12/07/2012 11:00:00 AM

Best Thing We Ate This Week: Roasted Scallops at The Saint James

“Scallops are a bellwether for any restaurant that serves them,” a friend observed during a recent meal, “You can tell how much the kitchen cares by how perfectly - or not - they are cooked.” By that measure, The Saint James cares quite a bit. Browned and caramelized on top, the scallops had just slightly translucent centers that were creamy and sweet. Despite their quality, the butternut squash risotto they sat atop nearly stole the show. The rice held shape yet melted in the mouth with a richer flavor than expected, and the whole roasted hazelnuts added a welcome crunch.

Just a skip away from the SEPTA Regional Rail train station, Ardmore’s hottest new restaurant shouldn’t be left for Main Liners only, though locals are definitely embracing it - on a Tuesday evening the place was packed. A collaboration between Michael Schulson (Sampan, Izakaya) and Rob Wasserman (Rouge, 500ยบ) with Matthew Moon executing, the American bistro is buzzy and comfortable, and has a menu that offers chef’s takes on hearty favorites.

One of the daily specials, for example, is a plate of hot and sweet sausage served with roasted peppers over polenta so good you’ll want to lick the plate. No one looks like they would mind if you did, either - it’s not a beauty dish, it’s designed for unabashed eating enjoyment. Same for the brisket, two huge chunks of falling-apart meat surrounded by carrots and gnocchi in a rich jus. On the more delicate side, the lightly-dressed jumbo lump crab and West Coast oysters from the raw bar were like jewels from the sea.

In contrast to rather high food prices, the cost of beer and wine by the glass or bottle is very reasonable, especially to eyes used to Center City numbers. The cocktail program is solid - ask for a drink “on the rocks” and you’ll get a well mixed glass with a single, clear chunk inside. A solid suburban restaurant that doesn’t require a car and doesn’t even overlook a parking lot? We’re fans.




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