Sunday, January 22, 2012

Zake's Cafe: Cozy Fort Washington BYOB offers flavorful options for rich and lighter fare alike

Quaint and unassuming, Zake's Cafe was the perfect choice for a casual night out with my mom, sister and brother's girlfriend. As part of the Ambler-area restaurant week, we received an appetizer, entree and dessert sampler, along with a complementary glass of wine for only $25. This is absolutely a steal, considering that the entrees offered are typically $16-24.

Tables are definitely packed-in at this charming house-style BYOB, but I didn't feel as though we were too close to any of the other diners or struggling to hear each other. Luckily, there was sufficient surrounding noise that I don't believe anyone could overhear my sister and I sharing a story about the giant, whoopee cushion-esque fart that occurred during our last Pilates class.

The menu is eclectic, with offerings ranging from Thai Coconut Curry to Guinness Braised Lamb shank. Portions are just right and the dishes did not disappoint.

The bread basket offered a variety of nibbles sure to please any carb lover, from herb bread to pumpkin muffins. Tiny orzo pasta pieces for the Lobster Mac and Cheese appetizer come in a light yet flavorful creamy Irish cheddar sauce with generous chunks of lobster, crab and shrimp. Extremely tender medallions of pork loin are glazed in maple horseradish for a taste that is sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. The accompanying crisp-cooked sugar snap peas and savory local apple chutney offered just the right balance for the pork. I also tasted my mom's Tart of Applewood Smoked Bacon and Wild Striped Bass, both of which were excellent. 

The meal wasn't flawless. My Gouda Potatoe Gratin seemed a bit too hard and a tad dry, to the point where it was difficult to cut. Not much flavor there either. Service was a spotty, and we had to wait a while for someone to take our order and to refresh the bread.

There were far more positives though, and the dessert sampler was no exception. Cakes are a specialty at Zake's, as you can see from their take-out counter filled with giant cupcakes, fresh key lime pie and tiramisu. Our dessert included a rich, dark chocolate brownie; a light chocolate genoise, filled with caramel buttercream and topped with chocolate ganache icing; and a cream puff with fresh berries inside. All three were excellent; it would be difficult to pick a favorite. 

It's always exciting to find a BYOB that serves great food, since restaurant alcohol markups are just obscene these days. Zake's is definitely a standout in this category.

Zake's Cafe
444 S. Bethlehem Pike (Lafayette Ave Connector)
Fort Washington, PA 19034

Zakes Cakes & Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Pizza Project
Just a nibble:
Single slice:
The full pie:

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