Friday, February 24, 2012

Cafe Panache

Final Grade: A

            I must admit, I am addicted to reading about restaurants. To that I’ll add, I’m also addicted to talking about them. I not only love to learn about places but to discuss them as well. Consequently, I usually have a few places in mind that I just have to get to. As in the case of Café Panache, where after reading some nice reviews and hearing about it from a few friends, I felt compelled to get there and see for myself. And truth be told, I was definitely impressed.
            On a recent post-Valentine’s day dinner, my husband and I were truly blown away by our experience from chef/owner Kevin Kohler. His menu alone, being seasonal and small, exemplified how serious he takes his job. Just about every item from the appetizer, pasta, and entrée course read beautifully and sounded scrumptious. Needless to say, making our decisions was not easy. Fortunately though, our waiter explained to us his recommendations with knowledge and from obvious experience. And in the end, his words were spot on.
            We started our meal by splitting an appetizer and salad. The filet mignon ravioli ($15) with truffle butter was something that words cannot do justice. Each pocket was glistening from the butter yet not competing with it. The meat was a standout on its own; the pasta simply provided a perfect feather-light pillow for it to be forked with. Utter perfection on a plate. The salad we chose was a warm pan-fried goat cheese salad ($12) with beets and candied walnuts. Although reminiscent of many we’ve had elsewhere, it was distinguished in that each piece worked in harmony with each other. The sweet dressing accentuated the bold and tangy flavor of the cheese while the browned nuts crunched perfectly against the tender beets. Both were plated rather nicely and of adequate appetizer size. In other words, we were very content with the first course and quite ready for the next.

Filet Mignon Ravioli

Pan-Fried Goat Cheese Salad

              My husband ordered the duck ($32), which was comprised of both breast and leg meat. On the side sat a rustic wild rice pilaf adjacent a sweet roasted pear. What brought the meal together though was the deep in color and flavor sauce. It adorned the bottom of the plate and truthfully was the winning touch on what was an already a great dish. I went with the special of the evening, a panko-crusted halibut ($32) with a seaweed salad and wasabi sauce. Again, a success from Kohler, who evidently is selective in his fish selections. The portion was impressive in not just size but in freshness as well. Not to mention, the flaky nature of the fillet topped with crispy breadcrumb pieces was executed wonderfully. This course, as a whole, was without doubt a success on many levels.

Panko-Crusted Halibut



            We skipped on dessert as we were perfectly satisfied with our two-course dinner. I will note that the menu did offer some tantalizing options that in the future I will save room for. After the meal we just had, I can only assume that desserts would be exemplary as well. So with that, I highly recommend Café Panache for you to try. It joins the ranks of restaurants that place emphasis on all aspects of dinner service which come together seamlessly. I know I’ll be back, anxious to try something else from the talented kitchen, while curious to indulge in something sweet.

Café Panache can be found at 130 East Main St., Ramsey, NJ. It is a BYO restaurant. 

Total score 23/25
Final Grade: A

A: 21-25    B: 16-20    C: 11-15   D: 6-10    F: 0-5
Restaurant Rubric

Food Taste
Bland, boring, overcooked, underdone
Very little flavor, not much aroma
Flavors apparent, basic ability to please palates
Flavor worth discussing, chef’s use of ingredients impressive
Great flavor, taste lingers and leaves diner wanting more
Restaurant service
Inattentive staff, no regard for wait time
Staff average in helpfulness, timing alright, either more/less needed
Staff knowledgeable and attentive to needs without asking, timing very well executed
Remarkable and noteworthy, service so good you forget it is ever an issue elsewhere
Food Presentation
Cover it up please
Sloppy and the eater can tell little thought went into it
Descent presentation: looks alright, not worth a picture but enough to make you hungry
Admirable, it is apparent the chef plated with a consideration for presentation
Presentational talents are here. Looks beautiful and too good to dig in
Prices match quality
Prices are too high for quality
Prices are still too high but not outrageously
Some items are priced accordingly but not all
Most items are priced accordingly
All items are matched accordingly
Would I go back?
Not a chance ever
Looking forward to it
What time should I arrive?!?

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