Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fuji Review

Just a pointer to Inquirer review of new Fuji location in Haddonfield, NJ.


Friday, November 16, 2007

The Kibitz Room

I love New York deli food, but finding a good one isn't always easy when you're away from New York. I used to grab sandwiches at Koch's in West Philly years ago, but haven't been back since both brothers passed. Fortunately, I have recently stumbled on The Kibitz Room in Cherry Hill, NJ, and the food I've had so far has been great: big sandwiches (too big, actually: I prefer the half sandwich myself), traditional smoked fishes, whitefish salad (!), and sour pickles. If you know what I'm talking about, you've probably already tried this place. If not, let me just say it's good and you should head there for lunch or dinner. The deli isn't kosher, unless I missed something, which means you can happily order cheese on that pastrami. This blend of NY culture and blissful corruption of eastern European Jewish food is an oasis.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Trattoria Andrea

Regrettably, I have been behind on keeping up with the restaurant blog: work (and more work) has kept me too busy. That aside, let me say a few words about what I regard as the best Italian restaurant in South Jersey. Folks who have spent words here know this is a claim that one should not make lightly: South Jersey is full of Italian-Americans and there are some very good restaurants in the area.

Trattoria Andrea is special. I have been there several times and it remains a personal favorite. I had occasion to dine there last Saturday and the meal was no disappointment. Neither my wife nor I cracked the menu: the specials captured us. I ate a bowl of roasted red pepper soup with goat cheese and lump grab meet. The soup was well-flavored, accompanied by warm homemade bread. This course was followed by long Italian hot peppers with sharp provolone, garlic, tomatoes and oil: a personal favorite, again, great on the bread. For the main course, I had a seafood risotto with scallops, mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari, porcini mushrooms and broccoli rabe. The seafood was sweet, the risotto was perfect and the extra flavor from the rabe hit the spot. A small confession: I do not generally care for risotto and almost never order it while dining out. This should give some indication of just how good this dish was.

My only complaint is that there was too much food. My fault for eating everything put in front of me, though I fear that leftovers would have left me longing for the original meal again. Accompanied by an Alfa Crux from Argentine (Tempranillo, Merlot, Cab blend: a big red scoring a Parker 94), this was a great meal. A wonderful homecoming after several weeks in Asia. If this meal description resonated with you, go there. You won't be disappointed. The address is 413 Stokes Road, Medford, NJ.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Langostinos, Philadelphia

A local friend of mine commented on the prospect of moving to Texas: "There isn't shit for Italian food down there." He's not Italian, but it goes to show how thoroughly dependent we all are on good Italian food in this area. It's just a mainstay for everyone.

It is no secret that there are some great small Italian restaurants in South Philly. One I've been to several times recently is Langostinos on front street. I'll let you in on a secret: they have the most tender gnocchi I have ever had. Served in a gorgonzola cream sauce, the dish is remarkably light. The restaurant is quite small, takes cash only and is a bring your own bottle restaurant to boot. Make a reservation and take advantage of the opportunity to bring your own wine: this is one of my favorite things about Jersey restaurants, and I'm glad to find small byobs in Philly as well.

Another thing to note: throughout dinner, I watched staff bring in fresh food throughout the evening. It left me wondering if they weren't running out to create new specials as orders came in: a testament to the freshness of all the food we ordered.

Places like this are my idea of heaven.

Reykjavic, Prague, Czech Republic

I had a really interesting and pleasant dining experience in Prague (Praha to natives). While walking from a conference site to my hotel, one of my local hosts suggested stopping at an outdoor cafe for dinner. We happened to sit at the restaurant Reykjavic, which , as the name suggests, features Icelandic cuisine. It is also notable as being one of the earliest foreign, private restaurants in Prague.

For dinner, I split some pickled herring with a friend, done in the nordic style. Now, I am a fan of pickled herring done this way, a passion I picked up after a week in Stockholm many years ago. The problem I have in the US is that until recently few local stores offered the sweeter herring characteristic of Sweden. I used to stop at Ikea on the way home from the Poconos to get some passable herring. I'm pleased to report the herring at Reykjavic was quite tasty. Being in Prague, I had a beer to go with the appetizer.

