We were in the area last week and decided to grab an early dinner at Neptune for the first time in a few years. We’ve always had great meals at Neptune in the past, but the overall hassle (location, crowds, service) made it a place we only go once in awhile, and somewhere we never plan to meet others. The experience this time was definitely downhill, with food quality and value not being what it once was and the negatives being ramped up a bit.
The restaurant was already full at 5p. A couple literally tried to run in front of us as we were about to ascend the first step in the restaurant. We entered and pushed forward enough so they could come in out of the cold. When the server managing the list came over a minute later, the woman in the couple tried to blurt her name immediately. The server had seen us enter and looked at me asking our name first. People make me laugh. We were quoted a 15 minute wait and they took our cell# (still a great system); this estimate was pretty much spot on. There were several tourists in the restaurant documenting their meals using large DSLRs. I own such a camera as well, but there is a time and place. It is odd to have people panning back with zoom lenses in such a small place. One of the paparazzi was seated right by the door when we first entered with the Cioppino in front of her. The same dish, barely touched was still in front of her when we returned for our table, and still there when we left after finishing our meal.
We shared a bunch of raw bar and dishes. The oysters were very fresh, but surprisingly not as well shucked as usual. I’ll chalk it up to an off night as Neptune generally has some of the best shuckers to be found anywhere. However we had a few oysters with shell bits, and few others in which the liquor was not retained. Also very strange was the mignonette. It was relatively flavorless and had oil droplets floating in it. When the waitress came by I asked if this was the mignonette. She tersely replied that yes, they make it with Lombroso and quickly left before I could even follow up (in typical Neptune fusion). I do not prefer mignonette with oil, and don’t remember being this way at Neptune in the past. I assume someone in the kitchen messed up and forgot to add vinegar as well. At any rate, it was a terrible, flavorless mignonette and we just used the cocktail sauce.
The octopus cocktail, a favorite on past visits, was disappointment. The octopus was not tender and the portion size seems to have shrunk while the price increased. They had live uni served in the shell, which was delicious. Few places in the area have or serve live uni, so this was a treat. Also the special snapper crudo with black garlic was delicious.
The food was definitely hit and miss. For Neptune to be worthwhile the food really needs to be unequaled. Also the portions felt small and the bill high for our meal. Neptune is still booming based on their reputation and the tourist traffic, however I am thankful there are new options in the area. The bottom line is I will take Select Oyster or Row 34 over Neptune 8 days a week.