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Cosimo Restaurant and Wine Bar
209 Lancaster Avenue
Malvern, Pennsylvania
(610) 647-1233

(Restaurant Now Closed)

If you fancy yourself a dedicated oenophile, a visit to Anthony Mastroianni's Cosimo Restaurant and Wine Bar is something of a must. The establishment's comfortable horseshoe-shaped bar boasts a state-of-the-art 40-bottle wine preservation system that allows patrons to sample an extraordinary number of wine flights or individual wine pairings with each course. And wine director Jason Whiteside is always on hand to offer sage oenological advice that is certain to greatly enhance your dining experience.

Recent 5-ounce flights, for example, included Sauvignon Blanc (2004 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Les Caillottes, $10.00; 2006 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc, $10.00; 2006 Omaka Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, $8.00), Chardonnay (2006 Elderton Unwooded Chardonnay from Barossa, Australia, $8.00; 2004 Joseph Drouhin Vero Chardonnay, $12.00; 2002 Copeland Creek Chardonnay, $15.50), and Italian Reds (2003 Nippozzano Chianti Riserva, $11.00; 2004 La Colomaia Valpolicella Ripasso, $12.00; 2002 Conterno Fantino Barola, $24.00; 2000 Sartori Corte Bra' Amarone $17.00).

The fruit of the vine may be a strong drawing card, but it is Chef Stephen Delaney's innovative American cuisine that makes Cosimo such an inviting dining destination. Mr. Delaney's offerings are brilliantly conceived and even more beautifully presented. And yet there is culinary substance here as well as structure. Not only do appetizers and entrées succeed in enchanting the eye, they beguile the palate as well.

The Drunken Shrimp ($9.00), for example. Three crustaceans serve as tiaras for delicate divisions of hummus, couscous, and mozzarella, respectively. The triplex presentation is striking, but the quality of the ingredients is also beyond reproach. And the pristinely crunchy shrimp are kissed by a lovely orange vinaigrette.

And the Yukon gold potato and goat cheese gnocci ($9.00) is yet another artistically delicious presentation. Set in a single row on a slender rectangular-shaped serving plate, the diminutive dumplings are ethereal of countenance and embellished with caramelized onion and a truffle-herb jus.

And for those who enjoy bivalves, the plump Prince Edward Island mussels ($9.00) swim to table in a miso-chive butter sauce tinctured with sake. And the sautéed cherrystone clams ($9.00) are bathed in a provocatively frothy beer-cheese stew sprinkled with cilantro.

Even the starter salads ($7.00)  peppery arugula tossed with roasted wild mushrooms, port cherries, Shropshire cheese, pine nuts, and a zesty sherry vinaigrette or grilled escarole served Caesar style with Parmesan shards and foccacia croutons  show a definite sense of style.

Entrées, in a very real sense, demonstrate even more pizzazz than their predecessors. The wild Pacific halibut ($24.00) arrives at table on a sumptuous pillow of vegetable ragoût (fingerling potatoes, roasted red peppers, diced carrots, fava beans, and sautéed wild mushrooms) and is consummated with incredible lime-chive butter. Continuing in the seafood vein, the seared scallops ($23.00) are picture-perfect. Rich and seductively meaty, they share compartmentalized culinary space with creamy polenta topped with crunchy haricots verts and a sensuously rich carrot purée.

The al dente penne pasta ($17.00) also exhibits a flair for the sea, garnished with succulent Prince Edward Island mussels. Meanwhile, pequillo peppers, arugula, linguica (chunks of dry Portuguese sausage with a distinctive garlicky flavor), and an ingratiating fines herb butter maintain strong supporting roles.

Meat eaters, however, need not despair, as Cosimo's Angus filet mignon ($29.00) is, without question, the very best filet it has ever been my pleasure to ingest. To quote a phrase, it does, indeed, cut like butter, and is topped with an onion relish, surrounded by an exotic mushroom ragoût, and sided by an incomparably addictive potato croquette.

Desserts ($7.00), courtesy of pastry chef Andrea Schwob, are as extraordinarily unique as they are delicious. Like the wine flights, they present diners with several different variations on a particular theme. The Tropical Sampler features a benchmark Key lime pie and passion fruit panna cotta, while the Fruit Sampler headlines apple crème caramel, apple cinnamon cake, and a luscious fresh apple tart.

For those who just want something light to cleanse the palate between wine flights, Cosimo also offers a number of small plates ($9.00 - $12.00) and a first-rate menu of charcuterie and cheese (3 selections, $10.00; 5 selections, $16.00), all as attractively presented as the appetizers and entrées. Recently ordered, for example, was a triptych of cheeses presented bento-style: Shropshsire (Scotland) garnished with a dollop of quince purée; Pont l'Eveque (France) with wafer-thin slices of green apple; and Drunken Goat (Spain) garnished with roasted slivered almonds.

My only negative comment is with regard to the rather odd, avant-garde décor, which I don't find terribly appealing. In point of fact, due to the absence of windows, especially in the dining room, you can't quite shake the feeling that you're chowing down in a subway station. Bear in mind that the primo perches are the comfortable booths adjacent to the bar, so be sure to reserve in advance.

The eccentric environs notwithstanding, Cosimo is a dining experience that is not to be missed.

The Artful Diner
November 2007

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