2022 Restaurant Redux

by artfuldiner on January 16, 2023

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

For your dining pleasure, listed below in alphabetical order are synopses of the thirteen (13) restaurants reviewed during the year 2022. The month appearing in parenthesis indicates the month the restaurant’s full review appeared on my blog. Please note that I have also included several restaurants from my recent travels, which are well worth visiting and may be of interest to those who enjoy an occasional gastronomically-inspired sojourn.


333 BELROSE BAR & GRILL (April), 333 Belrose Lane, Radnor, Pennsylvania, (610) 293-1000, http://www333belrose.com: Thirteen years have passed since I first reviewed this ever-popular eatery… but very little has changed in the interim. Chef/proprietor Carlo deMarco, a Villanova native, is still turning out top-notch contemporary American fare with international flair in a lively yet decidedly sophisticated setting.

333 Belrose - Simply Grilled SalmonThe Spicy Asian Brussels Sprouts embellished with peanuts, shishito peppers, and sweet chili sauce always make an excellent starter… ditto the superb Butternut Squash Bisque. Entrée-wise, the Java Pork Tenderloin with smashed yams, mango salsa, black bean sauce, and maple jus remains a house favorite. However, in my opinion, the Simply Grilled Salmon (pictured) steals the show. Presented with a fresh house salad, the seductive orange-ginger vinaigrette proved to be not only a marvelous dressing for the greenery but also a wonderful complement to the salmon itself, transforming a relatively straightforward dish into an utterly sublime presentation.


AGAVE MEXICAN CUISINE (September), 1620 Baltimore Pike (Route 1), Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, (484) 770-8345, www.agavebyo.comAgave - Quinoa SaladA scant moment after you’re seated, the tortilla chips and salsa hit the table… But be sure to team them up with the benchmark Guacamole, served in a traditional molcajete (the Mexican version of mortar and pestle). Other highly recommended starters include Queso Fundido – a type of party dish often compared to a cheese fondue – and an incomparable Quinoa Salad (pictured), a delightful amalgam of pumpkin seeds, avocado, raisins, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and Queso fresco splashed with an enticing lemon vinaigrette dressing.  Simply not to be missed. The tacos here – all served on homemade corn tortillas – are definitely a cut above. Choose your five favorites, which constitute the Taco Tasting Platter, and feel free to share.

Agave is still BYOB. However… the restaurant also offers a three-course special for $35.00 per person and will even throw in a complimentary bottle of white wine or pitcher of margaritas. So be sure to check it out.


CIRCA 1886 RESTAURANT (November), Wentworth Mansion, 49 Wentworth Street, Charleston, South Carolina, (843) 853-7828, www.circa1886.com/: Circa 1886 - Ex Chef Marc CollinsTucked away in the original carriage house of the Wentworth Mansion, Circa 1886, so notes their website, “evokes the romance and Old-World charm of historic downtown Charleston.” But the restaurant offers diners infinitely more than alluring ambience, as it is consistently ranked as one of the finest in the city, as Executive Chef Marc Collins (pictured) works with local farmers & fishermen to create an innovative seasonal menu that takes Lowcountry cuisine to new culinary heights.

The Foie Gras – bewitching the palate with such avant garde traveling companions as cassava pudding, pomegranate strawberry jam, lime basil oil, and smattering of hazelnuts – is a particularly noteworthy starter… Although, the Southern Grilled Cheese – pimento cheese mousse, grilled brioche, Surryano ham, paddlefish caviar, cured yolk powder – finishes a close second.

When it comes to entrées, matters piscatorial tend to take center stage. The Paprika Grouper, for example, was a captivating combo of flavors and textures… But the Rainbow Trout was even more thought-provoking. The filet was enveloped in an ethereal sunflower sumac crust and kissed by an enticing corn sauce, with wild rice porridge, arugula, and cranberry paint in strong supporting roles.


