Interesting dining spots continue to open throughout South Jersey, the White Rose Café included. Formerly the Wild Orchid, the BYO restaurant was renamed the White Rose Café last March by owners Michael and Mary Goldsmith.
Executive chef Thomas Marino, previously of New World Café in Cinnaminson, has created an inventive international menu that well suits the exciting atmosphere. Given the eye-catching dining room, with its leopard-print seats, beveled mirrors, cozy booths, private dining alcoves, and creatively painted walls, a more traditional menu would be boring.
Certain touches, though, don't work. For instance, the complimentary bread course offers very sweet, cake-like slices of bread, sweet buns, and sourdough buns with seasoned butter spread and a very spicy roasted-pepper spread; I don't know which spread to pair with which bread. But there is no confusion when it comes to the chunks of Asian crab cake served over Japanese coleslaw; they are wonderfully flavorful. I also like the spicy tuna seviche with slivers of ginger, imaginatively served in a fresh coconut shell. Sautéed calamari is tender and delicious, but I'm not as crazy about the chunks of sweet potato in the otherwise fine lobster-and-sweet-potato cakes with crème fraîche and apple sauce. Four pan-fried salmon dumplings garnished with pickled ginger and served with soy-wasabi dipping sauce contain so little filling they are actually flat. The pumpkin soup of the day is well-flavored but would benefit from a touch of cream.
Entrées include five perfectly pan-charred scallops with soba noodles, oyster mushrooms, and a tomato-cilantro coulis; they are a scallop-lover's delight. I also like the swordfish special with a Parmesan crust and tomato beurre blanc. Salmon lacquered with rum and molasses is a bit sweet for my taste, but I love its accompanying wasabi mashed potatoes and baby vegetables. I would like the calf's liver special in a port-wine sauce if it were not overcooked, and the same is true of the pork tenderloin with a ginger-plum glaze and leaden sweet-potato latkes.
Desserts are the café's least impressive course. I must chew the hot chocolate soufflé and use a serrated knife to cut the apple galette, and small sweet-potato beignets are raw inside. By contrast, the crème brûlée and Key lime tart are wonderful. --V. S.
515 Route 73 South, Marlton (856-810-2000). Lunch: Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 am to 3 pm. Dinner: Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 9:30 pm; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10:30 pm; Sunday 5 to 9 pm. Brunch: Sunday, 10:30 am to 2:30 pm. Wheelchair access easy. American Express, MasterCard, Visa. Dinner for two averages $78.