We walked in tonight with no reservation, and immediately noticed the very cute dining room, which seemed a bit formal. The colors in the restaurant were gorgeous, with a nice fireplace, gorgeous big white wood work, a black and white checked floor covered by a large area rug, and a big chandelier hanging from the center of the ceiling. The dining room looked gorgeous! White tables clothes adorned the tables, with dark red napkins.
We were greeted by a woman and her child who were waiting to order some take out, and we looked around the dining. All the tables but two were filled, and there was one two top that was waiting to be bussed. There was a couple sitting in the window with their 3 children, and a bunch of other two tops seated.
We were greeted about 10 minutes later, by our server who seemed to be a bit overwhelmed. Yes, we waited quite a long time before a member of the staff even came out of the kitchen. This is definitely something that needs some work, and how do you not have someone working the front of house in a new restaurant on a Saturday night? Or how are the server(s) or bus staff not checking on the restaurant for that length of time. It almost made me wonder if the server was also in the back doing the cooking.
We were finally greeted by our server and seated, and I pulled out our Riedel stems from their carrying case, as well as a 2007 Auteur Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard. Our server opened it commented on how we were the first people she had ever seen who bring their own stems, but we do like to drink good wines out of good glasses. You just never know these days what kind of stemware restaurants have, and more often than not you find those horrible Chianti bowls that do absolutely nothing for the nose or flavors of your wines. She gave us some menus, and retreated back to the kitchen to grab us some water.
In the meantime, we were looking around the restaurant, and perusing the menu. The kids at the table in the window seemed a bit annoying to me, and it makes you wonder why people bring their young children, who are not all that well behaved out to an establishment that I consider pretty upscale. From the decor in the restaurant at least, this looks like a classy restaurant. Dad of course was yelling at the mother to get the kids in line, and he had your typical "Jersey Shore" mentality. From his t-shirt, to cut off jean shorts, and baseball cap turned backwards, he could have been one of the kids off of "Jersey Shore". Who dresses like that to go to a restaurant, in Haddonfield nonetheless?
Out came some freshly warmed pita, with a sauce that reminded me of tzatziki. The sauce was good, but I have definitely had better if it was indeed tzatziki. Regardless, this was nice, and something to snack on before our appetizer came out.
Our soups came out about 10 minutes later. I thought it was a bit odd that the soup came out before the appetizer, but that is OK. The soup du jour was a chicken noodle, and the flavors were nice. The stock definitely tasted homemade, with large chunks of chicken, carrots, parsnips, and a rice noodle maybe? It had a certain sweetness to it, and I couldn't put my finger on it. It may have come from the carrot and parsnips I have no idea, but I found it interesting, as well as appealing. I don't think that Zelda was crazy about it.
While waiting for our appetizer, we noticed quite a few things that shouldn't be happening in an establishment like this. First, we noticed that a table had gotten their salads, and by the time the server brought them to the table, she had immediately returned to the kitchen, grabbed their entrees, and brought them to that same table. The look on these women's faces was nothing but annoyed, and the server offered to put them back in the kitchen to keep them warm on the line. With good judgement, the women took the entrees, and pushed their salads to the side.
Meanwhile, the table seated behind us has been sitting waiting for their dishes to be cleared. This was a much older couple, and they seemed to be waiting forever. The woman had asked to have her dish wrapped, and the gentleman asked for their check. It was a good 10-15 minutes before they finally got their doggie bag, and their check so they could be on their way.
I'm not sure what I would do to improve the Falafel, but it needs something. It's lacking something, but not being an expert on this cuisine, I am not sure what that something is. Even so, it needs to be cooked correctly, and definitely doesn't need to come out looking like a black olive. See picture above. One thing to note is that the Falafel had a very fishy taste to it, and I can only assume that it was from the calamari that the table next to us had ordered. Maybe they only have one fryer, and maybe these were being cooked at the same time. Maybe they do not change or even filter their oil on a daily basis. I cannot say for sure, but that it just a guess.
One suggestion I would have for the Falafel other than the fact that it doesn't need to be over cooked is that the plate needs some kind of garnish. Serve it over a small bed of lettuce or something to give the plate some color. Put a slice of tomato on the plate. Anything at all to dress up the plate would be improvement. Finally, make sure that these are drained, so they are not overly greasy as we could have rung them out like a sponge.
