My life- in 2D.
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In Cherry Hill NJ, lies a very unassuming, little restaurant in a very unassuming, little plaza called Sawmill Village. Just the type of place you would find a phenomenal restaurant. Case in point, a fabulous place called Kuzina by Sofia- serving authentic “Traditional & Modern Greek Cuisine”.
Being new to the area approximately 10 months ago, I had a hankering for some good Greek food. So like anyone in this age of technology would do, I researched the internet and hoped for the best. Now four visits later, I’m posting this blog to share it with you.
Yes, I always get the same thing at Kuzina- maybe someday I’ll expand my horizons, but until that day arrives, I’m a creature of habit- what can I say? With that being said, to say that I was thrilled with the anticipation of what awaited me, would be a major understatement.
We arrived a little early for dinner, and were the only ones there. By the time we were finished with our meal, the place was packed.
Once seated, the server brings water- and a basket of fresh, hot grilled pita bread, cut into wedges. To accompany the bread, is a bowl of olive oil, with spices and sesame seeds. You can taste the quality of the olive oil in its flavor, and the combination of the warm, lightly char-flavored bread doused with it, is wondrous.
Next, the two appetizers (aka “The Usual”, for me)- Saghanaki, and Spanakopita.
First, the Saghanaki- a salty, white Greek cheese, flambéed to a bubbly crust. Kuzina’s menu states that theirs is flambéed with Ouzo. All I have to say to that is, “OPA!” The crispy outside and chewy inside, with all of its salty goodness is the very definition of a guilty pleasure.
Next, the staple and most people’s first taste of Greek food- Spanakopita, better known as Spinach Pie. Fresh spinach (not Byrd’s Eye frozen), and ample chunks of Feta (another salty) cheese are very visible, and marry together seamlessly. The filling of spinach and cheese is wrapped by multiple layers of Phyllo dough, which is paper-thin sheets of dough that is used widely in Mediterranean pastries. The Spanakopita is baked, and the dough turns airy-light and crispy, browned to perfection, also toasting the sesame seeds added on top. The fresh, spinach filling with the buttery, crispy crunch of the pastry is mind-blowing.
Being completely satisfied thus far, I still have to go for the slam-dunk: The Gyro. My favorite Greek food, and my main coarse every time. It is served either as a pita sandwich, or as a platter, which comes with the gyro meat (beef and lamb, traditional-style); a greek salad; pita wedges; and Tzatziki sauce- which is a Greek yogurt, usually made with cucumbers and dill, plus various spices and lemon juice.
I always go for the Gyro in sandwich form, which comes also with tomato and onions. Always despising tomatoes from birth, and getting too old to handle raw onion, I opt- out on the veggies and go strictly meat- with the Tzatziki on the side (I like to govern the amount put on).
My favorite part of the meal- the arrival of the sandwich, served with French Fries. I’m not a huge fries person, but Kuzina even does them right, always tasting fresh- crispy on the outside, and nice and “potatoey” inside.
But the culinary star today, as always, is the Gyro. Bundled up in, again- a perfectly soft, warm Pita bread, is the gyro meat- a combination of lamb and beef and many different spices, traditionally cooked on a vertical skewer, with radiated heat. This produces a meat that is perfectly juicy with a peppery outer-crust. The meat is sliced as it browns and served immediately. I could literally eat pounds of just the meat- it is seriously that good. Crispy and seasoned on the outside, but ever so tender to the bite- and Kuzinas does it flawlessly. Their Tzatziki is the freshest I ever tasted, and is the perfect companion to the not-overly spicy meat.
Having other dessert plans for the evening, it was skipped this time. However, on one of my previous visits I tried the Baklava- traditional Greek dessert made up of chopped nuts and a Greek honey-based syrup, filled inside Phyllo dough and baked to a crisp, then drizzled more with the honey-syrup on top. Served with some great coffee- the perfect end to a perfect meal.
The service is always great, and the Mediterranean music softly playing overhead only adds to the ambiance and overall wonderful experience. I also had the pleasure at a previous dining, of meeting the woman behind the greatness- Sofia is as gracious a hostess as she is a fabulous chef.
Check out Kuzina by Sofia first chance you get- you will be extremely ευτυχισμένος that you did!
