Source, First Digital Media, Len Lear
Opening a restaurant and making it a success is as difficult as capturing thunder in a thimble or coming up with the name of another Hun besides Attila. But the Nashville-based 27-year-old upscale restaurant chain, J. Alexander, recently opened a 9,800-square-foot free-standing restaurant at 265 Mall Blvd., across the street from the King of Prussia Mall, an area that already had more restaurants than I had mosquito bites this past summer, and it seems to be doing just fine. It is their first location in the Northeastern U.S.
J. Alexander is a spectacularly beautiful property with wooden beams and hardwood tables, fieldstone-lined, European stemware, copper-lined soffits, high-quality plates, commissioned artwork, small islands of tables for two or four guests and lots of impressive small details. It is the kind of place that makes one want to get those fine suits and dresses out of the closet if the moths have not gotten to them first.
It seats about 220 and employs about 100 full- and part-time workers. It features sushi and a full-service bar and specializes in wood-fired steak and seafood dishes and an open kitchen in the rear. Our recent visit was on a cold and rainy Wednesday night, and yet the dining rooms and bar were pretty much full.
The day before, I checked the latest 15 customer reviews on yelp.com and found that 12 were five-star reviews. One thing contributors consistency raved about was the impeccable service. For example, one diner wrote on July 1, “Our server, Eugenea, was amazing. She offered suggestions without being pushy and offered great alternatives. If she is working, I would highly recommend you ask for her.” As a result, we actually did ask for Eugenea, and she did wait on us, and she did in fact have a sensible shoes personality and a million-dollar smile. She treats you like Saturday night.
An appetizer of four large cheesesteak rolls, as big as an entree ($14) was somewhat overcooked and very slightly burned, although it would probably satisfy anyone but a South Philly aficionado.
The Ahi tuna salad appetizer was delightful but might have been slightly overpriced at $18. I like the fact that yellowfin tuna (often marketed as “Ahi,” a Hawaiian word) is rich in protein, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids and tastes best when it is gently cooked and rare, which this was.
The Carolina crab cakes, while pricey at $38, slipped across my lips and lingered like velvet. The willingness to sidestep convention and yet remain technically rigorous was manifested in the balanced Fallot mustard sauce, a stone-ground Dijon ambrosia that has been around for almost 200 years. Chili mayonnaise also moved this dish into high gear.
A side dish of mac and cheese ($5) was creamy, crunchy on top and essentially rinsed in good fortune. Whoever made it has popped this corn before.
A special of the day, a miso cod entree with bok choi, rice and a Thai curry sauce ($29) resonated with richness and flavor, gossamer-light and alabaster-smooth. It earned the moniker “special.”
A slice of key lime pie was a huge portion, enough for two people ($9). It was unctuous, zephyr-light and crazy good.
J. Alexander has a Happy Hour Monday through Friday, 4 to 7 p.m., with $4 draft beers, $6 select wines, $8 martinis and $8 small plates such as New York strip steak tacos and rotisserie chicken tacos. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays there are 20 bottles of wine selling for $20 each, some of which normally go for more than twice as much. We had a delightful bottle of Ramey Chardonnay, for example, for $20, although it normally goes for $48. We also thoroughly enjoyed a Doppelganger, a bourbon-based cocktail reasonably priced at $10. A French martini, however ($13), was not sweet enough because it did not have enough Chambord.
Before leaving for J. Alexander, we called the restaurant and asked for directions. We were told to “follow Mall Boulevard, and after a short distance the parking lot will be on your right.” This did not happen. Then again, it would be a shock if we did NOT get lost when trying to find a new restaurant in the K of P Mall.
J. Alexander does have ample free parking, and tables are well spaced so we could not hear one word from any other diners, and there was no annoying music or din.
Once Main Liners learn about J. Alexander, it may be woven into the tapestry of the local dining scene for years to come. For more information, call 484-322-2000 or visit jalexanders.com