Fayette Street Grille, Conshohocken

308 Fayette Street
Conshohocken, PA

(610) 567-0366

Rating: 3 silver spoons out of 5

Overview: A nice neighborhood BYOB with occasionally good but inconsistent food. The menu is highly ambitious, but never quite reaches the heights the menu descriptions suggest. The menu is a 3-course prix fixe, but is reasonably priced ($28.50 per person).

Food: Eclectic American cuisine. For starters, there was a salmon cake special that sounded great but came out bland and dry. A dining companion had the “Honey Almond Baked Brie in Phyllo with a Raspberry Sauce” which was deliciously sweet and succulent, but obviously not the lightest appetizer in history. For main courses, the “Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Butter Pecan Sauce, served over Vanilla Sweet Potato Mousse” was a bit oversweet and lacked complexity. The “Filet Mignon with Red Onion Jam and Bordelaise Sauce on a Bed of Roasted Garlic Potato Mousse” sounded great on paper but failed to overwhelm anyone who ordered it. The desserts change nightly and are easily the best course.

Ambiance: Small, neighborhood place. Very nice.

Service: Service was good. Not much else to say here.

Value: $28.50 for three courses, BYOB… I’d say this is a good value. Personally, however, I rarely order three courses, so that makes me question the value a bit. Still, a solid value.

Details:
# of times we’ve eaten there: 2
Reservations: Yes
Payments: Cards
Bar: BYOB

Kooma, West Chester

151 Gay St.
West Chester, PA
610-430-8980

Rating: 4 silver spoons out of 5

Overview: Hip Sushi Bar / Japanese restaurant located in the heart of West Chester. Kooma is a double threat — a very cool room with fabulous, fresh sushi. No longer BYOB, unfortunately.

Food: Full sushi bar as well as a full menu of Japanese cuisine. (The sushi is so good at Kooma that we have only tasted appetizers and sushi; we never had the need to try other entrees.) The steamed pork dumplings — half-moon pan seared dumplings (as opposed to the circular ones that aren’t as good) — were excellent. The must have appetizer is the Negima, thin sliced sirloin rolled (like a sushi roll) with cream cheese and scallions, which is unique and wonderful.

For sushi, the fish is always very fresh and tasty — and while I cannot claim to be a sushi connoisseur, Kooma has the best I’ve ever tasted. They have the traditional Nigiri and plenty of rolls. Although I’ve read that sushi places use the worst fish in their “spicy” rolls, here at Kooma the spicy tuna roll ($6.50) is a must-have. They really ought to bottle and sell the spicy sauce — it is that good. I’d put it on everything. Kooma’s more expensive specialty rolls are stunning in both sight and taste — my personal favorite is the “Sakura” roll ($15.95) — a spicy salmon roll (with that sauce again) with salmon “on top”. Its a large piece, but a gorgeous piece of fresh salmon above the spicy roll is just perfect.

View Kooma’s sushi menu here

Bar: While I miss the days of BYOB, the bar at Kooma is quite good. There is an extensive martini list, a good variety of saki and plenty of wines under $30, so you don’t have to break the bank (though you might with a few specialty martinis). The bar turns into more of a drinking spot late night, complete with a DJ.

Ambiance: Colorful, stylish room with a large (19-seat!) sushi bar and a spacious dining area. One might expect to see a swank room like Kooma’s in Old City or Manayunk, but in West Chester it is quite the surprise. Club-style music keeps the feeling (but is not distracting) and waiters wear all black — again, a sign the West Chester is definitely changing. There are also a few tables outside on the sidewalk during the warm weather months.

Value: Kooma is not cheap, but neither is top of the line fresh fish. I once paid over $40 for takeout for 2 — a bit more than I normally would for a pick-up meal, but then again this is the best sushi around, so its worth a little extra.

Details:
# of times we’ve eaten there: 5+
Reservations: No – call ahead for large groups
Bar: Full (lots of saki)

Iron Hill Brewery, West Chester

Corner of Gay & High Sts.
West Chester, PA
610.738.9600

Rating: 3 silver spoons out of 5

Overview: Typical Microbrewery atmosphere with above average food & beer for a microbrew pub. Often tremendous waits on weekends or even for lunch during the week.

Food: Upscale pub fare — great burgers and the like but also some more intricate dishes that are better than expected. Start with the artichoke & cheese dip or the hummus — both are excellent. The burger comes on a garlic pretzel roll and is one of the better ones around, and the pork barbeque sandwich is also very tasty. I’ve never eaten the pizza but some fellow diners swear by the Lejon (shrimp, bacon and horseradish). At dinner, the salmon entree changes daily and is normally very good.

Ambiance: Noisy brewpub, but a fun place to hang out that isn’t too over the top. Can be difficult to find a seat at the bar on weekends (if you’re just drinking or waiting for a table). Try the bar in the back. In nice weather there are some seats out on the sidewalk… if you go at an off-peak time, its a great place to hang out.