Just off of Route 38 in Mount Laurel, NJ is a great Western- themed restaurant, bar, and dance hall called Prospector’s Steakhouse & Saloon. The theme might instantly conjure up bad memories of dining at The Ponderosa Steakhouse but let me assure you, there’s no comparison.
Upon walking through the main entrance, the first thing you notice right in front of you, is the enormous salad bar- more on that later. My guest and I were taken to our table, in the middle of a vast dining area- filled with people chatting and enjoying their meals.
Almost immediately one of the staff brings a basket with two piping-hot sweet yeast rolls. Amazing. You could see the steam release when ripped apart, a little hint of sweet to the taste, and were so light and fluffy. Great beginning….
Enjoying the roll and looking over the menu, I took in the scenery around us. Yes, it was a typical Western-theme, pictures paintings and sculptures of cowboys, with the obligatory mounted animal heads, and animal skins on the walls. I got the biggest kick, of course (being a big kid myself), out of the train on a track surrounding the whole room, circling above everyone’s head.
The menu itself is very extensive- and with nightly specials at Prospectors, you’ll never have a problem of finding something for everyone. Click here to view the menu.
The waitress arrived (she was awesome throughout the whole meal), then took our order. I was told that with your dinner you either get soup, a pre-made salad, or the salad bar. No brainer! Of course, we opted for the salad bar.
My mistake- The “Produce Wagon”, as it’s called at Prospectors. This thing is huge- about 20 feet from left to right, I’d estimate. Ice cold plates out of a refrigerated icebox makes all the difference in the world, as far as I’m concerned- and Prospectors has one. I can’t remember all of the offerings (most of your typical salad bar fare), but there was an abundance of it, and it all looked very fresh. I had the mixed greens with crushed hard- boiled egg, a little touch of bacon bits and some thousand island dressing. I’m a salad minimalist- and even more so since I was aware of the meal that was coming my way soon. I usually don’t do croutons either, but when I saw how fresh and obviously homemade they looked I had to try a couple. Crunchy, toasty, garlicky and delicious. Things were going very well…..
About five minutes to digest the salads and our main course arrived. It’s Wednesday night at Prospectors- and BBQ Baby Back Ribs is the special. Hello. For those that know me personally, I’m a sucker for ribs- any kind, but especially baby backs.
All the clichés- smoky; tender; fall-off-the-bone; blah, blah,blah…….. are true here. Perfectly done, with a touch of caramelized char on the outer meat of the rib. What I most loved about the ribs was that the sauce had that baked-in quality. There’s nothing worse for me than ribs overly-slathered in sauce, so much that you’re eating more sauce than rib. Not the case here- they were perfect. In fact, a little dish of barbecue sauce was on the plate for dipping, if I chose to do so. From the sides that I had to choose from, I decided to do the “healthy” thing, being that I’m downing a rack of ribs- and opted for the sweet potato, sans butter and cinnamon. I just love sweet potatoes plain and simple. The sweet potato rocked- cooked to a perfect softness, and was literally the size of a softball. I’m happy.
My dining partner, and girlfriend Kelly (The Jirish one- see my Doug Heffernan blog), ordered the Chicken Oscar- which is boneless chicken breast, topped with crabmeat, asparagus spears, and hollandaise sauce. I tried a bite, and while all of the ingredients were fresh and very well-prepared, and i like all of the ingredients separately, it just didn’t jive with me. What’s important here, however- is that my dining partner loved it. Along with her main coarse she ordered the macaroni and cheese. Um…… good choice. Wow! This side dish was a brick- sized portion of baked mac and cheese, with the perfect cheese-to-pasta ratio. Insanely good stuff, and huge- most of it is sitting in our fridge right now, waiting to be reheated.
For dessert, we decided to split a chocolate mousse- another weakness of mine (I have quite a few), with our coffee. A few spoonfuls into the airy, chocolaty, rich goodness and we gave up. I usually never leave a dessert unfinished, but I had more than enough by then. Kelly- she gave up after the second spoonful. I keep telling her to not try and keep up with me- it’s a futile thing by nature.
All in all, a great meal and fun time. Dinner ran about $60 after tax and tip- not bad for the belt-loosening feast we enjoyed so much. There’s also a sports bar area we never got to experience, with nightly specials- and offers all of the sports packages. Also, there’s a nightclub for line-dancing and the like, if that’s your thing.
If you’re ever in Mt. Laurel, NJ make sure you stop by for a spell- you won’t regret it.