Want to get rich? Stand at the entrance to the second-floor dining room at Maia Restaurant and Market, smoke-free) and collect a dollar from everyone who says, “Wow!” In a few minutes, your wallet will be bulging. Maia serves up a visual feast that injects a powerful jolt of Eurostyle electricity into the Main Line restaurant scene. Even better, the food lives up to the atmosphere.
New York-based Studio A Design and lighting master Thomas Thompson have created an environment that is both cosmopolitan and cozy. A white onyx bar glows with underlighting. The 24-seat communal table made of rich bubinga wood surrounds an incandescent ice trough that’s a striking and functional centerpiece. Octagonal niches with banquette seating offer more intimate seating; outdoors, the terrace is warmed by a firepit and heat lamps.
Maia’s dinner-only top floor is the crown jewel of a 20,000+-square foot complex that has something for everyone. Downstairs there’s a coffee bar, bistro, and market that has a rustic, whitewashed-brick ambience with a contemporary twist (floor-to-ceiling windows, stainless steel counters).
The entire enterprise is the brainchild of co-executive chefs and brothers Terence and Patrick Feury, with managing partner Scott Morrison. Both chefs trained at the Academy of Culinary Arts in Cape May, New Jersey, and have stellar resumes. Patrick cooked at Le Cirque in New York City, Les Olivades in Paris, and Nectar in Berwyn; Terence worked at Le Bernardin in New York, and was executive chef at the Grill at the Ritz-Carlton and Striped Bass in Philadelphia.
The watchword for all of the food—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and take-out—at Maia is “fresh.” Ingredients take full advantage of the region’s bounty, which includes local produce, meats, fish, and cheese. Charcuterie and fish are cured on-site. Breads and pastries are baked right here, too.
The cuisine focuses on western Europe, with emphasis on Alsace and Scandinavia. Seasonally motivated, the menu also features excellent savory pies, such as a melt-in-your-mouth tarte flambé with caramelized onions, Westphalian ham, Gruyère, and crème fraîche. Lunch and dinner menus have a wide variety of selections, from chicken and beef to mussels, tuna, salads, and pasta. Selections from the raw bar are offered daily.
There are many choices of libations as well, including regional and international craft beers, and a thoughtful wine list compiled by sommelier Melissa Monosoff, previously of the Fountain Restaurant at The Four Seasons. Oenophiles are in good hands with Monosoff: in 2004, Wine & Spirits Magazine named her among America’s “Best Young Sommeliers.”
Maia is located in the back at The Shops at Villanova but is not visible from Lancaster Avenue. Once you find the restaurant/market, navigating its interior may take some getting used to; it’s a big space with a lot going on. If you’re not sure where on the first floor to find the prepared foods section, organic-flour pizzas, sandwiches, or sushi, ask one of the helpful staff members to direct you.
Almost around the corner from Maia are Pond Restaurant and Bistro Cassis (175 King of Prussia Road, Radnor, 610.293.9411; smoke-free). The site is an unexpected oasis along a road populated by office and medical buildings, Radnor High School, and a tennis club. Lush gardens, a picturesque pond with nesting swans, and a footbridge welcome guests.
A recent lunch at Cassis found the bistro busy but not overcrowded. It’s a very comfortable place to eat and relax. The blue-and-green color scheme, lots of soft surfaces, varying ceiling heights, and plenty of space between tables create an atmosphere that’s soothing but not boring. Service is attentive and not rushed.
My friend and I both got the Express Lunch, a three-course bargain at $20. I went with the mesclun salad, mussels Basquais, and fresh fruit; she chose the black bean soup appetizer, salmon rillettes, and fruit. Delicious crusty bread began the meal. My food was just right, from the superfresh salad, to the sand-free and 100 percent open mussels, to the sweet selection of berries, pineapple, and cut melon. My dining companion felt similarly about her lunch, although she hadn’t realized that the salmon rillettes would be a minced, potted concoction.
We thoroughly enjoyed the meal, but a few housekeeping details prevent me from giving Cassis a more ringing endorsement—especially those vinyl tablecloths; they have got to go! Our table-topper was “tacky,” in every sense of the word.
Otherwise, Bistro Cassis has a solid foundation of good cuisine and attentive service in a beautiful setting; a little attention to detail will ensure its reputation as magical, rather than mundane.