Save Room for Dessert 

A Cajun-style Cheesecake Factory hits Stony Point.

The dessert theme begins outside the restaurant, where a large metal sculpture depicts Atlas hoisting a globe whose center is a giant piece of strawberry shortcake. Inside, 6-foot-long slabs of cheesecake hang from the ceiling, and only slightly smaller slices rest atop pillars that rise from the booths.

An eight-page menu, which is the same for lunch and dinner, is a bit overwhelming. In addition to headings for appetizers, soups, salads and two kinds of sandwiches, entrees are listed under nine categories—rotisseries, pastas, homestyle, signature dishes, seafood, fresh fish, steaks, broiler foods and bistro lites. Likewise, the prices range from $9.50 to $23.

A good way to sample the Cajun cuisine is the crab and crawfish bake ($11.29), which like all of the appetizers, like everything on the menu, is enough to share. A plate-sized bowl is packed with the tails of crawfish — they look like miniature lobsters but are a different species with a distinct flavor — lump crabmeat and artichoke hearts, baked in a lemon Parmesan cheese sauce, and served with oblong croutons drenched in garlic.

Crab cakes ($10.29) make for another great starter, two creamy, pan-seared lump-meat patties over a thick ragout of artichoke hearts and mushrooms, topped with an oyster cream sauce. The dish is accompanied by far too many browned potatoes. Three crab cakes are served with the entree version ($19).

For entrees, the trout meuniere ($19), is a ruby-red rainbow filet, dusted in flour, sautéed in butter, topped with an almond crust. In another example of overkill, the large portion of fish comes with both garlic mashed potatoes, which could have been creamier, and a nest of fried onion strings.

One of the “bistro lite” entrees, Mediterranean chicken ($12.59),on our visit, was a grilled and marinated breast stacked with oven-roasted potato wedges in a roasted garlic herb sauce.

A “homestyle cookin’” offering was a fork-tender pot roast ($12.49), drenched in onion gravy, accompanied by what was described as a wedge of macaroni and cheese, but looks more like a brick of lasagna. As moist as the beef is, the mac-and-cheese made the meal a bit dry.

A meal-sized cobb salad ($10 at dinner, $9 at lunch) had all the requisite ingredients — shredded greens, tomatoes, shaved grilled chicken, egg, spicy bacon, avocado, bleu cheese crumbles and a choice of dressing — but wasn’t a standout in either taste or presentation.

Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro obviously is a place where you should save room for dessert, but it’s difficult to do, given the size of the appetizers and entrees. Nonetheless, those who do are well rewarded.

There are 25 variations of cheesecake, including a couple that reflect the New Orleans influence. One of those is bananas Foster ($7). Invented half a century ago at Brennan’s in New Orleans and named for one of its customers, it features lengthwise slices of banana soaked in a mix of rum, liqueur and brown sugar, which in this version, are heaped on cheesecake and then covered with whipped cream and cinnamon sprinkles.

Other toppings include strawberries dipped in white chocolate, cherries jubilee, chocolate praline, peanut butter cookies, cream caramel, chocolate peanut butter cookies, and on and on. In addition to the 17 topped cheesecakes, there are seven flavored varieties including Snickers and chocolate peanut-butter cookie.

If cheesecake is not your thing, there are plenty of other desserts, including a thick-layered carrot cake, white-chocolate bread pudding, fudge brownie a la mode, Key West lime pie, fudge or German chocolate cake, banana splits and sundaes.

It’s a disappointment to learn that the creamy cheesecakes displayed in large cases at the entrances aren’t made on the premises, but rather in a commissary in San Diego that serves all the bistros.

Although a couple of pastry chefs give the impression that they have just pulled the cakes out of the oven, all they are really doing with their talents are creating eye-appealing toppings. But the proof is in the pudding, or in this instance the cheesecake, and it’s quite good, no matter where it’s made. S

Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro ($$$)
Stony Point Fashion Park
Lunch and dinner: Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. - midnight, Sunday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., including brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Reservations: A limited number accepted. At busy times, call up to 30 minutes ahead to get on the list.<>/i>

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