Apologies for the poor photo. Hey, it’s ANOTHER Collingswood, NJ BYOB. This one is just a couple of doors off of Haddon Ave. on Powell Lane which appears, with the prescence of lots of new ritzy condos, to be the new “gentrified” section of town. It’s getting tougher and tougher to find a place to park on a weekend night in this culinary capital of South Jersey.
LoBianco’s New American Cuisine offers their winter menu as a THREE or FOUR Course Tasting Menu. Three courses for thirty dollars and four courses for thirty-five dollars. Is it worth it? We were about to find out. I skipped the appetizers as there was nothing that made my mouth water. Jerry C. had “The Soup”, roasted tomato soup with pesto drizzle and Carol B. and some others chose the Roasted Portabella, layered with sonoma valley chevre, port scented carmelized vidalia onions, baby spinach and lemon beurre. That’s a lot going on inside of a mushroom! Carol thought it was great. Not being a mushroom guy myself, I am probably missing out on some fine dishes. I did choose the simple Market Salad, consisting of fresh field greens, roquefort bleu, vine ripened tomatoes, red onions, orange segments and honey-roasted shallot emulsion. It’s not my modus operandi do make a big deal over a little salad but I’m not sure if it was the orange segments, the roquefort or maybe even that emulsion thingie but DAMN, that was a good salad!! My wife, Kathy, ordered the Grilled Romaine, warm salad consisting of hearts of romaine dressed with olive oil, crisp pancetta, balsamic, chevre, and cilantro-mist pesto. I could be wrong but it’s been my observation that if they add pancetta to ANYTHING it’s tough to screw up the dish. Kathy loved her salad.
OK, LoBianco was off to a good start with our tough-to-please-crowd. My 2008 Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec was delivering lots of cherry and spice flavors and a nice gripping texture that was crying for some red meat to bring it to its full potential. I actually need to remind myself to get some more of this wine because I think it packs a lot of great flavors for a very reasonable price ($13.99).
I considered my usual chicken entree, I thought long and hard about the Braised Beef Short Ribs, but I opted for the Ribeye (the only item on the menu that adds a $5.00 supplement to the Tasting Courses).
It was delivered to the table looking much as it was described on the menu, coriander dusted and rosemary scented 16 oz. angus ribeye, truffled whipped potatoes and nutmeg scented creamed spinach (the spinach was on a plate by itself and didn’t make my photo). The meat was done perfectly, had great flavor, the potatoes were excellent and the creamed spinach was so good that it led to my only complaint of the evening. There should have been MORE creamed spinach! I had to nurse it gently, taking the tiniest of portions to insure it lasted throughout the life of my ribeye. The rest of my dinner companions had either the ribeye or the braised short ribs.
Carol B. debated between the Roast Pork and Braised Beef and the waitress recommended the short ribs. Naturally, the meat fell off the bone and was tender and flavorful. I heard Carol’s husband, Joe, utter the words “absolutely scrumptious”. That’s what he said, and trust me, Joe B. does not use the words “absolutely scrumptious” very often.
Jerry C., traveling to the beat of a different, and more seafood worldly, drummer, chose the Bouillabaise (probably because he knew I’d have trouble spelling it in my review). this was described as a delicate seafood stew consisting of steamed shrimp, fresh fish of the day, mussels, littleneck clams in a tomato-saffron fumet, braised fennel and leaks, croute with rouille. Every time I glanced over he was dipping more bread into the broth and smiling. I think that meant he liked his B-O-U-I-L-L-B-A-I-S-E.
We all had dessert of some type and the table was equally divided between the Belgian Waffle with Ice Cream and the French Vanilla Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate Shavings and Berries. My ice cream was the perfect topping to a truly excellent meal. Sue C. was the lone Chocolate Tort person and her dessert was immediately boxed for later consumption. I am thinking there would have been a good chance I may have been invited back to Jerry and Sue’s to share her tort until I made the mistake of telling her to get in the back of her own car as she attempted to assume the “shotgun” position. Oh well, we all make mistakes! LoBianco’s will most likely see us all again!!