It has been almost six years since I last dined at Fiddlehead's but the atmosphere hasn't changed a bit. It resembles a coffee shop, with bright lights, minimal decorations, and a lack of color scheme. The walls display a few paintings of flowers and an interesting arrangement of potted plants and dried herbs that rests in an old window frame. The tables, a combination of wood and slate, are bare during the week and covered with cloths on weekends. There is, however, a difference in the food since my last visit. Although the selections haven't changed a lot, there seems to be a heaviness that did not exist before. I remember liking Fiddlehead's, and still do, but please, Chef Larrie Collura, lighten up a bit. Sauces are too thick and heavy, and some dishes too intensely flavored.
For instance, the onion soup, served in a crock and topped with melted cheese, has a strong yet unidentifiable flavor that I just don't like. I have a similar reaction to the smoked-tomato soup; though the first spoonful is good, the smokey flavor becomes increasingly overpowering.
Far better are the crab cake with lobster sauce, and the Portobello mushroom stuffed with spinach and topped with Gorgonzola cheese. A disappointing appetizer special of escargot in puff pastry forces me to dig through the six flaky bundles only to find tiny, dry snails stuck to the bottoms. But tasty shrimp-and-scallop-filled wontons--six crisp triangles of pastry stuffed with a mixture of shrimp, scallops, and cream cheese--are accompanied by a mound of delicious apricot-ginger preserves.
Main courses include a wonderful rack of lamb basted with honey mustard and encrusted with a mixture of walnuts, pecans, and almonds, served with scalloped potatoes and thin asparagus. Duck confit in a sauce made with cream, brandy, molasses, and a few apple slivers is also good, but I wish that Chef Collura would have crisped the skin. Fillet of catfish in a wheat-and-walnut crust is fresh and nicely cooked.
I try three specials, two of which I would not order again: lobster Thermidor is the best of the three, though the brandy-cream sauce served with the pieces of shelled lobster needs more mustard to make the dish sparkle; a thick piece of veal stuffed with a whole shrimp, attractively decorated with roasted red-skinned potatoes carved to look like mushrooms, is tough, and the accompanying brown onion sauce overpowers any flavor it might have; and the red snapper in a thick grated-potato crust, which looks as though it has been deep fried, borders on being burnt.
As for dessert, the raspberry and blackberry tarts are standard: crust, pastry cream, fruit, and a thick glaze. Almond cheesecake has little flavor. The tiramisù is fine, as is the chocolate terrine. The peanut-butter tart, comprised of a thin pastry layered with caramel, peanut butter, and chocolate, is a peanut lover's dream. --V. S.
27 East Railroad Avenue, Jamesburg (732-521-0878). Lunch: Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. Dinner: Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 9 pm; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10 pm; Sunday, 4 to 8 pm. Wheelchair access easy. American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, Visa. Dinner for two averages $60.