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Roux 3
(Restaurant Now Closed)
4755 West Chester Pike
Newtown Square, Pennsylvania
(610) 356-9500
www.roux3.com

Sequestered behind a bank and fitness store while playing kneesies with the bustlingly popular Winners Circle Sports Grill and Regal Multiplex, Roux 3 isn't exactly easy to find. Once discovered, however, this restaurant has its own unique rewards.

The dining here is definitively upscale, as is the chic, contemporary interior décor. A stained glass wall predominates, along with trendy floating disc lamps, pod-like circular booths, and a stylish bar. The entire scene strikes one as a bit over the top in the cold light of day, while ingesting a quiet lunch, for instance; but once darkness descends and candlelight casts it magic spell, Roux 3 generates its own uniquely genial aura.

And Chef Andrew Venable's au courant cuisine is the perfect match for DAS Architects' daringly dapper designs. His presentations are artfully and energetically innovative without becoming self-servingly anachronistic. There's just enough splash on the plate to engage the eye while still managing to maintain the palate's undivided attention. His culinary combinations are commandingly concise; the superior quality of his ingredients, beyond reproach.

My first experience here -- I am almost afraid to confess -- was an early dinner on New Year's Eve. And if ever a restaurant is prone to muck things up, this is the time -- but the kitchen held up its end admirably. Starters included a superb duck confit quesadilla aided and abetted by Manchego cheese & sautéed shiitakes and consummate dusting of chili powder & outrageously delicious orange crema ($10.00) and a first-class arugula salad sporting slices of Bosc pear, toasted cashews, and warm Brie dressing ($10.00). Entrées hit the mark with Champagne poached salmon on a bed of beluga lentils finished with a saffron beurre blanc ($24.00) and succulent braised lamb shank teamed with parsnip purée and Swiss chard.

Subsequent visits proved that this initial encounter was no fluke. The calamari ($8.50), for example, was crisp yet marvelously tender. Attractively presented in a shallow bowl, the squid was accompanied by an enticing Thai chili sauce and julienne of carrot and daikon radish.

Mr. Venable's ahi tuna ($9.00) is another superb gift from the sea. Its succulent slices are seared rare and sided with a tangle of watercress tossed with a soy vinaigrette and artistic drizzle of zippy wasabi-cilantro crème fraîche. I also enjoy the chef's takeoff on the ubiquitous shrimp cocktail ($12.00). Jumbo crustaceans are skewered, grilled to crunchy perfection, and then chilled and presented with lemon-dressed watercress and excellent wasabi cocktail sauce. A marvelous update on a crusty old standard.

Among the entrées, the spiced cider poached salmon ($21.00) is utterly delicious and set on a bed of perfectly roasted fingerling potatoes. Baby carrots add a complementary splash of color; butterscotch apples, a flavorful consummating touch. The pan-seared tilapia ($18.00) paired with jasmine rice and sautéed baby spinach is also an excellent choice. And the accompanying tomato/caper sauce strikes just the right chord, as it succeeds in enticing rather than overwhelming the delicate filet.

But Mr. Venable also does a first-class job with red meat. Crowned with a tiara of Maytag bleu cheese, a tender and juicy grilled filet mignon ($29.00) arrives at table cooked to a right-on-the-money compromise between medium and medium rare. The partnered potato purée is outlandishly addictive and the sauce Bordelaise downright decadent. And the grilled New York strip steak ($27.00) -- joined in concert by a luscious potato-leek gratin, wild mushrooms and brown sugar demi-glace --is equally up to the mark.

Pastry chef Ellen Stalberg also has some neat tricks up her sleeve. Highly recommended, for example, is her seasonal sorbet tasting ($7.00), featuring three house-made flavors -- recently sampled: coconut, raspberry and pineapple -- garnished with fresh fruit. The white chocolate raspberry cheesecake ($7.00) is another winner, as is the warm Vairhona chocolate cake with chocolate truffle center garnished with vanilla ice cream ($8.00). Her signature dish, however, and the only dessert you will ever need, is undoubtedly the "Coffee and Donuts" ($6.50), fabulous sugar-dusted beignets teamed with an utterly delicious dollop of espresso ice cream.

Roux 3 sports a compact but colorful and reasonably priced wine list with an extended array of vintages available by the glass. A few highlights include: a sprightly 2003 Kuhl Riesling "Kabinett" from the Mosel/Saar/Ruwer region of Germany ($8.00/$34.00), Willamette Valley's 2004 Elk Cove Pinot Gris ($10.50/$48.00), a seductive 2001 Allegrini "Palazzo della Torre" Valpolicella ($55.00), and a lusty 2003 Castle Rock Zinfandel from Dry Creek, California ($8.50/$38.00).

Whether dining for business or pleasure -- or intriguing amalgam thereof -- Roux 3 is highly recommended.

March 2006
The Artful Diner

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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