Good Seafood, Tasty Appetizers In A Rustic Brick Dining Room

Posted: April 23, 1989

The name Down Under lends itself to a couple of surmises, but in the case of this relatively new Cherry Hill restaurant, the name refers to the location on the lower level of an office building, not a place offering Australian cuisine.

Down Under succeeded H.A. Winston's in a subterranean, brick-walled area that looks vaguely like the catacombs of Paris. Although the place seems to cater to a young, after-work bar crowd, a limited menu offers decent snack food and a number of very good seafood dishes.

Despite soft-scrubbed brick walls with large mirrors in gilt frames, graceful brick archways and Tiffany-style lamps, the brightly lighted dining room seems drafty and impersonal. Bare tile flooring and blond, bare-topped tables are minimally set with green paper place mats, white paper napkins and orange or yellow silk carnations in leaded vinegar jars. Tables on a raised ledge alongside two picture-window walls face a parking lot.

A handwritten menu in a plastic cover offers a number of reasonably tasty appetizers, the best being five giant deep sea scallops wrapped in bacon and deep fried in peanut oil ($4.75); tartar sauce for dipping added a needed burst of flavor.

A dozen buffalo wings ($5) brought 11 rather skimpy pieces of fried chicken in an aluminum dish with celery sticks and tasty blue cheese dip. Nachos ($3) was a mountain of crisp corn chips slathered with cheddar cheese liberally sprinkled with spicy-hot jalapeno peppers; sour cream and homemade salsa dipping sauces added extra flavor.

Cream of mushroom soup included with the entrees was unusually thin, almost watery, but boasted modest flavors from finely chopped mushrooms. Iceberg lettuce heaped with grated carrots and a cherry tomato might have been nicer tossed instead of just layered in the bowl.

The star of the mostly seafood menu was a wonderfully fresh salmon steak ($15) gently poached in chardonnay and colorfully but unnecessarily draped with julienned strips of red and yellow bell peppers, sweet onions and cucumber.

A half-dozen tender jumbo shrimp ($14) smothered in an assertive walnut- pesto sauce was a decent main dish - if you like pesto, that is. It came with a clump of steamed broccoli, crunchy carrots, pimento-flecked white rice and a slice of lemon hidden beneath a blizzard of parsley flakes.

Sinful brownie ($4.75), appropriately named, was a warmed, crusty brownie seated in a pool of chocolate sauce, and was topped with slowly melting vanilla ice cream and fudge, finished with canned whipped cream and decorated with decorative chocolate filigree. Strawberries in chocolate ($3.50) brought a handful of fresh berries in a thin edible chocolate cup, unnecessarily squirted with whipped cream.

Service was prompt and attentive.

DOWN UNDER

800 Kings Highway North, Cherry Hill, 667-4402

Open: Dinner only, 5:30-10 p.m. Tues.-Sat. Closed Sun. & Mon.

Price range: Appetizers average $4, entrees $14.

Credit cards: Major cards.

Nonsmoking section: No.

Facilities for handicapped: Yes.

Atmosphere: Informal rustic.

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