October 25, 2009 by MrBlueSkies
Upscale Dining at Its Best!
If you’ve read my blog, you know that I love to brunch in Collingswood. Collingswood (and the surrounding area) has become the place to dine out in South Jersey. Many of these wonderful restaurants offer brunch specials and I’ve blogged about some of them. When Linda suggested we try Casona, the Cuban restaurant in Collingswood, I was very excited to go somewhere new. I’ve read mixed reviews about Casona but it sure is hard to argue with being voted Best Sunday Brunch in 2006 and Best Cuban Sandwich in 2009 by South Jersey magazine’s reader’s poll.
Casona is actually an old Victorian house that was once a local doctor’s office. Beautifully rehabbed, the owner’s have kept the original charm of the house while maintaining a comfortably elegant dining experience. The expansive original, wrap-around porch offers year-round dining with the addition of heaters and a canvas wall. To us, the real appeal of the porch is the ability to dine outside while still being inside, and since the canvas walls are now up, we chose to dine in the more luxurious inside dining areas…
Linda and I decided to give an appetizer a try before we ordered our meal. Casona offers a small variety of soup, salad, and appetizer plates. Some interesting items included the Cuban Pizza ($6.95) and the Yuca Fries with fresh guacamole and mojo garlic sauce ($6.50). Upon the suggestion of our lovely server, Ally, we went with the Empanadas de Queso, two perfectly cooked pastries stuffed with Chihuahua cheese and served with sides of chipotle sauce, tomatillo sauce, and garlic mayonnaise. As you can see, the dish is gorgeous and it tasted every bit as good as it looks. The tomatillo sauce had a nice tangy taste to it and when coupled with the super creamy garlic mayonnaise created the perfect accompaniment to the empanadas. Unfortunately, we found the chipotle sauce somewhat bland.
For our main courses, Linda went with the Arepa Eggs Benedict ($13.95) which consisted of two poached eggs with cornmeal patty arepa, chorizo, sautéed spinach & chipotle hollandaise sauce. The flavors and textures were absolutely amazing and Linda couldn’t seem to get enough of this dish. Everyone does Eggs Benedict and Casona transformed what is normally a bland, standard dish into a wonderful taste sensation that dances upon your palate. Linda gave me a bite and it was pure heaven. I wanted to snatch the plate from her and gobble it all up. I’m drooling as I write this–it was that good.
I couldn’t resist ordering one of my favorite dishes, Huevos Rancheros ($11.95), a corn tortilla with black beans, cheddar cheese, avocado, pico de gallo, two eggs any style and Ranchero Sauce. Normally this dish comes with sunny side up eggs. I was surprised at the offer of eggs any style, but pleased that I was able to order them over easy. Since this is my favorite dish, I am very particular about it. When it arrived, I knew that if it was half as good as it looked, I would be in for a treat–and, oh what a treat it was. The eggs were cooked perfectly. The ranchero sauce had a slightly bold flavor that did not overwhelm the dish and worked well with the creamy slices of ripe avocado. I savored every bite.
Even though we were full to the brim, we asked Ally to bring us over the desert menu. After reviewing it, we decided to go with the special of the day, pumpkin flan ($7.95). Now I am a little wary of flan. I remember flan as a slimy, gelatinous substance with a nasty caramel topping. Linda said she felt the same way until she actually had flan by someone who really knew how to make it. So we decided to give it a try. Linda asked for more coffee ($2.50) but I already had 3 cups and was at my limit. The coffee, by-the-way, is brewed with a hint of cinnamon which we both loved. They also offer a cinnamon-free coffee of the day as well.
The flan looked beautiful but I was still a little nervous. Linda took the first bite and her face lit up. I quickly dug in. The flan was rich and creamy, with a lovely pumpkin flavor. I was pleased to find it just slightly spiced rather than the heavy dose of pumpkin spice one usually finds in pumpkin dishes. It was accompanied by a chocolate-caramel sauce which was totally unnecessary. Linda laughed at how fast we woofed it down after complaining that we were so full. This proves my point that no matter how full you are, there is always room for a great desert.
Overall, I would have to say that this was one of the best dining experiences I have had in quite a long time. Our server was bright and cheery and we appreciated her suggestions and knowledge of the menu. The atmosphere was warm and inviting with the appropriate background music at a level that was enjoyable but did not drown out our conversation. The food was amazingly delicious. The prices; however, are on the high end. But as Linda always says, we don’t mind paying more for a meal as long as the meal is worth the price. Casona certainly delivers in that area. $46 for brunch for two is a little pricey in my book but the food we had was worth every penny. We definitely will be back to sample their dinner menu.
Casona is located at 563 Haddon Avenue in Collingswood, NJ. Casona is BYOB. For reservations, call 856-854-5555 or visit their website at www.mycasona.com.