2020 Restaurant Redux – Part 1

by artfuldiner on December 19, 2020

in Artful Diner Review, Breaking News, Opinion, Wining and Dining

For your dining pleasure, listed below in alphabetical order are synopses of seven (7) of the fourteen (14) restaurants reviewed during the year 2020. Please be advised that, as of this writing, all Pennsylvania restaurants are closed for indoor dining until January 4, 2021.

RESTAURANT ALBA 7 West King Street, Malvern, Pennsylvania, (610) 644-4009, http://www.restaurantalba.com: Because of the coronavirus, Alba was one of several Alba - Fried Green Tomatoesrestaurants that was enjoyed alfresco rather than indoors. And, while the restaurant’s bi-level deck doesn’t offer much of a view, the seating is very comfortable and the atmosphere is decidedly cozy. A graduate of the CIA, chef/proprietor Sean Weinberg does an absolutely superb job of giving full vent to his passionate and innovative culinary spirit. His well-traveled appetizers, for example, range from daily changing Bruschetta to Wood-Grilled Octopus paired with Sicilian tuna potato salad to Argentinian Beef Empanadas with chimichurri sauce to his own unique take on classic Fried Green Tomatoes (pictured). The restaurant’s main courses are a bit more downhome but just as enticing. The Wood-Grilled Pennsylvania Trout companioned by bitter escarole, tangy blueberries, and rich hazelnut brown butter is a standout… ditto the marvelously moist Chicken Parmigiano. For dessert, the Butterscotch Budino, a sensually sweet Italian pudding, is extraordinarily delicious.

 AVLÓS GREEK CUISINE 258 Bridge Street, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, (610) 455-4110, https://avlosgr.com: Inhabiting the space that Avlos - Soutzoukia Smirneikawas Restaurant Majolica for over a decade, the restaurant’s interior is minimalist but attractive, boasting the warmth of an exposed brick wall and sea of white tablecloths. And, like its predecessor, Avlós is also BYOB. The cuisine here isn’t the best Greek food it has ever been my pleasure to ingest; but it is certainly authentic, well prepared & presented, and generally quite good. Among the starters, the Soutzoukia Smirneika (pictured) – Smyrna meatballs seasoned with cumin & garlic served up with tomato sauce and splash of Greek yogurt – are something of a must. Entrées include a benchmark Moussaka and equally praiseworthy Kota Stifado, a luscious stew incorporating a moist boneless chicken breast with pearl onions, pasta, fresh tomato sauce, and sprinkling of thyme. The nod to my favorite sweet ending goes to the Galaktoboureko, a rich, creamy semolina custard in filo coated with sweet syrup. Delightfully decadent and loaded with calories… but simply impossible to resist. The food is of excellent quality, the price is right, the welcome is warm, and the service is enthusiastic and knowledgeable… let’s just hope Avlós survives the coronavirus.

CREED’S SEAFOOD AND STEAKS 499 North Gulph Road, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, (610) 265-2550, http://creedskop.com/: Even seated in the tent adjacent to the Creed's - Burratarestaurant’s entrance, a visit to Creed’s remains an exceedingly comfortable and satisfying dining experience… And the kitchen, as usual, is still at the top of its game. The menu is gently tweaked on a seasonal basis supplemented by nightly specials. The Lobster Bisque and Wild Mushroom Soup are always dynamite starters here, as is the Burrata (pictured), an Italian cow milk cheese made with mozzarella and cream and pillowed on an heirloom tomato carpaccio. Also highly recommended is the beautifully textured Flash Fried Calamari teamed with a tantalizing serrano crema. Among the “Chef’s Specialties” the Pan Seared Surf and Turf – sliced filet mignon with three shrimp, roasted Yukon gold potatoes, and Chianti demi-glace is always a winner, as are the San Francisco Style Cioppino and Blacked Barramundi and Sea Scallops. One final note… I recently sampled the bar’s newest hand-crafted cocktail – The Double Agent – in homage to James Bond. Ardbeg Uigeadail Scotch, Belvedere vodka, splash of St. Germain liquor, fresh lemon juice with peel of lemon, and… but of course…shaken, not stirred. Fabulous.

