Cherry Hill Mall
2000 Rt. 38
Cherry Hill, NJ 08002
I was recently invited for a complimentary sneak peek at the Grand Lux Cafe, (opening today at the Cherry Hill Mall) and was more than happy to check out a new venue, on the house.
The Grand Lux is basically a high-end Cheesecake Factory, and definitely has a "Vegas Style" feel to it. I was there for the first shift ever open to public (lunch), and as such, things were obviously a little hectic. I also counted approximately twenty five cooks on the line, not including the coffee and dessert/baking area seen immediately below.
Also not including servers, shadows, expo, and any other back/middle of the house positions I may have missed.
I was offered five different menus (each boasting a small sample of the main menu) from which I was to choose one item off of each.
Now, I am not going to make any real determinations on service, because this was literally their first dry run, and they made it clear they were looking for feedback, but if you see the Spicy Calamari Salad listed below, know that I wanted to try it.
Cocktails were also included, so a Brooklyn Summer Ale and a house specialty Pineapple Smash - muddled caramelized pineapple (soaked in light and dark rum overnight), topped with Basil Hayden bourbon on the rocks - were in order. This cocktail was certainly a velvet hammer. The caramelization of the pineapple played nicely with the bite of the bourbon, but make no mistake, this would take you down a peg.
For the appetizer I wanted to try the spicy calamari salad, but due to my error in calling it "the crispy calamari," combined with the waitress literally misunderstanding my request and putting it in as "crispy calamari" (not even offered on my menu), I ended up with what you see below. Even without the "organic greens, carrots, cucumber & green onions tossed with a delicious vinaigrette," I have to say, it was pretty tasty. The squid was tender, the breading crispy and light, and not a bad rendition of the Americanized-Italian restaurant favorite. Of course when I saw other people getting the salad version, I was quite envious (it was huge and brimming with said salads and sauces).
Not sure if it was due to my order being wrong, it being opening day, or some sort of roulette system they had in the back, but I was also brought two gigantic Kobe beef meatballs. They were served with a bit of arugula, marinara, and some damn good cheesy polenta. Although I was quite happy with this turn of events, I had to take one to go, because I still had two entrees, and a dessert to deal with. At lunch.
The meatballs were moist, well seasoned and riddled with herbs throughout.
The Grand Cobb Salad is not a lie. This thing was enormous (notice a trend?). Poached (I believe) herbed chicken, bacon, avocado, heirloom cherry tomatoes, Maytag blue cheese and grated egg in a roasted tomato vinaigrette. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with the ripeness, quality, and quantity of the ingredients. The bacon was damn good. Cubed, lardon-ish, crispy bits of mighty fine bacon was an anchor of this unhealthy salad – my favorite kind.
The chicken was tender, the avocado ripe, and the grated egg worked surprisingly well.
There was a ridiculous amount of the Maytag blue cheese, and it was interspersed throughout this salad that truly eats like a meal.
The vinaigrette was nice and light, which helped offset the heavy, rich ingredients.
For the second entree, I thought I would go light, so I got the Roast Turkey and Brie Sandwich. Oven roasted turkey on an "artisan" roll with brie, apple slices, apricot-cherry chutney, arugula and mayo. Oh, and french fries. This sandwich was of about average portion (I was kind of hoping it would be in the two foot range given the rest of the plates I received), but it was certainly a filling size.
Again, the ingredients were all fresh, nicely balanced, and made with care. The kitchen was firing on all cylinders off of the bat. Nothing out of the ordinary, a pretty solid sandwich for a "bistro" style chain restaurant.
The fries were damn good. Slightly thicker than McDonald's fries, but still well cooked, crispy, and nicely salty.
The key lime pie (not pictured) took about thirty minutes to come out due to some unknown issue with the purveyors of pre-made pie. It was packed up to go (along with parts of almost everything ordered) and finished with friends, tasting-style later in the day.
I am not rating this place because I ate a giant meal for free, and they had not yet opened for business. I think it will be very successful in the Cherry Hill area, where big portions (for the men) and glitz (for the ladies) are highly valued. I would not present an argument if someone asked me to meet them there in the future, which is a pretty big statement given my propensity to hate malls.