However, the main course was most interesting: salt cod. This is something I have never had before, though I have seen salted cod in its "raw" form: solid as a rock and looking rather unappetizing. The menu description included boiled potatoes and whole grain mustard. Altogether, it sounded like a risky and potentially bland dish.

I am pleased to report, that I could not have been more wrong. When the cod was served, it was to me reminiscent of fresh monk fish. It was tender, springy, flavored, and moist. The mustard was delicious, but I think this could have been served with almost any sauce. And to my surprise, the fish seemed salt free.

While I highly recommend sampling as much traditional Czech food as you can while in Prague, and I'll have a follow-up note on some great experiences, I found Rejkyavik to be a worthy departure from the local cuisine and a rather remarkable dining experience as well. If you are in Praha for a few days, give it the salt cod a try. I find myself wanting more, but not sure where to find anything comparable in New Jersey.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Coming reviews

After May 4, I will be updating the blog with reviews of the following restaurants: 1) Chimichurri Grill, an Argentine restaurant in Manhattan 2) Coral Reef in Medford, NJ 3) Trattoria Andrea in Medford, NJ 4) Sushi Kei in Millbrae, CA. In addition, I will be doing a brief writeup on the Kingfisher BBQ stand on Route 206 in Shamong, NJ. These are all places worth visiting: I'll explain why I think these small and lesser known restaurants are worth your time.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Champa Laos

I have to disclose a major bias here before I proceed. Though I'm promiscuous when it comes to national and regional cuisines, I should should be up front about my biases. My favorite national cuisines are, in order of preference, Japanese, Thai and Italian. That's not to say that I am don't both love and crave foods from India, France, China, etc.; but if frequency of consumption is any indicator, you now know my Big Three.

Now that that is on the table, that may help to clarify just why I am so enthusiastic about the restaurant Champa Laos in Cherry Hill New Jersey. My only criticism is that it takes far too long for the web site to load, so I've left off the restaurant link. You'll have to take my word that it is the best -- hands down, far and away -- Thai style cuisine in the area. (Laos is adjacent to Thailand, the people speak a dialect of thai, and the food can be thought of as a regional variant on the Thai food most Americans are familiar with.)

I had a banana flower salad, which used the banana flower to hold shrimp, chicken, toasted coconut and curry, among other things. The effect was delicate and the tastes together were subtle: sweet, a bit of toast and the accent on a mild curry. The best part is the texture of the dish, including the banana flower itself.

My main course was a green curry, to which I have been dedicated since living across the street from a Thai restaurant in Denver Colorado as a young man. This intriguing dish was made with dried beef that was evidently reconstituted in the curry sauce. I had visions of grinding my teeth on a hard, jerky like substance when I ordered: I was completely wrong. The meet was tenderized in the cooking process, with a bit of tooth to it, and the curry complemented and penetrated the beef with flavoring. The curry had enough heat to make my head sweat a bit, but it was not so hot as to effect the enjoyability of the dish. I'd order this again next time, except I there are too many other dishes I want to try first.

For dessert, I had mango with sticky rice, another perennial favorite of mine. The mango was reasonably fresh and sweet (you're not in central america or southeast asia here), the rice was perfect, and the presentation was quite something.

Dinner was paired with a Zind Humbrecht 2003 Riesling, a great match if I do say so myself. New Jersey restaurants are often BYOB, Champa Laos being no exception. Take advantage of it to select an appropriate Alsatian to go with the meal.

I've been racking my brain to come up with something critical to say to balance out the review. Best I can do is that there was a small stain on the table cloth. The food was, and I hesitate to say it, perfect. A must-visit location for New Jersey and Philadelphia residents.

Greg Pavlik

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fuji Reborn

I was thrown into a thorough depression over the closure of the restaurant Fuji in Cinnaminson. A story might My father was in Tokyo on business and was discussing this great Japanese restaurant in South Jersey. His Japanese host enquired if he was referring to Fuji. That should tell you something.

Turns out my depression need not be long lived. Apparently, Fuji is moving to Haddonfield. I am dying to get back there for a chirashi sushi bowl as soon as possible.

There's not much that need be said about Fuji: they are correct in their claim that it is the best Japanese food in the area. If you want traditional Japanese dishes of quality, Fuji is the place to go.