|13-17 West Benedict Avenue
Take the citrus flavoring of Allouette, mix in the neighborhood setting of Gourmet Restaurant and garnish with the simplicity and economy of Alisa Cafe, proscribe with credit cards, bring your own wine and closed on Mondays: Nais.
A ravioli store dominates the corner of Benedict Avenue. The township firehouse acts as next door neighbor to Nais, whose low brick architecture is "early one-hour cleaners."
Havertown is known for small bicycle shops, beef and ale bars, a plethora of Wawas and home to hundreds of legal secretaries who work so hard and so long that a dinner out is as rare as a lawyer's compliment. Those who are the most gracious of attorneys listen to these secretaries and have thereby discovered Havertown's most pleasant repastery. After 6 p.m., a flotilla of cars of savvy counsel arrive in the parking lot across the street from Nais' screendoor entrance. The restaurant becomes a haven for barristers seeking satisfaction without sartorial excess. Legal license is taken on their vehicles' plates:
The interior is plain but neat. By design, the rooms are partitioned into three areas consisting of two small protrusions up front with a very large rear. Go to the back. There's less traffic and noise. Settle in. Your wine will be opened and placed in an ice bucket at tableside. The aromas of Thai seasonings and heated fruity sauces prevail. Inhale and order.
I prefer to start with poached oysters in a vermouth and caviar cream, although you may wish to begin with a smoked duck salad. The former is a collection of six shelldwellers whose heated edges are curled in a precatory pucker. Each fills up and jostles in a soupspoon until its bountiful bounciness is curtailed between your closing teeth. The steaming oyster squirts and skids inside the mouth, tantalyzing tastebuds to bursting. Innumerable caviar globules disintegrate simultaneously when crushed by tongue upon upper palate, adding a savory saltiness. Salivary glands are excited: Liquidity makes swallowing easy. An "Ohhhh" escapes involuntarily from your voice box as the silken morsel passes it by.
The duck salad, just as delectable, is sweetened by an oriental vinaigrette. Snow peas and Bibb lettuce provide girth and lightness for dark chunks of duck thigh made vibrant with ginger and garlic. Placing a forkful of thigh sandwiched between two long snow peas near one's nose causes redolence of sugar and spice.
"And for your entree, Fatty?" a tall tuxedo-vested waitress inquires amicably. "The steamed salmon in dill yogurt sauce is tonight's special; duck in glazed honey and apricots is marvelous and so are the veal medallions in curry and apple chutney."
"My dear lady," I reply cordially but directly. "I'm here for the rack of lamb."
A hush envelopes the room, or at least I imagine so. The regulars know that the racks go early. A betting pool is usually in progress among the lawyers on site to guess the exact time that the lamb runs out.
"No problem. Medium rare as usual?" she yells above the murmuring and the resetting of watch dials.
I have now ordered Nais' rack of lamb 76 times. There has never been an occasion of imperfection. There is no better.
The full rack arrives two fists high. Cut the enormous filet from the ribs as a whole rather than splicing between ribs one at a time. The bones are now easily separated by a swift chop at their base. Touch the meaty skeletal remains to your open mouth as if to play a harmonica. Perform a polka rendition of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" with tongue and teeth until the rib is bare. Then prance upon the heart of the matter. The filet's marbled enough to intensify the plush velvety texture of its interior. Utensils are useless. Robust crimson mounds of meat are exposed by the weight of a stainless steel knife. Tenderly, torrents of juices ooze forth surrounding the stack of French-cut vegetables accompanying the rack. Pure warmth is sheparded to stomach as lamb chunks are wolfed.
Dessert cannot be forsaken. Anything chocolate is superb.
For those of you who rave about Allouette, Gourmet Restaurant and Alisa Cafe, try this establishment for even better value. If there's bisque, buy; if duck breast's a special, feel fowl; and never hesitate to be sheepish.
SPOLIA OPIMA AGNUS DEI
|Copyright 2004 Richard Max Bockol, Esq.||Back|