which, along with two crispy pieces of prosciutto, seemed like an afterthought.
While entrées are enormous, none are priced under $30. The $45 grilled New York strip steak was a trophy of prime beef, but the Parmesan-barley risotto with it was gluey and incredibly salty. Gables serves the excellent scallops of the Viking Village fishery in nearby Barnegat Light, but the accompanying truffle demi-glace was salty as seawater. A tender, meaty, pan-roasted lobster with savory coconut rice and Napa cabbage slaw was wasted under a harshly citric almond-orange emulsion.
Desserts, like the breads, are top-notch and made in-house. But by the time you taste the ethereal chocolate mousse, the imposing carrot cake Napoleon with caramelized pineapple, or the delicious homemade ice creams, it’s too late in the game, whether or not it’s late in the season.