DANTE’S ITALIAN BISTRO & PASTRY (August), 550 Kimberton Road, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, (484) 924-8072, https://www.facebook.com/DantesItalianBistroPhoenixville : Semi-sequestered behind Citadel Federal Credit Union in the Kimberton Shoppes, Dante’s is easily passed by without notice. The interior, which is rather utilitarian and brightly lit, isn’t exactly high on ambience; but it’s comfortable, the service is friendly & attentive and, as an added incentive, you may BYOB.

… And the food, as you may have surmised, is just as homey and down-to-earth as the atmosphere. Red sauce – which, I will warn you in advance, tends to be a touch on the sweet side – predominates the proceedings, and portion sizes are prodigious. You won’t go hungry here… You won’t go broke either, as prices are decidedly easy on the wallet.

Dante's Bistro - Arancini al FromaggioTo start things off, be sure to go for the Arancini al Fromaggio (pictured). A staple of Sicilian cuisine, Arancini are Italian rice balls that are stuffed with mozzarella (and, occasionally, other items such as green peas and ham), coated with bread crumbs, deep fried, and served with a marinara dipping sauce. If the kitchen has a claim to fame, it is undoubtedly their pastas. Stick with them and you can’t go wrong.


DAVIO’S NORTHERN ITALIAN STEAKHOUSE (July), 200 Main Street, Town Center, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, (610) 337-4810, https://davios.com/kop: Davio's KOP - Veal TenderloinDining at Davio’s is a good news/bad news proposition. First the good: The cuisine is first-rate on all counts. During my most recent visit, the six diners in our party (three couples) were completely satisfied with the gastronomic goings-on. Of special note was the incomparable Sautéed Veal Tenderloin (pictured). It remains, without doubt, one of the best veal presentations it has ever been my pleasure to ingest. And the same may be said for the outstanding Atlantic Salmon, which arrived at table on a seabed of sautéed spinach surrounded by a pool of warm eggplant caponata.

Now for the bad: Davio’s cavernous dining space remains something of an echo chamber. Caught between a high ceiling, hardwood floors, and bustling bar scene, the decibel level is downright daunting – as are the prices. Dining here has always been an expensive proposition. Recently, however, the menu has graduated from “expensive” to “simply outrageous,” surpassing even Eddie V’s Prime Seafood as king of high prices.

Does the quality of the cuisine justify the hefty tariffs…? That depends to a great extent upon your point of view… and the state of your wallet. Your call.


DOCKS SEAFOOD RESTAURANT & MARKET (October), 15 Evans Street, South Portland, Maine, (207) 899-4433, www.docksseafood.com: Docks, South Portland, Maine - InteriorVisited on our way to Bar Harbor, this super-casual restaurant/market combo features fresh, local & sustainable species of fish & shellfish, Maine craft beers, wine & cocktails, and local snacks & art. The setting is unpretentiously utilitarian, but the welcome is warm and the regional cuisine carefully & lovingly prepared.

Lobster, as you can well imagine, plays a significant role here. The Maine Lobster Dinner is a house favorite, or you can also go for the Lobster Roll, Lobster Nuggets, or the downright decadent Lobster Mac & Cheese.

If you happen to be traveling north to Maine, Docks Seafood Restaurant & Market would make a very pleasant stopover.


ELLA GREEK COOKING (March), Athens, Greece, +30-21-0331-5547, https://www.ellagreekcooking.gr/en/: Ella - Chef Nena IsmirnoglouAcclaimed chef Nena Ismyrnoglou (pictured), who spent several years at the famous Estiatorio Milos in New York City before returning to her homeland, is the power behind the stove. A committed connoisseur of Greek cuisine – but also one of the country’s most highly-regarded chefs – she infuses traditionally loved recipes with her own unique innovative flair.

The Assorted Spreads – which includes smoked white cod roe spread, feat cheese spread with spicy peppers, tzatziki, and hummus – makes an excellent starter… But even better is the Traditional Greek Salad, a combo of cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, onion, cucumber, olives, peppers, capers, and basil. And the accompanying vinaigrette is a true classic… Olive oil, red wine vinegar, splash of lemon juice, shot of Dijon mustard, minced garlic cloves, dried oregano, and pinch of salt & pepper all conspire together in this irresistibly flavorful tour de force.

