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HOW WE REVIEW Restaurants are chosen for review at the sole discretion of the dining editor, based on input from our food writers and critics around the state. Our reviewers visit a restaurant at least twice, always maintaining anonymity to avoid preferential treatment. The reviewer brings up to three guests per visit and tastes everything
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SUN & SURF
animal pelts and
Stehle. “I didn’t
want the place to
AMBIENCE Bustling on weekends, sleepy on
SERVICE Friendly, competent
PRICES Appetizers, $4-$14; entrées, $8-$24; desserts, $6
OPEN Lunch and dinner, daily ;
F910 Haddonfield Berlin Road, 856-435-5500
By Adam Erace
At Black Olive in Voorhees, as at most Greek restaurants, a dish of olives is brought to your table
as soon as you sit down. At Black Olive,
though, all the olives are purplish-black
kalamatas from Greece, homeland of
chef/owner George Iliopoulos.
Arriving in the States in 1977, Iliopoulos proceeded to earn degrees in marketing from Kean University, culinary arts
from the French Culinary Institute
(now the International Culinary Center)
in New York, and hospitality management at NYU. After Iliopoulos opened
Mediterranean and German restaurants
in Red Bank and Horsham, Pennsylvania, he and his current business partner
(and former college roommate), Stephen
Tryfonas, opened Black Olive in 2013.
“We felt the area needed a good Greek
restaurant,” Iliopoulos says.
That’s pretty much what they have
created. The roomy dining room, with
hardwood floors, trellised ceiling and
framed photos of Greece, has white-clothed tables covered with brown
butcher paper. But beware the wooden
chairs, imported from Greece. They’re
small and straight backed, with unforgiving rattan seats so uncomfortable I
suggest trying to reserve a place along
the curving banquette that separates the
dining room from the open kitchen.
With the exception of one over-
roasted lemon chicken, each of the
of ripe avocado and a squiggle
of Sriracha. And did I mention
the nest of sweet potato hash
that happily sops up all that fatty
goodness? If Paleo doesn’t pan
out to be “healthy,” we’ll sure have some
explaining to do to our cardiologists.
The menu sounds lunchy, but a roster
of ambitious dinner specials show that
Stehle means business at all hours. “I
basically see what my vendors have—it
could be elk from Canada or venison
from New Zealand, Iberico pork from
Spain, tuna from here off the coast—and
I figure out what to do with it,” he says.
Stehle buys only sustainably raised
meats and fish, and goes organic when-
ever reasonable and possible.
On the nights we visited, Stehle’s specials played out thusly: Though I’d never
sampled a bavette steak, I quickly fell
for this beefy skirt-steak cousin, which
was served tender pink, smeared with
rosemary garlic butter and accompanied
by big meaty slabs of (Dear Lord!) duck-fat-fried sweet potatoes dusted with
truffle-scented sea salt.
The duck breast sous vide and confit
leg with a cactus pear purée was pure
fatty happiness, as well, the juicy breast
crisp-skinned from a last-minute
pan sear, the confit leg dusky and
rich, and the purée a sweet-tart
twist on the usual fruity foil.
A rack of grass-fed Australian lamb
enjoyed a sous-vide swim and a quick
pan sear before nestling its juicy rosi-ness in a pillow of rich cauliflower purée
smooth and buttery enough to give great
mashed potatoes a run for the money.
Though muffins seemed an odd way
to end a caveman dinner, our table ordered a pumpkin chocolate chip doozy
and fought for the last bite. The cake,
made with almond flour, was dense
and (surprisingly) banana-scented
(from, well, bananas), with still-molten
chips collapsing into the moist crumb.
Quickly demolished as well were the
insanely flavorful slabs of salty-sweet
mocha-bacon brownie and a chewy,
satisfying chocolate-chip cookie.
Stehle calls his desserts “Paleo
friendly, since the only real Paleo dessert is fruit. But if you need something
sweet, ours are made with nut, cassava
and coconut flours, no refined sugars,
cacao nibs, dark chocolate and lots of
love. And they’re a nice treat for just
about anyone once in a while.”