The Discreet Diner is always on the lookout for a dining find. Because restaurants often come and go, this is not always an easy task.
I was pleased to find Kunkel's Seafood & Steakhouse in Haddon Heights. It is owned by the Kunkel family, and it feels like home. The dining room is cozy with camel-colored walls, two fireplaces and mahogany woodwork. The tables are wood and the matching chairs are comfortably padded. Nice soft jazz plays in the background.
The servers are friendly without being too familiar. And we were greeted by Carol Kunkel, John's wife. They started in the restaurant business in 1979, according to their Web site.
On a visit for lunch, we started with the fiery Thai calamari ($7), a house specialty, which was a plateful of the rings fried crispy and tossed in an orange-chili sauce with cilantro. It was spicy sweet, and a very good twist on an old favorite.
Our entrees came with house salads and an excellent raspberry vinaigrette that complemented the greens.
My dining companion ordered the fried cod platter ($10.95). It was two filets of fish fried in a beer batter and served with wedge fries. For dipping, there was remoulade and a malt vinegar. It was good, and true fish lovers will enjoy the moist, rich taste of the preparation.
I selected the grilled shrimp ($10.95). Sound dull? Not at Kunkel's. It was a plate of grilled crustaceans in a mango papaya salsa that had red pepper and red onion. What a spicy sweet kick! It was served over a spicy corn pudding that was truly delicious.
The Kunkels have made quite a go of this establishment, which had most tables on the large side of the dining room filled on a recent Wednesday night. The restaurant, which has been open for two years, also offers a raw bar.
We also sampled desserts - all homemade. I, of course, went for the creme brulee ($6). It had been rich and creamy at lunch, served that day with blueberries, so I wanted more. This evening, though, it was not quite as rich or as creamy, but it did have the crunchy burnt top that I love.
A dining companion sampled the rice pudding ($5), made of arborio rice with a pistachio sauce, topped by whipped cream and pistachio pieces. The arborio rice, creamier than long grain, was perfect for the pudding, and the pistachio sauce added good flavor.
My lunch companion, new to Discreet Diner reviews, calls Kunkel's "our place." It's fine dining in a casual setting and is definitely a dining find.
920 Kings Highway, Haddon Heights
Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; dinner, 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 3-9 p.m. Sunday.
Handicapped accessible: Yes.
Children's menu: Yes.
On the Web: www.kunkelsrestaurant.com.