Entrées include Giouvetsi Lamb, Grilled Sea Bream Filet, and an absolutely fabulous Salmon Burger.

A completely satisfying dining experience; and a fitting culmination to our brief – but thoroughly rewarding – stay in Athens. The atmosphere was casual, the prices moderate, the service first-rate, the food extraordinary, and the dining alfresco.


FATTOUSH MEDITERRANEAN CUISINE (June), 182 Lancaster Avenue, Malvern, Pennsylvania, (484) 568-4465, https://fattoushhealthydining.com: Fattoush is one of those little gems that seems to operate under the radar. The utilitarian surroundings belie the fresh, vibrant, made-from-scratch Mediterranean (Lebanese) cuisine that continues to surprise and delight. Add downright moderate prices and the fact that you may BYOB… and you have a recipe for a marvelously enjoyable evening at table.

Fattoush - MezzaTo start things off, nothing quite measures up to the incomparable Lebanese Mezza (pictured), a shared platter comprised of a host of traditional appetizers. Of particular note among the special entrées are the Shawarma, cuts of spiced & marinated lamb, chicken, turkey, beef & veal sliced wafer-thin from a vertical rotisserie. Generally, only two desserts are offered – traditional Homemade Baklava and a decadent Bread Pudding – and both are well worth the extra calories.


FIX BURGER BAR (October), 108 Grove Street, Worcester, Massachusetts, (774) 823-3327, www.thefixburgerbar.com: Housed in an old warehouse building, the Fix Burger Bar provides a modern setting for custom burgers companioned by craft beers, innovative cocktails, and a slew of spiked milkshakes.

We found the appetizers here quite intriguing: The Mac & Cheese with parmesan, cheddar & truffle breadcrumbs is a house favorite… ditto the Spicy & Sweet Snaps, roasted sugar snap peas with a spicy soy glaze, crushed cashews, and red pepper flakes. Our starter of choice, however, was the Fried Pickles, crispy crinkle cuts with a dynamite horseradish dipping sauce.  Just a hint of dill through the light breading with the sauce adding a nice bit of heat. A fabulous starter.

Fix Burger Bar - The Gatsby BurgerThe burgers here are nothing short of spectacular. Without doubt, the best I have tasted anywhere. They range from the Bigger Mac – an obvious takeoff on McDonald’s – through the Mushroom, Bacon Blue, Phenomenal, which includes a fried egg along with a load of other accompaniments, and culminates with the Gatsby (pictured), ½ lb. American Wagyu patty, Clothbound cheddar, slab bacon, grilled onion, ancho ketchup, brioche roll, the most expensive burger on the menu.


GB ROOF GARDEN RESTAURANT & BAR (March), Hotel Grande Bretagne, Athens, Greece, +30-21-0333-0000, https://www.gbroofgarden.gr/: Athens - Hotel Grand Bretagne, Viw from Rooftop RestaurantNo visit to Athens would be complete without a romantic evening at the GB Roof Garden Restaurant & Bar. Located on the 8th floor of the Hotel Grande Bretagne, this enchanting space offers unparalleled views of the City of Athens and the Acropolis with the Parthenon – a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena – majestically perched upon it.

Under the watchful eye of Michelin-starred Executive Chef Asterios Koustoudis and Chef de Cuisine Nikos Mavrokostas, the Roof Garden’s kitchen has been the recipient of Athinorama magazine’s Toques d’Or (Golden Chef’s Hat) award for three consecutive years.

