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Upscale BYO in suburbs -- need recs

I hate bringing up a topic that has probably been done to death; but I have noted that Chowhoundies are never short of opinions, nor shy about providing them. ;-)

I am trying to stage a long-delayed dinner with my twice-a-year dining companion. (We have been dining twice a year for 15 years, but somehow 2012 became our first bye year. Getting back on track in 2013).

I had a lovely bottle of wine ready for when we were supposed to go out in Sept/Oct but scheduling got away from us, so I'd like to pick a BYO. She has specifically requested a location outside of the city this time, which lets out tons of great ones, I know.

So I am looking for a truly great BYO in Montgomery, Chester, Delaware or New Castle County. I am looking right now at Sycamore, Majolica (both Philly Top 50) and Black Lab Bistro.

Any opinions on them or recs for similar?

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  1. You should also consider Blackfish in Conshohocken. Chip Roman does great stuff there, and they also have tasting menus on Tuesdays there that have a theme that are often spectacular.

    Of the two in Phoenixville I strongly prefer Majolica even after their change in menus. Black Lab is more casual and a bit hit and miss.

    1. I'm pretty sure Sycamore's chef for the past few years left last month. I've only been to Majolica once, it was mostly very good but we split an entree (one of the "Plates") and it was totally bland (underseasoned). Other than that, I'd go back there.

      1. Another vote for Blackfish. Liked Sycamore the two times we were there but Buckethead is correct that their chef left. Majolica is pretty good. Ate there twice and was not wowed by the food. Nice atmosphere. Alba in Malvern is good, as is the Blue Pear Bistro next door to Dilworthton Inn.

        1. Oops. I just noticed you specified BYOB. I tale back the Alba suggestion, although I believe Blue Pear has a very reasonable corkage fee.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JanR

            I think Alba still allows BYO with a corkage fee, on account of their previous longtime status as a BYOB.

          2. Thanks for those comments. It's helpful to know that the Sycamore chef has decamped, it makes a difference.

            One of our rules in our 15 years of dining is that we do not repeat restaurants -- I took her to Blackfish a few years ago, and she took me to Alba (which was *wonderful*) last time. So those are great suggestions but I need to find a new place.

            I'm seriously considering the Majolica tasting menu (we have yet to do a tasting menu). But I want to investigate some more.

            I will certainly check out the Blue Pear Bistro.....

            9 Replies
            1. re: zmulls

              The departure of a chef isn't always a disaster: if his sous chef and line chefs worked with him for awhile, the transition can be rather seamless. I had a very enjoyable meal at Sycamore a few months back.

              I don't know how far you are from Bucks, but my two recent meals at Maize in Perkasie convince me that restaurant is a hidden gem and, perhaps, the best in Bucks (including the several notable restaurants in Doylestown and New Hope).

              1. re: famdoc

                The chef at Sycamore left just recently, if you were there a few months ago, he was still there. I don't know whether it's the same, better, or what since he left, but it is helpful to know that the chef who was running things during the time a restaurant got lots of good reviews has departed, if nothing else it means you should probably look for some more recent reviews before going there for a special occasion. I haven't been there since Meg Votta was the chef.

                1. re: famdoc

                  I'll agree that Maize is very good. However, the noise level is incredible. We had to almost holler across the table to be heard. I won't go back, regardless of the food quality. The experience was not pleasant.

                  1. re: bucksguy14

                    Hi, can I ask what night of the week you went?

                    We usually go midweek (Mon, Tues, Wed) and we go very early, sometimes as early as 5pm. We've had good luck getting quiet tables in small places.

                    We did Matyson in the city last time around, and it was quiet when we got there, and starting to get noisy when we left.

                    1. re: zmulls

                      My recollection is that we went on a Wed or Thurs, around 7;30. It was extremely noisy, start to finish. I've been to Matyson and found, like you, that the noise goes up as it gets later. I was at Melograno last weekend and, while it was noisy when we first arrived at 7, it got quieter after 8. We really like the meal there and will be back - after 8!!

                    2. re: bucksguy14

                      Too bad. I was going to try and go there this weekend for a date with the missus, but that's a deal breaker.

                      Re: Sycamore, I'm a big fan of Sam Jacobson and his staff, but his food is so idiosyncratic I've always made sure he was in the kitchen when I dined there.

                      1. re: bucksguy14

                        agree the room can be noisy. it is best to be seated around 8. since the meal is paced leisurely, by the time your mains arrive, the room will be only half full and less noisy.

                        1. re: bucksguy14

                          Maize is so good. It's a shame to pass on it because of the noise. If you go on a weekend, getting there very early helps a lot. We usually go at 6pm on a Saturday.

                          1. re: JanR

                            I agree, it was very good. Maybe we'll go again and try famdoc's suggestion of getting there around 8 and see if that works. Except for dinners involving grandchildren, I very rarely make a reservation before 7 and prefer 8.