A Treat Of Subtle Sauces, Gorgeous Vegetables

Posted: October 05, 1986

Peter Young accurately calls his new Rich Taste "a Chinese restaurant with French service."

What the description does not reveal is that Rich Taste - which shares a building with Wok and Roll, a highly publicized Cherry Hill nightclub - is one of the area's most beautiful restaurants, with a sophisticated cuisine equaled only by Uncle Lui's Peking Mandarin in Cherry Hill.

Since both Young and his chef worked at the Peking Mandarin before opening Rich Taste on June 11, the similarities should not be surprising.

As with most new Chinese restaurants, the traditional red-and-black decor is a thing of the past. Rich Taste has a compellingly subtle, contemporary pink-and-green decor with gray walls decorated with understated simplicity - solid black or rust-colored Chinese fans, a bamboo stick tied with black rope, a cluster of painted rice-paper umbrellas.

Flowery pink-and-green banquette coverings are color-coordinated with dark cherry tablecloths, pastel pink or green cotton napkins, even with the gorgeous jade green-and-pink teapots. A dark carpet is flecked with pink, and comfortable chairs with fan-shaped backs come with pretty turquoise-and-pink cushions.

White planters - each containing a pair of ficus trees with entwined trunks - are strategically placed beneath skylights. The wall separating the restaurant from the nightclub is inset with large fish tanks filled with multicolored fish; a spotlighted statue of the Chinese goddess of mercy occupies a lobby grotto.

The cuisine, as elegant as the decor, is memorable for its sophisticated, subtle sauces and gorgeous carved vegetables that decorate each plate.

Sesame noodles ($3.95) - soft pasta sprinkled with chopped scallions and draped with delicate matchsticks of cucumber that added little crunches of texture - came in a gossamer sesame sauce. A dozen feathery clams ($6.25) served on lettuce in a scallop-shaped white porcelain bowl were graced with a remarkable slightly spicy black bean sauce.

A large, crisp phoenix roll ($2.75) fairly bursting with chopped shrimp, chicken, bok choy, black mushrooms and carrot was sprinkled with crunchy cucumber needles, touched with good hoisin sauce and garnished with a carved yellow turnip rose.

Because I was immediately recognized by Young, I was showered with a sampling of the best of Rich Taste's cuisine.

My favorite was aptly named Amazing Chicken ($8.95) - stir-fried chicken, red bell peppers, snow peas, baby corn, water chestnuts and small straw mushrooms in a spicy-hot brown sauce, garnished with a baby lobster intricately carved from a cucumber.

Dragon and Phoenix ($13.95), another lovely dish, was a combination of Grandfather chicken - boneless meat in a rich, slightly sweet Hunan sauce - and eight tender shrimp in a beautifully balanced Szechuan chili sauce. The chicken and shrimp were separated by a wall of fresh orange crescents and garnished with emerald clumps of broccoli and a marvelous rose carved from a raw beet.

Happy Delight ($12.95) offered tender jumbo shrimp, delicate deep-sea scallops, baby corn, broccoli, snow peas, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, carrots, sauteed in fresh garlic and bathed in a gentle brown sauce. Szechuan pork ($8.95) was crisp, lightly floured pork with scallions, bamboo shoots and broccoli in a mildly spicy Szechuan sauce.

Volcano ice cream ($2.95), a marvelous dessert, was a frozen vanilla ice cream ball that had been rolled in macaroonlike cookie crumbs and raisins, then flamed at the table in rum and smothered with canned whipped cream.

Service was impeccable, and not just because I was recognized. Other tables received the same attention I did.

RICH TASTE

Wok and Roll complex, 760 Cuthbert Blvd., Cherry Hill, 662-1005

Open: Full menu served 11:30 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Thurs., until 1 a.m. Fri. and Sat., 3-11 p.m. Sun.

Price range: Appetizers average $5, entrees $10.

Credit cards: Major cards.

Nonsmoking section: No.

Facilities for handicapped: Yes.

Atmosphere: Contemporary elegance.

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