Chef Koustoudis’ philosophy is deceptively straightforward. His New Mediterranean cuisine gives a subtle modern twist to premium quality fresh ingredients to allow their exquisitely clean attributes to shine through. Typical of this approach is his Grilled Fish of the Day, our selected entrée of the evening. Moist, meaty, and grilled to perfection, served on a pillow of steamed vegetables, and garnished with nothing but a touch of extra virgin olive oil and splash of lemon, the presentation was utterly sublime in its simplicity. Sweet endings, courtesy of famed award-winning Parisian Chef Pâtissier Arnaud Larher, continue the kitchen’s extraordinary work.


MAT BAR (November), Hverfisgata 26, 101 Reykjavik, Iceland, (354) 788-3900 https://www.matbar.is/: Mat Bar - InteriorReplete with spiffy retro black-and-white tile floors and diminutive cozy bar, this little bohemian pub is every local’s favorite eatery, serving up one of Reykjavik’s most creative menus… And that menu changes seasonally – seemingly in the blink of an eye – with favorite tapas-style dishes reappearing in new forms, depending upon the mood of the kitchen and dictates of the weather.

Mat Bar - Eggplant TempuraSmall plates included: Cod Crudo adorned with diced apples, crumbled rye bread, and garden cress and splashed a light vinaigrette; Broccoli rubbed in chili oil before cooking and seasoned with a subtle hint of sweetness, salted lemon, and mint; and Celeriac Cannelloni stuffed with cheese and topped with diced potatoes and green tomatoes. The one shared large plate – the high point of the evening – was the spectacular Eggplant Tempura splashed with puttanesca sauce and a sprinkling of fresh basil (pictured).

“Herein lies Mat Bar’s appeal,” notes the Reykjavik Grapevine. “Every dish is remarkable, in one way or another, with bold choices in presentation, flavor combinations, and unusual twists on well-known recipes.”

If you’re contemplating a trip to Iceland, be sure to pay a call at Mat Bar in Reykjavik. I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.


VOLVÉR (February), 300 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (215) 670-2302, https://www.philadelphia.volver.com: Volver - InteriorVolvér, which was closed for an extended period due to Covid, has now reopened. So, should you be contemplating a visit to the Kimmel Center and seeking a suitable pre-event dining venue, this fine restaurant should once again, be at the very top of your list of possibilities.

It’s location alone – smack dab in the center itself – will save you an unbelievable amount of hassle… But there’s certainly more to dining here than just convenience. The à la carte menu is just right for some spirited mix ‘n match grazing; and the three-course pre-theater menu also has a good deal to recommend it.

For a second season, Latin American chef/owner Jose Garces is hosting emerging, minority chefs from around the Philadelphia region for six-week residencies. Therefore, the bill-of-fare is really two menus in one. Half devoted to Chef Garces’ signature dishes; the other half to those prepared by the visiting chef in residence.

Just one caveat… The service here, which was never the greatest, seems to have gotten even worse recently. Be prepared.


WINTER GARDEN CITY LOUNGE (March), Hotel Grande Bretagne, Athens, Greece, +30-21-0333-0000, https://www.gbroofgarden.gr/more-venues: GB Athens - Winter Garden LoungeLocated just around the corner from the hotel’s reception area, the Winter Garden City Lounge is an exquisite, beautifully appointed refuge where guests may partake of European breakfast, or a light lunch or dinner, accompanied by the soothing notes of live classical piano. The restaurant also serves afternoon tea, exclusively curated by its pastry & executive chefs, offering tea connoisseurs the finest selection of sweet and savory delicacies.

Our late lunch/early dinner began with an authentic (no lettuce) Greek salad embellished with copious squares of creamy feta cheese finished with a tangy oil & vinegar dressing. This was followed by delicious entrées of Sea Bream and Grilled Chicken, respectively. Both were excellent (and served on beautiful china), as was the personable but unobtrusive service.

Also deserving of a visit is the adjoining Alexander’s Bar, which was recently voted the “Best Hotel Bar in the World” by Forbes magazine. Definitely a great spot to linger over a splash of Ouzo, classic cocktail, or glass of traditional Greek wine.

Bon Appétit!

Be Safe & Stay Well


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