Italian-American restaurant pleases in Edison
By TRACEY SEAMAN
Whenever I meet anyone who knows Middlesex County, I begin my restaurant interrogation. "Where have you been, what did you have, when did you go?"
Lately, a place named LouCás is the one everyone is mentioning. It is a special occasion place. One woman I know had her first date there with her husband.
The food is Italian and creative.
My friend and I ventured to LouCás on a Saturday night, an evening I don't usually prefer because it tends to be a hectic one for restaurants.
But then again, a restaurant that proves itself on a Saturday deserves recognition.
I entered the large, single room with great anticipation.
"Whoa," was my first thought. It was 7:30 and the place was packed. I couldn't believe we had gotten a table; I had only called that afternoon.
The dusty rose and oak walls repelled me somewhat. The decor was clean and tailored, but out of style.
My friend and I were seated at a banquet, which made a bit L around half of the room. We were sardines in a can. I told her I felt like I was in a crowded public pool with nowhere to swim. (It was just what she was thinking.)
LouCás is a BYOB place. I brought a bottle of red wine with me. I had purchased it with the last of my francs at the airport on my way home from Paris. It was the perfect way to begin our meal.
There were so many specials that sounded so delicious; it was almost silly to read the menu through, although it definitely couldn't be ignored.
Mostly the Italian-American classics, such as cheese-stuffed eggplant, sauteed chicken and veal and pasta, filled the pages.
We began with a special, Lobster Salad ($12.95), and a house salad with balsamic vinaigrette ($5.25). The house salad was a generous mound of mixed greens. The dressing was tangy and not too heavy.
Upon first sight of the lobster salad, we were disappointed. We had expected a "lobster salad," and instead it was a salad with lobster. This proved to be not a disappointment, but a pleasant surprise. The dressing was lemony, but mild and luscious, almost silky. There were sauteed shiitake mushrooms. We gobbled it all up.
Next, we indulged in Penne Tuscany ($6.50 for a colossal half portion), tender-to-the-bite pasta tossed with diced eggplant, smoked mozzarella and tomato. The eggplant was a little firm, but the flavor sublime and earthy with garlic.
Both of our entrees were specials.
I had Chilean Sea Bass with Rock Shrimp ($20.95). The large hunk of meat was like no sea bass I've ever see, and I hoped it wasn't really Chilean, since it is endangered from over-fishing these days.
The texture was more tender and flaky than cod, but the layers of flesh were large the way cod is. Regardless, the fillet was tasty in a broth sauce with oodles of veggies.
My partner had the Rack of Veal ($23.95). The chops had been patted with seasoned breadcrumbs, browned, and then roasted a perfect medium. The porcini mushroom sauce added richness.
Garlic mashed potatoes and shoe-string mixed vegetables completed the picture.
By this time, we had become friendly with our neighbors, who had reported the the Fried Calamari was killer. And, it had appeared just so, but a girl can only eat so much.
We examined the dessert tray with a keen eye. Nothing homemade, but there were eye-pleasing choices, such as a beautifully simple Baked Lemon Tart.
We chose Tiramisu and a Pear Cassis Mousse Tart ($4.95 each) and cappuccino ($3.25).
The pear tart was light and fluffy, but slightly medicinal. It was pretty with its jelled ruby-red top and swirled interior of pink and white, but didn't taste of pear at all.
The tiramisu was a finer edition of the mascarpone classic.