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La Campagne

Note: Restaurant Now Closed - 2012
312 Kresson Road
Cherry Hill, Camden County, New Jersey
(856) 429-7647

By The Artful Diner
January 24, 2000

Note: February 2007 - The Artful Diner reviewed La Campagne again in 2007. Go to the latest review.

Whenever my wife and I are in the mood for a romantic evening at table, John Byrne's La Campagne comes immediately to mind. It is both rustic and irresistible, boasting polished hardwood floors, working fireplaces, and the shimmering glow of candlelight. Small vases of fresh flowers add just the right splash of color to crisp white napkins and tablecloths. And, rest assured, Chef Eric Hall's creative southwestern French fare is every bit the equal of the appealing ambiance. Add professional yet personable service, the fact that you may BYOB (and a first-class vintage is certainly called for), and a wonderful evening of dining is in store.

As you sip your wine and peruse the menu, you will be treated to freshly baked bread still warm from the oven and an undeniably addictive herb butter. But I would urge you to go easy, as the appetizers are simply not to be missed. And a perfect prelude to your main course is the superb rosemary and honey glazed quail ($10.50). Both tender and succulent, it is set atop caramelized fennel and a rich and creamy orange risotto, then drizzled with caper and white wine olive oil.

Equally delicious is the terrine of winter veggies with goat cheese and wild mushrooms; reclining in a delicate pool of creme fraiche, it also benefits from the presence of a tangy tomato coulis ($8.50). The almond crusted Brie with red wine poached pear ($9.50) also has a great deal to recommend it, as does the Provencal herb-cured salmon over arugula with red and yellow pepper confits ($8.50). My absolute fave, however, is the incredible seared foie gras ($13.50). It is served with grilled mango in a pastry shell and then consummated with an outrageously opulent pomegranate port wine reduction.

Entrees are no less imaginative. Mr. Hall has managed to succeed where many other chefs have failed: in the realization that a generous helping of innovative sytle must be seasoned with a pinch of restraint. He is both savvy and skillful in the combination of his ingredients. He understands intuitively what will work... and, perhaps even more importantly, what will not.

Take the Dover sole (market price), for example. I have long been partial to La Campagne's version, as this is one of the few restaurants where the noble species does not suffer the deleterious effects of jet lag. The fish is sauteed whole and filleted tableside, as you would expect. But Mr. Hall has added a new twist: an ingratiating almond and chive glaze that thoroughly exalts the flavor of this delightful denizen of the deep. The olive-crusted red snapper ($27.50) is more robust, to be sure, but it is ultimately just as satisfying, spruced up as it is with garlic Swiss chard and a lovely tarragon beurre blanc. Another seafood offering that I would heartily endorse is the special pompano ($29.50). It is grilled to perfection and then enhanced with a mouth-watering tomato basil reduction. Add a lush and velvety butternut squash risotto, and you have a tantalizing treat for your tired taste buds.

Carnivores will be equally pleased with their wealth of gastronomic possibilities; and they could do no better than the impeccably prepared pistachio-crusted loin of venison ($33.00). It is accompanied by an intensely flavorful chanterelle mushroom jus, and garnished with a pumpkin flan, poached pear compote and asparagus.

Diners fond of red meat, but who are trying to cut down on their intake of saturated fats, should be on the lookout for the chef's special presentation of bison ($34.00). Leaner than regular beef, this bovine is somewhat less flavorful as well. Therefore, it needs an assertive embellishment to bring its full potential to the fore... And an invigorating wild mushroom demi-glace is just the ticket. Swiss chard and sauteed mushrooms add a most auspicious finishing touch.

Even more traditional entrees receive the very best at the chef's creative hand: grilled lamb chops ($32.00) are dressed in an exciting lavender Dijon glaze; a crispy seared duck breast ($26.50) is gently caressed by a raspberry mint demi-glace; and the pan-roasted pork loin ($25.50) is spruced up with an intriguing fig and shallot marmalade.

For those who have difficulty making up their minds, there is always the "Chef's Tasting" ($49.50 per person). This includes your choice of appetizer, a fish course of Dover sole for two, a meat course and dessert course. There is also a "Seafood Tasting" priced at $45.00 per person. Given the superior quality of La Campagne's cuisine, both are exceptional bargains.

Desserts, as you have no doubt heard through the food-lovers' grapevine, are a gourmand's delight. I have sampled many over the years, including a scrumptious chocolate Noel ($5.95) -- chocolate sponge cake interspersed with a lighter-than-air chocolate mousse and topped off with rich butter cream frosting. My favorite, however, remains the incomparable tarte Tatin ($5.95) spiffed up with a delectable dollop of homemade burnt sugar ice cream. Yum. And be sure to conclude your meal with a potent cup of espresso ($1.95). Like everything else you will encounter here, it is absolutely top-notch.

Even though you may bring along your own liquid libations, dinner for two at La Campagne will most certainly set you back in excess of $100.00. Is it worth the expenditure? Indeed! Every last franc! This lovely establishment continues to be one of the few Garden State restaurants that not only meets your lofty expectations... it also far surpasses them.

Cuisine: Country French
Hours: Lunch: Tues - Fri, 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.; Dinner: Tues - Fri, 5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Sat, 5:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.; Sun, 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.; Sunday Brunch: 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.; CLOSED MONDAY
Credit Cards: All major
Attire: Smart casual
Smoking: Separate nonsmoking section
Reservations: Essential
Parking: Onsite
Alcohol: BYOB
Price: Expensive
Handicapped Accessible: Yes
Website: www.lacampagne.com

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