Today, I walked into Bistro 1051 located in the Clarkton Shopping Center on Raritan Road in Clark, NJ at approx 12:20pm. This restaurant was highly recommended by another business in the same shopping center. A gentleman (the owner I later found out) greeted me then asked how many would be seated. When he found out only one he said to sit wherever I wanted to. I chose the atrium side of the restaurant--light and airy with a relaxed decor. I noticed there were two ladies sitting against the window and two behind me both parties having finished their meal left within 10 minutes. Immediately, my very friendly server (Courtney) was at my side asking what beverage I would care for. I ordered unsweetened iced tea. She asked if I'd like a glass of water, too. I find asking about wanting water is a nice touch, since it very rarely happens any longer in restaurants, even in diners. I replied no, not now. I also noticed she was the ONLY server on duty between two dining areas. I glanced straight across the restaurant at the other side and was only able to see one table of six directly in my view. I don't know if the rest of the room had anyone else in it.
I ordered one of the lunch specials: Italian Pot Roast: as per their description: slowly roasted beef with carrots, mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables which today was string beans, and two tempura rolls to go (Bistro Roll: shrimp tempura, avocado, topped with seared salmon, soybean paper, and spicy mayo and Triple Tempura Roll: sweet potato tempura, shrimp tempura, avocado, banana tempura on top drizzled with teriyaki.), then proceeded to send some texts out, answer a few emails and make a grocery list as I waited and waited and waited.
That was the last time Courtney spoke to me until 1:06pm when she glanced at my face which had a "Gee, are you farming the vegetables right now?" kind of look as she passed me serving the party of 10 women who came in 20 minutes after I did as well as another solo female diner seated one table over to my left, two gentlemen two tables over to my right and two ladies directly behind me all coming in after I did, yet received all of their food before I did. She apologized and said my order will be out in a minute. The party of 10 must have pre-ordered since their appetizers came out almost immediately.
My pot roast came out a few minutes later plated beautifully on a large, square, plain white serving dish which enhanced the colorful repast before me. At once, a delightful aroma of a thickened deep red-brown au jus with just the right amount of rosemary tickled my nose. Five nicely sized chunks of tender pot roast with nary an ounce of fat dotted a center mound of freshly made mashed potatoes and cut-on-the-bias sliced carrots, while long spears of dark green string beans, cooked well but still had a firm, zesty snap, coiled in and around the hearty fare. My deliberate food intake: some meat, some potato, some carrot and some bean layered on my fork creating the perfect bite every time.
I was very happy it was delicious. It would have been disappointing waiting as long as I did and not getting a good meal.
In between these heavenly bites, I still paid attention to my busy server. At least one of us was paying attention to the other. I saw her scrambling back and forth both in the atrium and the other room serving.
Exactly during my last bite (at 1:27pm) she finally asked, "How was everything?", apologized again, put the tempura rolls to go on the table, the bill down on the table, cleared my plate and left my side. She never bothered to ask if I wanted a re-fill of iced tea which I needed and would have liked, that glass of water, never asked if I'd like a cup of coffee/tea or perhaps some dessert. Granted, the other solo woman diner to my left and the two gentlemen to my right didn't have dessert or coffee but you shouldn't assume every diner will be the same. I peered in the bag and saw the two rolls in one container. These were two different rolls (one spicy, the other one not) and they were going to two different people. In general, why would anyone assume to place them in the same container even if a single person is purchasing them? What if the container happened to flip over in the car? The person who doesn't like spicy mayo or spicy anything might be in for a surprise. I did speak up here to have the rolls re-packaged for my husband and a friend.
This was my first dining experience at this restaurant; but, please don't say I should step into her shoes and work at her job to know what she experiences being a restaurant server. I have been working within the service industry for 30 YEARS and within three states! I fully acknowledged seeing she was the only server but that is NO excuse to neglect any patron with what I consider "basic 101" server questions.
What irked me further was the owner not helping out. I saw him most of the time in the atrium speaking on and off to another gentleman at a small bar area in the corner. You know there's only one person waiting tables, help out a little. It's your restaurant. I read all of the reviews and assume you need to be a "regular" for the owner to be personable and notice you during your meal. I have only lived in the area, as of this writing, for not even 18 months so you never know who will become a "regular". You need to start somewhere.
The bill came out to slightly under $34.00 without tax. Even with how I felt I was treated I still tipped just 10 cents below 15% at $5.00 (in cash). I'm NOT blaming her. I'm blaming who is responsible for her training and perhaps who schedules the amount servers on any given day.
I left the check presenter on the table since Courtney was in the kitchen and I really didn't feel like waiting anymore, gathered my things while glancing up at the owner at the bar facing my direction but speaking to the other gentleman to see if he would say anything as I left like thank you or have a nice day or did you enjoy your meal..............Nothing. I left by 1:45pm. If you're acknowledged upon your entrance, you should be acknowledged during your egress.
My friend who ate the Triple Tempura Roll thought it was very, very good. My husband, who lived in Japan for 4 years, thought the Bistro Roll was average at best. He loved the dollop of wasabi which came with the roll. There is no food too spicy for my husband.
Now the big question...will I return to Bistro 1051?
The answer is YES!
Their menu intrigues me (Italian and Japanese cuisine) and I'm eager to sample more of what they offer. If whatever I have in subsequent visits is as scrumptious as what I ate today, I will definitely become a regular as long as the service is up-to-par with what I have read in other reviews. I will dismiss today as an off-day and return with an open mind and hope to get Courtney again as my server. She was courteous, and friendly with a wonderful sense of humor. As she cleared my plate and asked how was everything, I joked and laughed with her it wouldn't be ladylike to lick the plate in public. If not, there's always take-out.
**I did not use the ladies room so I can't review its' condition.
**This restaurant is in the rear of a large strip mall. Although there is ample parking throughout the lot, during busy weekends, I'm sure parking directly in front of this restaurant might prove difficult especially for the disabled which specific spots are here and there.
**I saw a few tables in front of the restaurant for alfresco dining. This could be a nice touch if the tables were in a more pastoral/garden setting and not located on the narrow sidewalk possibly blocking people walking to and from the restaurant. Also, I personally wouldn't find it appealing eating with mosquitos/bees/wasps flying around, smelling cars (gasoline/oil/deisel) which are right in front of me parked or maybe someone smoking nearby since it's outdoors and as far as I've read, NJ law only bans indoor smoking but leaves it up to the discretion of the restaurant to ban smoking outside its' own establishment.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.