Arnie's Gourmet Steakhouse
(Restaurant Now Closed)
8021 Centennial Boulevard
Camden County, New Jersey
The Artful Diner
Special to nj.com
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
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
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
Smoking: Smoking is not permitted in the restaurant.
Reservations: Recommended on weekends
Handicapped Accessible: Yes