Service: Fine for this type of place.

Value: Suprisingly good food & award-winning beer at reasonable prices — I’d say that’s pretty good.

Details:
# of times we’ve eaten there: 5+
Reservations: No – long waits are common.
Payments: Cards
Bar: Full
Website: http://www.ironhillbrewery.com

There are other Iron Hill locations in Media, PA, Newark, DE, Phoenixville, PA, Wilmington, PA and North Wales, PA.

Basil Bistro & Bar, Paoli

522 King St
Paoli , PA 19301

Rating: 3 silver spoons out of 5

Overview: Upscale bistro with Italian-inspired continental cuisine, a creative, ever-changing menu and a vibrant atmoshere. Run by the same folks who own Tango in Bryn Mawr and Nectar in Berwyn.

Food: A wide variety of pastas (wild mushroom ravioli), seafood (grilled wild Canadian salmon) and meats (sauteed veal medallions) make for an interesting, diverse menu. The specials menu changes daily (somtimes only with slight variation), offering 8-10 new entrees each visit. I was tempted to go with the special roasted pork loin with maple bbq sauce, dandelion greens, white beans and applewood smoked bacon, but I instead chose the pan seared salmon ($19), which came with fresh morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns whipped potatoes and a buerre blanc sauce. The fish was seared crispy on the outside but succulent and tender within, and the mushrooms and ferns added a nice variety of flavors to the potatoes. The buerre blanc was a tad abundant, but overall the dish was quite nice. My dining companion had the sauteed soft shell crabs ($25), which came over a bed of “tropical” mixed greens. The simple dish was full of flavor, highlighted by the sweet pineapple and strawberries and toasted cashews within the salad. (Still, a bit light for $25).

Bar: Surprisingly excellent selection of beers, including a variety of seasonal locals on tap from the likes of Troegs, Victory, etc. Nice variety of bottles as well, including Spaten, Pilsner Urquell and Anchor Steam. Large wine list with a solid selection of bottles for under $40 (such as Ruffino Classico Chianti for $29) and a few special occasion selections from the cellar (for example, a Cakebread Chardonnay for $80 or a Frog’s Leab Cab for $95). Overall, the bar prices are actually quite reasonable, especially compared to sister restaurants Tango and Nectar.

Ambiance: The main dining room is a large, open air room with lots of natural light. On busy nights, the room can be quite loud. Mostly, however, the bustling, fun crowd is a good thing.

Service: The hostess sat us promptly without a reservation, and even asked us if the table she chose was ok with us (Something that hardly ever happens in restaurants!) Our waiter — Elliot — however, was another story. He was rude, aloof and even downright strange. At times, it was surreal: the first words he said to us were “Do you want sparkling or tap water?” (No “Hi, Good Evening, Welcome”, nothing.) When I replied “tap”, he mumbled ok and walked away sullenly. This interaction continued throughout the night, as he seemed put out anytime we asked a question or asked for something additional. Even when we asked about the menu, he acted like we were being difficult. (Seriously, why become a waiter if you don’t like to help people?) He was also nowhere to be found whenever we needed anything. For example, we had ordered fresh glasses of wine well before our entrees arrived, yet we were still dry when the food arrived. The person who brought our food was clearly a manager of some kind, and showed more urgency in 5 seconds than Elliot showed all night. We asked him about wine and it arrived promptly. I doubt the service as Basil is typically this bad — everyone else we interacted with was plesant and helpful. Hopefully Elliot will be long gone by your next visit.

Value: Pizzas and pastas in the low to mid teens, entrees run from the high teens to the mid 20s. Generally, each dish is appropriately priced. Overall, with a few drinks, expect to pay anywhere from $35 to $55 per person, depending on how much food is ordered. For an upscale restaurant with bar, this is about even with expectations.

Details:
# of times we’ve eaten there: 3
Payments: Cards
Bar: Full
Site: http://www.basilbistro.com

Lourdas, Bryn Mawr

50 N. Bryn Mawr Ave.,
Bryn Mawr, PA
(610) 520-0288

Rating: 3 silver spoons out of 5

Overview: Quaint little BYOB serving simple, consistent Greek food.

Food: Many traditional Greek dishes such as souvlaki (filet, lamb or chicken skewers on a bed of rice), gyros, and fish prepared Greek-style (oil, tomatoes, peppers). While the food at Lourdas won’t ever astonish, it is unvaryingly a solid meal.

Bread: Warmed Pita with Hummus — different and great.

Ambiance: A small, very bright room that is both casual and comfortable. Decorated with lots of white and blue — a strong Greek motif.

Service: Staff is young, energetic and enthusiastic.

Value: BYOB with very reasonable prices.

Details:
# of times we’ve eaten there: 5
Reservations: Yes
Payments: Cards
Bar: BYOB