Where Can You Eat Regularly and Not Have to Order?
I've been spoiled. My sushi friend and I have been going to Fuji in Cinaminson for about 10 years. We never order. We sit at the sushi bar, and get treated to whatever Matt Ito wants us to enjoy. He knows our allergies, our delight in the new--he never disappoints. But, after 27 years there, he is closing until he is satisfied with a new site he can find somewhere else.
Doesn't have to be Japanese, but can you help me with this type of personal service that is top notch? My friend and I are sad. We will be ready for Matt once he reopens, but we have to eat somewhere in the meantime... Our dates are primarily for lunch, but our husbands also enjoy going to Matt's for dinner, so dinner where one is treated like family would also be important to us.
Price is not the issue so much as innovative food, service and ambience. Low noise level also.
I can't believe we are the only semi-sybarites in town! Actually, the kind of attention I'm used to is somewhat similar to what was found at home. I just showed up, and my Mother put wonderful stuff on the table.
I thought I'd have tons of response to this querry, and hope I still will.
It might be a good question for General Topics in terms of the 'kind' of place you should seek out. Speaking generally, I'd seek out mom and pop places where the same people will be cooking/waiting every night and from there it's just repeat business, keep coming and let them get to know you. Coming from two very different angles I'd say maybe Erawan or Balkan Express?
I'm not sure where you live, but Taipan in Old City is fabulous (108 Chestnut). Everytime I have gone in there, the food, atmosphere, drinks and specials are great. The sushi is extremely fresh, the entrees are well prepared (the seared tuna is awesome) as well as generous portions. Prices are very reasonable. If you like good service, the place is top notch. We are alway greeted by Tony (who could not be nicer). He will go out of his way to make sure you have a great experience, even bringing dishes out that he thinks you may like. It is a very cool place highlighted by a great staff and good food. Only downside is parking can be a little tough if the lots are full.
Tell me more about Erawan and Balkan Express. I wasn't looking for "types" of places, but rather specific places where chowhounds feel catered to and looked after. Will try Taipan for sure. Parking isn't really an issue; my friend lives in the suburbs, but we could either take one car or public transit from where I live.
Serbian Express is a husband (Serbian) and wife (Filipino) who previously ran a restaurant in Germany and now serve food representative of all nations that the train, The Serbian Express, passes through in Europe. They’re very chatty (in a good way) and very easy-going people. I’m fairly certain you could go in and simply ask them to choose for you and they would. The only problem might be that the food is typically a bit heavy for year-round eating. Lots of cabbage, beans, smoked meats. Delicious, but not what everyone wants when its 90 degrees out.
Erawan might take a bit more coaxing but has a bigger menu. The normal menu has decent Thai food but the owner/chefs are capable of truly astounding Thai though they rein it in a bit for the western palate. With those guys I’d start by planning a price fix meal with them (there are no real formal rules for this, just call and ask to set one up) and tell them that you’re ok with whatever they want to prepare and give them a dollar amount. After that first time, you still would probably need to call ahead a bit and say you’re coming in and that you want them to serve whatever you think they’d like, and I think they’d eventually get in the groove of it.
it seems to me this kind of service can be found anywhere. the restaurant at which i work has a number of regulars who get treated exceptionally well...
all you need do is find a place you like and frequent it. so long as you're friendly, relatively consistent with ordering, and you tip well, the service and rapport are sure to follow.
worth noting: while i mention regulars who get treated well, i must add there are those who get sub-standard service too: bad tippers, rude types, and those who generally act as if are above the waitstaff or other guests will wait for tables, not be visited as often throughout the meal, and will never ever get drinks or food comp'ed.
Oh dear. I have to start over. My emphasis is not on the service, although of course that's important. It's on the food! I'm looking for exceptional food that is varied enough to be able to eat it often. I like surprises.
I'd gotten in a rut with one wonderful place, and am now looking for a couple of others. If I knew of a place I'd love I'd be eating there, and not posting, asking you all for help.
You could give the tasting menu at Carmine's a try. It consists of five courses and is constantly changing. You call ahead for a reservation, speak to John (the chef/owner) and tell him what you like or don't like and he'll put together something great for you. Here's a recent previous thread with more information on this restaurant.
It's always fun to be surprised, especially when you know the food is going to be terrific!
Athens Cafe in Cherry Hill. They don't just bring me whatever they want to (i wouldn't like that), but have a fair idea of what I want and ask me if what they have is what I want, ie., 'Cold combo?' or 'Mike stuffed squid today, you want it?'
I love Mike's stuffed squid, but if I am in the mood for sweetbreads, I don't want anybody giving me squid.
But as has been noted, it takes time and visits.
You note you patronized Fuji for 10 years. I don't imagine they started serving you on their own immediately.
Mmn, Athens Cafe sounds very interesting. Can you give me an idea of where in Cherry Hill, plus phone number? Sounds like my kinda place.
No, Matt Ito didn't start serving us a la Chef's whim immediately, but it's the kind of place when you see what's on others' plates you want to try everything. We did put ourselves in his hands pretty early on, but I think that is a technique often used at a sushi bar. Matt did ask us though, what we couldn't eat, and he always remembered. I can't do spicy, and my friend can't eat raw oysters. Sometimes he would serve me raw oysters, and my friend spicy, served at the same time.
mmm, i'll second erawan and carmine's. both places in my opinion have some of the best food in the area with service to match. i did the tasting menu three weeks ago at carmine's, and though it was my first time there they made me feel like i'd been going all my life. each course bettered the previous. make sure to get the strawberries and marscapone cheese in aged balsamic vinegar!
erawan, i've gone there a few times since a chowhounds organised dinner and they seem to remember me there. i love the erawan noodles under the chef's specialties section. perfectly spicy and delicious.
i can't recommend both places enough. both have everything going for them; food, service, reasonable prices.