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A trip down Bustleton Avenue leads those in search of a gastronomic adventure to one of Northeast Philadelphia’s most ultra-hip spots to enjoy fusion at its finest: Restaurant Lanjeron. Lanjeron is a family owned and operated eatery that has sat on the outskirts of Northeast Philadelphia since March 2006, and serves up an eclectic mix of fused food from all over Europe. Classic Russian staples mix with tastes from all over the world to produce scrumptious concoctions you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the city, and even the surrounding suburbs.
General Manager Alan Valsberg and his bilingual staff provide the superb service, while in the kitchen Barbados-born Head Chef Anthony Chase lets his impressive culinary resume and talent with fusion cuisine do all the talking. One look at the menu shows that Chase knows how to take risks, and a bite into the finished product leaves you thanking God that he does.
We arrive at Lanjeron, and are immediately drawn in by the signage out front -- it is bright and inviting, and serves as an indication of the class and sophistication that waits inside. We walk through the doors into a small welcoming area with moderately bright lighting, and light colored wood contrasted by dark wooden furnishing. The soft sound of jazz music travels through our ears and draws us in even farther.
Double doors bring us to the restaurant’s one-room dining area. The bright and inviting lighting illuminates a landscape of tables dressed in white linen, with elements like fanned white table napkins and elaborate fresh cut flower centerpieces. The presentation gives the room a feeling of clean, fresh sophistication and simple elegance. Elements such as dark wood furnishings contrasted by lighter wood, eclectic art pieces baring various abstract depictions of people and places, and electric blue colored lamps built into the walls, lend themselves perfectly to a vibe that is both classy and comfortable. To the left of the room, a small, dark wood corner stage attracts the eye with its own set of lighting that highlights the talent it holds on nights when live international music fills the room. The overall appeal is ultra-hip and comfortable combined with class and sophistication.
A look around the room shows that there are a number of smaller tables perfect for an intimate date, and a number of larger tables that would be ideal for a special occasion dinner: a birthday party with friends, an anniversary celebration, or just a lovely night out with the family at a restaurant that offers so much more than the typical chain. Longer tables are put together for private parties, where Lanjeron will accommodate guests with its signature staples served family style.
On weekends, Lanjeron draws in a chic center-city crowd that tends to dress up a bit more than the casual elegant attire that patrons don during the week. Come Friday and Saturday evening, you might see men wearing suits or jackets, and women wearing stylish little black dresses. Keeping late hours on Friday and Saturday, combined with entertainment provided by live international music, helps Lanjeron transform into one of the Northeast’s most ultra-hip nightspots. Once weekend dinners are over and the tables are cleared, guests are invited to sip on spirits and dance the night away until the restaurant closes at 2 a.m.
It’s important to note that Lanjeron has no bar offerings, but patrons are welcome to bring their own spirits for no additional fee. There is also no corkage fee for opening up your favorite bottle of bubbly; the staff at Lanjeron will gladly open any bottle for your enjoyment. So be sure to grab your favorite bottle of white or perhaps, more appropriately, a bottle of Russian vodka before you walk out the front door. When it’s not the nightlife entertainment or the superb dinner menu that Lanjeron is offering, it’s hosting a lunch menu that boasts modified versions and smaller portions of the dinner menu’s soups, appetizers, salads, crepes, and main courses.
A friendly waitress with a soft Russian accent greets us with a smile and a prompt to order beverages. Though there are no spirits to be offered, the regular beverage menu offers a selection of soft drinks, iced teas, espressos, cappuccinos, and teas. We choose to indulge in a taste of Raspberry Quince iced tea, which our waitress tells us we won’t find anywhere else around. The drink is smooth and not too sweet, and is a refreshing pre-cursor to the first course of appetizers that wait to awaken our taste buds.
But tonight’s dinner is all about the food; quiet conversation fills the room amidst the clanking of fine silverware, and soft music wafts in and out of clarity with the scents that radiate from the nearby double doors of the kitchen where Chef Chase creates his culinary masterpieces. Our meal begins with the Potato Crostini served warm, crisp, and covered with a generous helping of beautifully colored red caviar. The dish is so alive with color we almost don’t want to eat it, but the delightful smell catching our noses tells us to dig in. The saltiness and softness of the caviar goes well with the similar saltiness of the potato, which is warm and crispy outside, and soft on the inside. Combined with the texture of the caviar, it is gentle to the palate and almost melts in your mouth.
Savoring one crostini each, the first appetizer is just filling enough so we are able to fully enjoy what comes next: Scallops. The scallops arrive plated with a dressing of the Chef’s special Lanjeron sauce. They are prepared perfectly, and taste smooth with a nice, soft chew. The accompanying sauce is full of a slightly citrusy and robust flavor.
We are then treated to an appetizer of a different pace entirely: a pastry. The pastry is both wonderfully flaky and soft to chew, and is filled with a thick sauce and (the real kicker) crawfish. Never having tried this Cajun cuisine-inspired delicacy, we are pleasantly surprised at how tender and tasty the fish is. It is shrimp-like, as the rumors said it would be, but leans slightly toward the texture of lobster with an element of sweetness. The different textures of the pastry, fish, and other ingredients, are quite satisfying as we are introduced to the next courses of our meal.
The main courses arrive with a bang with the spectacular presentation of the Beef Shish kabobs, which come out in a pair over a bed of pasta, and are highlighted by flecks of color from stringed carrots. The waitress removes the kabobs from the stick and provides us with a fresh set of silverware. Tender and boasting an array of different spices that explode in the mouth, we agree this is not your everyday meat on a stick. Paired with a zesty sauce, this entrée gives the palate a kick of exciting flavors.
Next comes a larger portioned main course -- a generous helping of veal and goose liver wrapped in a large pastry-like casing. The veal is as tender as veal can be; and when paired with the goose liver, it has an overall meaty taste that is soft and melts on the tongue.
Finally its time for dessert. Even though we have been indulging in a series of European delicacies, we would have to be out of our minds to say no to the last course of this meal. True, Crème Brule is a staple found on most dessert menus, but Lanjeron’s stands out as one of the creamiest we’ve tried in a while. The light and creamy interior bares a wonderful contrast to the sweet, crunchy top layer. The only thing that could closely compare is the smooth wave of taste that fills our mouths with the first bite of the Crème Caramel -- however similar, this dish adds an obvious caramel element to the flavor. The Crème Caramel’s texture is a bit thicker than the Crème Brule, and we are hard pressed to decide which one we prefer. Instead of arguing, we choose to devour each of them. Both desserts are sinfully sweet, and are only enhanced when contrasted with the sharpness of a freshly brewed espresso. We put down our little espresso mugs and decide this was the perfect way to end our meal.
As we leave the comforts of the restaurant and head back out into the cold Philadelphia winter, our stomachs are full and our hearts are warmed from the experience we just had at Lanjeron. Thanks to superb service with a smile, décor that is classy yet comfortable, and food of quality and style you won’t find anywhere else for miles, we will undoubtedly make the trip back down Bustleton Avenue to the little Russian charm serving up tastes form all over the world – Restaurant Lanjeron.
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