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Arnie's Gourmet Steakhouse
8021 Centennial Boulevard
Voorhees, Camden County, New Jersey
(856) 424-7774

(Restaurant Now Closed)

By The Artful Diner
Special to nj.com
6/27/2005

Playing kneesies with several lowbrow eateries and a variety of other business enterprises in the Village Shops Center, Arnie's Gourmet Steakhouse doesn't look like much from the outside. Like most strip-malls, the exterior is excruciatingly utilitarian, which is to say about as exciting as a head of wilted iceberg lettuce. Once across the threshold, however, the ambiance picks up dramatically. Gleaming hardwood floors, stucco walls adorned with stylistic sconces, and white napery are artistically accented with dark wood, brick & stone, and colorful banquettes. Interior decorator Maggie Hampton is surely to be commended, as the décor exudes a decided touch of class.

The proprietor is Arnie Madrigale, also owner of Arnie's Gourmet Butcher Shop & Culinaria in nearby Cherry Hill, so you've got to figure that this man knows his way around a steak... as does Michael Murray, the power behind the stove. And, apart from one or two minor miscues, the cuisine acquits itself with considerable distinction.

Interestingly enough, if the kitchen does falter, it seems to be with appetizers rather than main courses and on a comparatively quiet weekday evening rather than a free-for-all Saturday night. My initial Thursday visit, for example, yielded a house salad ($6.50) replete with tired baby lettuces and equally exhausted endive, slices of unripe pear, and globs of a less than memorable citrus vinaigrette. The hickory-smoked pork spring roll ($7.50), on the other hand, was utterly delicious. The crisp cylinder was not at all greasy and packed with succulent slow-smoked pork, Chinese cabbage, and julienne chilies. Unfortunately, it was garnished with another pile of those droopy greens and a sweet corn and red pepper coulis that was significantly less than pleasing to the eye.

After this somewhat iffy introduction, I was certain that additional disappointments might be in store; but -- I am happy to say -- I was wrong. Subsequent sojourns brought forth a wealth of highly recommendable appetizers and entrées. Among the former, the grilled homemade sausage ($9.50) is marvelously flavorful and teamed with perfectly sautéed broccoli rabe, a rich wedge of polenta, and consummatory drizzle of balsamic reduction. The grilled jumbo shrimp ($11.50) are pristine of countenance, anointed with an addictive barbecue glaze, and embellished with tortilla chips, jicama, and a refreshing mango salsa.

Other intriguing starters include: seared ahi tuna with wasabi emulsion and plantain chips ($14.00); duck confit and wild mushroom strudel ($8.00); and crabmeat flan with citrus beurre blanc ($10.50).

Entrées...? Given the restaurant's moniker and the fact that the prime beef is dry aged at Arnie's Gourmet Butcher Shop, red meat is obviously the name of the game. And an excellent place to begin is with the establishment's signature premier cut 8-ounce filet mignon ($26.00). On one occasion, a dining partner requested her filet well done. A crime against nature in my book, but the kitchen gladly obliged, sending forth a version that was cooked through while still managing to maintain a moist and tender mien. My 12-ounce dry-aged New York sirloin ($26.00), on the other hand, arrived a perfect compromise between medium and medium rare and simply bursting with flavor.

Mr. Murray also offers a hand-carved prime rib ($26.00) that is slow roasted in a wood oven (available on Friday and Saturday evenings only). If you are incurably carnivorous by nature, this pièce de résistance may very well constitute your ultimate gastronomic high.

But the chef is equally adept at other matters as well -- finny fare ($26.00), for instance. All specimens encountered are beautifully prepared and presented with a sophisticated flair. The Florida grouper is grilled, set on a seabed of grilled vegetables and basmati, and finished with a rich roasted tomato tarragon lobster sauce; the Pacific halibut is roasted in a macadamia nut crust and adorned with a vegetable stir-fry, coconut milk, and hint of lemongrass; and the Jail Island salmon is pan seared, drizzled with toasted pine nut aïoli, and accompanied by a lobster and corn stuffed potato.

Even the humble breast of chicken ($20.00) receives special attention from the kitchen. It is marinated in garlic, herbs, and extra virgin olive oil, then seared over the apple wood fired grill. The flesh is exquisitely moist, and the homey garlic mashed potatoes provide a most suitable companion.

Each entrée comes with your choice of potato -- and the aforementioned garlic mashed and delicious hand-cut steak fries are particularly recommended. Other sides ($3.50) include fabulous fresh-cut onion rings, so-so creamed spinach & haricots verts, excellent sautéed mushrooms, and caramelized onions.

Desserts are your typical mixed bag, some made on the premises, others imported from off campus; obviously the former are to be preferred. The tiramisù is good but not outstanding, and the yellow cake with white chocolate icing tasted of the refrigerator. The Jewish apple cake, on the other hand, is absolutely top-notch... and the espresso ($3.50) is also quite good.

Sequestered away in a nondescript strip-mall behind the Main Street complex, Arnie's Gourmet Steakhouse isn't all that easy to find; and it also faces some stiff competition from the Chophouse in nearby Gibbsboro. Thus far, however, the three-month old establishment appears to be holding its own quite nicely. And while Arnie's may lack the overt pulsating pizzazz of its upscale neighbor, it will undoubtedly appeal to those who prefer their steak served up in a less frenetic atmosphere and at less lethal tariffs.

Cuisine: Steak Plus
Hours: Tues - Thurs, 4:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 4:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.; Sun, 3:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.; CLOSED MONDAY
Credit Cards: All major
Attire: Casual
Smoking: Smoking is not permitted in the restaurant.
Reservations: Recommended on weekends
Parking: Onsite
Alcohol: BYOB
Price: Moderate
Handicapped Accessible: Yes

The Artful Diner is an independent, freelance food writer.  His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.

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