As we waited for our entrees, we enjoyed our Willamette Valley pinot noir, and talked more about the restaurant. Since then, the table with the kids had ordered desserts, and two of their desserts came out (those for the adults), and they were told that their fondue was on it's way. A good 10-15 minutes went by, and the two desserts were long gone before the fondue arrived. Meanwhile, Dad was sitting with his elbows on the table, biting his finger nails, and picking them out of his mouth. Have manners gone out the window in public these days? The kids were starting to get restless and whining, asking where their dessert was. Mom pulled out a can of Pepsi from her purse, and that kept the kids quiet until their fondue came out. Thankfully, as soon as their fondue came out, Dad asked for the check.
At Veronica's recommendation, I ordered the Cevapi (mici), which is a mix of ground beef and lamb with special Serbian seasoning. It was served with a side of sour cream, and a red sauce of sorts that was delicious. I have no idea what they call it or what's in it, but it was almost like a Mediterranean marinara sauce. This same sauce was served on the side of Zelda's burger.
The flavors of the beef and lamb sausage were gorgeous, and the flavor that the grill has is awesome. I am assuming that they grill a lot of kebabs on this same grill, and the flavors were phenomenal. These were cooked very nicely, and I was very pleased with this. Again, I would work on presentation here. As you can see from the picture above, the sausage is just thrown on the pita on top of the plate, and even the sour cream and red sauce were in metal cups on top of the pita. Dress this up! Cut the pita in half and stack it. Add a mound of lettuce, a side of tomato and onion, anything at all to make this dish more appealing. For $14, I thought this was a heck of a great deal, and the flavors were absolutely incredible.
I kindly reminded our server that we had ordered 'fresh cut fries', half way through our dinner, and she chuckled and said she had forgotten to put them in. Then, she went to the pack and told the staff she forgot to add fries to the order. In about 10 minutes, she returned with the fries and they were good but not outstanding. She asked if we wanted ketchup and then went back into the kitchen.
Meanwhile, another table behind us sat with their finished plates for a good 15 minutes before the server asked them if they wanted anything else. They were obviously annoyed and when the woman stood up to leave, it was obvious that she was very pregnant and very annoyed.
So for dinner, I think we went one for two as I enjoyed mine. By this time, the restaurant was down to 3 tables, and we had a nice conversation with the two other tables in the restaurant, hearing about some of their favorite restaurants in the area, and talking about some of our favorite restaurants. Thanks Jane for the add on Facebook, and to others feel free to add us in the top right hand corner of the main page here on our blog. The server joined into the conversation and began asking questions about a local store with a Jamaican theme and asked whether the store had 'bongs.' The 'mature' couple next to us looked astonished that she had asked the question and left shortly there after.
At one point, the smoke in the dining room was overwhelming, so our server had opened the front door and had made a mention that something was wrong with the exhaust hood. We finished our wine, asked for our check, and got ready to leave.
My thoughts on Veronica's are this: the restaurant definitely has potential, but it needs some work in both the kitchen, as well as the dining room. I cannot help but think how Zelda and I could tear this restaurant up with a good chef in the kitchen, Zelda working the front of house, and me working the dining room as the server. Even with this dining room packed, one server and a mediocre bus boy could handle this restaurant, and could make good money doing it. The key is to get customers in, and to turn tables. Marketing is key here, and they need to do something, and do something fast as rent in Haddonfield is not cheap. Reviews like this one however will not help their cause. Even so, with their pricing, they could do well if they could turn tables. The menu is affordable, and the food could be great, but that is reliant on the kitchen staff.
With the Mediterranean and Eastern European cuisine, add some decor to suit the theme. It was almost as though there was an identity crisis in the dining room, and came across as a fine dining feel. That is not a bad thing, but give the decor some more influence on the menu, and finally, get rid of the paper napkin on the table. The cloth napkin was enough, why take away from that with a paper napkin as well?
In short, we may go back and give it another chance in the future, but we'll give them a while to work out the kinks. Train the servers to give good service, and have enough staff on each night to cater to your customers! Or higher Zelda and I to consult one night a week, and we'll get this restaurant in tip top running order in no time! The potential is definitely there! Cheers! -F. Scott and Zelda
26 South Haddon Avenue
Haddonfield, NJ 08033