 FARM AND THE FISHERMAN TAVERN + MARKET 1442 Marlton Pike East, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, (856) 356-2282, http://www.fandftavern.com/home: In November 2014, Josh & Colleen Lawler teamed up with chef Todd Fuller and his wife, Leigh, to open the Farm and the Fisherman Tavern in a Cherry Hill strip mall. Like the original Philadelphia restaurant, which closed in 2016, the Jersey outpost is a farm-to-table establishment utilizing local Farm & Fisherman - Cheesesteak Tacosmeat and produce. However, since the new restaurant possesses a liquor license, it also pairs its locally-sourced culinary creations with selected wine, spirits, and local drafts in a more spacious and comfortable tavern-like environment. The food here is also quite different from Mr. Lawler’s original Philadelphia eatery. More simply prepared and presented, it is, perhaps, best described as innovative comfort fare. Just dig into an appetizer of Caramelized Cauliflower with Mushroom Cream Sauce and you’ll get the idea. Entrée-wise, be sure to try the Squash Lasagna. The idea certainly isn’t earth-shatteringly new; but the careful integration of ingredients adds just the proper beguiling touch to a comfortingly familiar recipe. And the same may be said for Cheesesteak Tacos (pictured above). The soul of simplicity… but beautifully executed and mouthwateringly photogenic. By the way, if you’re not in the mood for a commute, you might give The Farm and the Fisherman Tavern in Horsham, PA, a try.

JEAN-GEORGES PHILADELPHIA 1 North 19th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (215) 4195059, https://www.fourseasons.com/philadelphia/dining/restaurants/jean-georges-philadelphia: Perched atop the Four Seasons Hotel, Jean-Jean-Georges, ChefGeorges Philadelphia resides not only on the skyscraper’s 59th floor, but his Sky High Lounge also occupies part of its 60th floor reception area as well… The ride up in the glass-enclosed elevator has its own thrills and chills; and, once seated, the forty-foot windows provide a mind-boggling view of Philadelphia from Mount Olympus. The food…? Simply incomparable. The Butternut Squash Soup garnished with mushrooms and chive is creamy smooth, perfectly seasoned, and utterly irresistible. Nothing, however, quite measures up to the ingenious starter of Yellowfin Tuna Noodles… unless it’s the decadent Caramelized Foie Gras. Meaty entrées include an excellent Seared Beef Tenderloin with miso mustard or a steakhouse-style Roasted Ribeye for Two accompanied by creamed spinach. The Steamed Black Sea Bass – which has enjoyed a number of tantalizing incarnations and is currently appearing bathed in a delightful mushroom emulsion – is positively ethereal. Even the plebeian-sounding Parmesan-Crusted Chicken is nothing short of spectacular. Jean-Georges also offers patrons a Seasonal Tasting Menu with wine pairings. Not to be missed.

KIMBERTON INN 2015 Kimberton Road, Kimberton, Pennsylvania, (610) 933-8148, http://www.kimbertoninn.com: This is the Kimberton Inn - Shrimp & Sea Scallopsfourth time I’ve reviewed the Kimberton Inn, on this occasion critiquing its al fresco dining. During the warmer weather, the Inn’s outdoor facilities include a comfortable canopied patio as well as a string of tables amid the picturesque flora and fauna along the small creek just below the restaurant’s parking lot. After a somewhat rocky start in 2018, executive chef Tom Wolter appears to have hit his stride. Typical of Mr. Wolter’s style is his memorable Sautéed Halibut Fillet pillowed on potato purée embellished with white corn, heirloom carrots, and exquisite lemon thyme cream. Almost its equal is his Sautéed Shrimp and Sea Scallops (pictured) in a savory roasted fennel broth awash with sauteed shiitake mushrooms, asparagus, red pepper, and English peas. To start things off, nothing quite tops the Cauliflower Florets or the exceedingly popular “Probably the Best Salad You’ll Ever Have.” Desserts are an impressive array of old favorites… but the winner in my book is the scrumptious Key Lime Pie.

 LIMONCELLO RISTORANTE & BAR 499 East Uwchlan Avenue (Route 113), Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, (610) 524-3112, https://www.limoncellorestaurant.com: Limoncello - Peanut Butter ExplosionLimoncello is the younger sibling of the restaurant of the same name located in West Chester, PA. The outdoor facilities here – especially the side patio – are expansive, attractively appointed, and exceedingly popular. And, as a recent visit clearly demonstrated, the comforting southern Italian cuisine – based upon old family recipes or updated variations thereof – remains as solid as ever. To start things off, nothing quite measures up to the Arancini, “little oranges,” a Sicilian specialty. Seasoned risotto croquettes are filled with beef Bolognese, green peas, and mozzarella cheese and then breaded, deep fried to a golden brown, and splashed with marinara. Entrée-wise, the Chicken Messina – finished with a caprese cream sauce and served up on a generous tangle of linguine – is as bounteous as it is delicious… ditto the Eggplant Parmigiana, a marvelous rendition of the Neapolitan classic. Dessert…? The rich buttery Limoncello Cake is the house favorite. On the other hand, if you find the combination of peanut butter and chocolate simply impossible to resist, the recently added Peanut Butter Explosion (pictured) is an absolute must. The chocolate base is topped with peanut butter ganache and chocolate mousse, then coated in ganache and finished with chopped peanuts and a fabulous peanut butter sauce. Wow!

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well


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