910 Route 561
Voorhees, Camden County, New Jersey
By The Artful Diner
September 8, 2008
Printable Copy of this Review
When chef/proprietor Mark O'Mara of the MO Café & Grill in
Voorhees purchased San Miguel Mexican Restaurant in Washington Township,
he felt the possible patrons at each of these establishments would be better
served by the other -- so he pulled a restaurant switcheroo. He relocated San
Miguel to Voorhees and MO to Washington Township.
Actually, I never got the feeling that MO (which I reviewed 2/13/06)
was hurting for business, especially with the built-in clientele pouring daily
into the adjacent cartel of movie theaters. And while I can't speak firsthand
with regard to MO at this juncture, if the quality of the food and the
recent crowds at San Miguel are any indication, this was definitely a
The décor has changed little from the previous incarnation -- still a
curvaceous combo of colors, shapes, and textures -- only now the decorative embellishments
are south-of-the-border swank rather than California chic, including
Mexican-made lead-free flatware.
The bustling open kitchen also remains, and there is absolutely no doubt
that it turns out an exceedingly appetizing array of modern Mexican fare. And
the presentations are attractive as well. In other words, unlike many
establishments, the rice and refried beans don't look like they've been dropped
onto the plate from an unknown altitude.
Starters, for example, exhibit a decidedly sophisticated touch. The blue
corn quesadillas arrive with tender smoked pulled chicken, apple wood smoked
bacon, and Oaxaca cheese (a semi-hard Mexican cheese that is similar to un-aged
Monterey jack but with a string-like texture). Embellishments include pico
de gallo and an eye-pleasing drizzle of chipotle crema.
The empanadas are comprised of three ethereal corn pockets stuffed with queso
fresco (a creamy, soft, un-aged white cheese) that are gently deep fried
and then topped with shredded lettuce, sour cream, and more cheese.
The crispy coconut shrimp are delicately crunchy, teasing the palate with a
tantalizing hint of spice as well as sweetness. Consummating touches include a
slice of perfectly grilled pineapple and bed of shaved cabbage tossed with a zippy
Malibu cream sauce.
Even the Mexican Cobb salad is appealingly presented. Pristinely fresh
chopped romaine lettuce is teamed with Cotija cheese, crisp bacon, diced tomato
& crumbled egg, and crowned with a tiara of guacamole. The beguiling
catalyst is an excellent chipotle ranch dressing.
When it comes to entrée selections, seafood plays a prominent role. The
sunfish, for example, is pan seared, sautéed with white wine, butter, lime,
capers, and De Arbol chilies, and then fired with aged tequila and topped with
crabmeat... The filet of Atlantic salmon is crusted with homemade ancho
horseradish and grilled on a cedar plank... The blackened mahi mahi is seared
in a cast iron skillet and topped with red onion and mango salsa.
My nod, however, goes to the attractive presentation of fish tacos. This may
be a relatively simple dish, but it is entirely indicative of the kitchen's
careful attention to detail. For starters, the morsels of mahi mahi are
embraced by a beer batter that is light, crisp, and not the least bit greasy.
And their texture is perfectly complemented by a seabed of carrot-jicama slaw.
Consummatory accompaniments include warm tortillas and ramekins of guacamole,
chipotle sour cream, and corn salsa.
Sundays - Wednesdays patrons may avail themselves of Mexican
"Special" fare. Read here Mexican "Ordinary" fare:
tostadas, tamales, burritos, enchiladas, etc. (all going for $13.99)... If you
really want to see what the kitchen can do, however, my advice is to go with
the traditional Mexican entrées, which have infinitely more to offer the
The discadas (fajita), for instance, is comprised of bell peppers,
onions, mushrooms, bacon, and choice of steak, chicken, shrimp, or vegetables
sautéed with spices and topped with Chihuahua cheese. And, be advised, the
steak is tender, the chicken moist, the shrimp appropriately crunchy, and the
vegetables firm to the bite. The only semi-downer: The accompanying guacamole
is first-rate, but the refried beans are strictly generic, and the rice is far
Molcajetes is another Mexican signature dish characterized by its
intensity of flavor. The diner's choice of steak, shrimp, chicken, pork, or
vegetables is simmered in a pasilla chile sauce and served in a cured hot lava
rock mortar. I chose the pork and found it to be exceptional.
For dessert, the sopapillas are something of a must. Cinnamon &
sugar coated fried dough in the shape of steak fries are sided by cinnamon
honey, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream. There is no espresso, but the coffee
acquits itself reasonably well.
My chief bone of contention with San Miguel lies with its climate
control -- or lack thereof. When I reviewed this restaurant as MO, it
was in the bleak midwinter, and I noted that the tables situated along a row of
windows were decidedly drafty... even more so when the front door swung open,
permitting the mistral to blow down this icy corridor and chill diners to the
One recent weekend, however, the obverse was true: Temperatures soared and
the air was positively tropical. Seated near San Miguel's entrance
before being seated, the members of our party felt uncomfortably warm. Once
settled into a banquette that backed up against the open kitchen, the air was
stifling, a positive inferno. When we inquired of our server, he informed us
that the air conditioning was not working properly (Actually, it felt like it
was not working at all!). But the salient point, I believe, is that patrons
should have been informed of the air conditioning problem by management prior
to being seated, not after; and it should not have been left to the poor server
to be the bearer of bad news.
San Miguel is a very good restaurant... but management made a number
of poor decisions. In point of fact, given the highly unusual circumstances,
the restaurant should have closed for the evening, as the atmosphere, in my
opinion, was very nearly uninhabitable. But money, as we know, can be a
Hopefully, by the time you decide to pay a visit, the air conditioning will
be in working order... as the food is definitely worth it.
Cuisine: Modern Mexican
Hours: Lunch: Mon - Fri, 11:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.; Dinner: Mon - Thurs,
4:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 4:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.; Sun, 4:00 p.m. -
9:00 p.m.; Sat & Sun Brunch: 10:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Credit Cards: All major
Price: Appetizers, $5.99 - $12.99; Entrées, $13.99 - $24.99
Handicapped Accessible: Yes