Tubs and baskets of fresh produce are not only part of the décor but the philosophy of this popular Lambertville bistro.

By: Pat Tanner

NO. 9

9 Klines Court


(609) 397-6380
Food: Very good

Service: Pleasant, casual

Cuisine: Seasonal American bistro

Ambiance: Airy storefront bistro

Prices: Moderate

Hours: Lunch and Dinner: Wed.-Thurs. 5-9 p.m., Fri. 5-10 p.m., Sat. 3-10 p.m., Sun. noon-8 p.m.

Essentials: Visa, Mastercard and American Express accepted; no liquor license (b.y.o.); no smoking; not wheelchair accessible; reservations accepted.


   THE rectangle that is Klines Court in Lambertville holds an ever-changing roster of restaurants. The newest addition to the courtyard takes its address as its name, and with its first anniversary approaching, No. 9 just may be here to stay. I, for one, certainly hope so.
   Simply entering the tiny storefront bistro, which had last been Wild Nile and before that, New Orleans Café, brought a smile to my face. Pristine white walls culminate in a wide stripe painted bright blue, accentuating the room’s height. Eclectic prints, café chairs and white-clothed tables hit the right bistro note in an understated, attractive manner. But what made me smile are the tubs and baskets of fresh, colorful produce stashed around the room under counters and on shelves. Not only do they add an attractive decorative element, they graphically illustrate the owners’ commitment to fresh, pristine and, it turns out, local produce.
   Owners Matthew and Colleen Kane, a husband-and-wife team in their 30s, are also the cooks. Matthew Kane is a graduate of the culinary program at Voorhees High School who went on to work at New York’s Nosmo King and picked up a few tips from Mario Batali of Po and Food Network fame. The baskets of produce, which turn a storage problem into a practical and esthetically pleasing asset, are representative of the Kanes’ smart approach.
   The menu, for example, is limited but stylish. There’s not a boring dish among the six appetizers and six entrées, which are amplified by a couple of specials nightly. Among the well-executed bistro classics are Caesar salad ($7), grilled hangar steak with mashed potatoes and a red-wine sauce ($18), and a springtime pasta dish of orecchiette with asparagus and wild mushrooms ($14).


Staff photo by Robyn Stein
Pristine white walls culminate in a wide stripe painted bright blue, accentuating the room’s height. Eclectic prints, café chairs and white-clothed tables hit the right bistro note in an understated, attractive manner.

   Even something as simple as tomato soup ($5), the soup du jour on our visit, rises above the ordinary here. A big bowl is creamy and full of tomato goodness, yes, but is given an Italian kick-in-the-pants by fresh basil and Parmesan. Also lush, but not overly so, is the potato and goat cheese tart ($5). Roasted red peppers and grilled onions keep this starter from being stodgy and one-dimensional.
   The tart’s polar opposite is a light but equally flavorful asparagus vinaigrette ($9). On our early spring visit, this was anchored by two fat, long spears from California, which were smoky and meaty in the same way portabella mushrooms can be. I loved their full-flavored, green taste —especially since it was reinforced by spring greens and shaved Parmesan. By publication time, the California specimens will have been replaced by what should be even more exciting: locally grown asparagus from Wessex Hill Farm in nearby Stockton, a favored supplier of the Kanes.
   We marveled over a gargantuan bowl of tender steamed mussels ($8) and were almost done in by the aromatic broth flavored with white wine, shallots and parsley, which we sopped up with good quality Italian bread from Trenton.
   One particularly smart entrée is the grilled porterhouse pork chop with potato gratin and mixed-berry compote ($18). Matthew Kane says he couldn’t afford to put a porterhouse steak on his moderately priced menu but prepares the same cut —the end of the loin with the tenderloin —as he would beef. He says it’s easier to cook —almost everyone wants pork medium or well done, rarely rare —but he nevertheless manages to elicit maximum flavor and the juicy satisfaction of beef from it. The potato gratin alone is worth trying, its layers of sliced potatoes, cheese and cream somehow coming together in an ethereal rather than earthbound manner.


Staff photo by Robyn Stein

   Potatoes seem to be a particular forte here, since the mashed potatoes that accompany succulent roast chicken ($17) are as enjoyable as the gratin and the potato-goat cheese tart. And vegetables of any kind are notable. The sweet roasted beets that accompany braised short ribs ($20) almost steal the show from the meat, which is densely flavorful and literally falling off the bone. This hearty dish, which I enjoyed on one of the last chilly days this spring, won’t reappear again until cold weather.
   Fish lovers had two options the night of our visit, a halibut special or pan-seared salmon with Asian flavors ($18), which was our choice. Here, a thick chunk of deep pink salmon fillet is treated to the flavors beloved by sushi eaters: wasabi and ginger. Unfortunately, the salmon was a bit dry from overcooking. A cool, refreshing cucumber salad perfectly completed the dish.
   Six also seems to be the number of desserts here, and $6 is their price. Not many are made in house, but those that aren’t are the work of talented free-lance pastry chefs. Among the choices we encountered were an aptly named lemon cloud cake; a strawberry-rhubarb pastry dish that embodied spring; a flourless chocolate cake made notable by its accompanying espresso cream; a so-so crème brulee; and the best carrot cake I, who am not a carrot cake aficionado, have had in years. The Kanes also take care to serve excellent coffee.
   The 35-seat restaurant is b.y.o., but is happily situated directly opposite an excellent wine shop. No. 9’s welcoming ambiance and moderately priced bistro food have made it challenging to get reservations at the most popular times on weekends, and also means that the noise level is high during peak hours, but not overwhelmingly so. Service is provided by young, enthusiastic servers who do a good job negotiating the tight spaces between tables.
Pat Tanner’s reviews can be heard on Dining Today, Sat. 9-10 a.m. on MoneyTalk 1350 AM.
For directions to No. 9, click here.