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Sf visits Phl ... thoughts for a friday?

And as for wine: you could spend time at the back of the store at 1218 Chesnut and head to a BYOB, but these restaurants have Philly's most exciting wine lists right now: A.Kitchen/A.Bar, Vedge, Fork/High St.

Jan 26, 2014
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Sf visits Phl ... thoughts for a friday?

Given your stated preference for apps/small plates and modern/surprising, I really don't see Fond as the right fit for you.

My list, echoing others and in no particular order: Serpico, Zahav (see if you can score a weekend chef's table seat), Fork or especially it's sibling High St. on Market, Vernick, Cheu Noodle Bar, Vedge, Kanella, Talula's Daily

Jan 26, 2014
nwinkler in Philadelphia

One night in Philly, best non-Italian restaurant

I think Zahav is the right call here. I agree with above posters that fine dining is not what makes the Philly restaurant scene such an exciting one, but I also intuit from your posting that you're looking for something more ambitious and fine tuned than what most of our BYOBs offer. Zahav is the restaurant I recommend most often to out of town friends, and now they offer (on a VERY limited basis, so call right away) a chef's tasting on Fridays and Saturdays.

If somehow the Zahav menu doesn't appeal and you can't score the chef's counter, here's a pick that hasn't shown up on this thread yet: Fork. New chef Eli Kulp (recently of Torrisi Italian Specialties) is doing a ton of exciting stuff--his breads and butters alone are worth a visit. Go for the tasting menu (may not be advertised on the website but definitely exists); you'll start with a long parade of amuse bouches, then first in what will be 3 different trios of breads and butters, etc. Come to think of it, maybe Fork would be my first choice for you...

As for Serpico: it was immediately one of Philly's most exciting restaurants when it opened this year, but if you're acquainted with the Momofukus I wonder how much will be new to you. I haven't been to Ko but it's clear that at least the scallop, duck bun and foie dessert are reworkings of Momofuku dishes, and I'm curious to what extent that's true.

Nov 06, 2013
nwinkler in Philadelphia
1

Xi'an Sizzling Woks

Makes sense. My hope is that increased interest in the Xi'An section of the menu (they also have the roster of Cantonese-American) will lead to a longer list of those dishes.

Out of curiosity: is your guess about Fujian motivated by some Fujianese dishes on their menu? If so, are there some you would recommend trying?

Jul 27, 2013
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Xi'an Sizzling Woks

I would say it is not the equal of Xi'an Famous Foods, mostly because its menu is much more limited--as far as I can tell there are none of the braised meat with hand-pulled noodle dishes, my favorite at Xi'an FF.

But it is still a terrific addition to Chinatown and definitely worth a visit. In addition to the "burgers," liang pi and pork noodles, I highly recommend the hand-pulled noodles drowned in a garlicky vinegar dressing with tons of dried chili--seems to go under the name "hand-pulled east noodles with ginger scallion sauce" on the hand-written menu.

Jul 26, 2013
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Where should we go for a GREAT dinner to impress someone on their first Philly visit?

I'm not adding much here, but in addition to my extremely enthusiastic support for Zahav and Vernick, I'll note that given my recent experience you cannot go wrong with the tasting menu at Fork. I was fairly blown away by the parade of dishes--several courses of interesting amuse bouches, terrific breads and butters in several services, terrific pastas and perfectly cooked proteins, and the single best dish I've had all year (the rhubarb consomme). Highly recommended.

Jun 11, 2013
nwinkler in Philadelphia
1

Vernick Food and Drink - has anyone been there?

Definitely go! It's terrific--some of the more inventive cooking going on right now, and the kitchen really knows how to coax flavor out of everyday ingredients. I've reliably liked just about everything I've had there over my several visits (peas & bacon toast, tuna poke, uni & eggs, maitake, brussels sprouts, ravioli & whole chicken, for instance, are not to be missed).

Apr 12, 2013
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Black sesame paste, where can you buy it?

Just confirming that they do indeed have it at Hung Vuong on 11th & Washington. They have at least two brands; my favorite is the Union Foods one.

Mar 26, 2013
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Silvertone -- really?

Now wait a sec--

Say what you will about the food, but the one thing Silvertone absolutely has going for it, the thing the sets it apart and keeps me coming back, are the scarcely-higher-than-retail wine mark ups. Veuve yellow label retails for $50, which makes Silvertone's price pretty much the best you're going to find anywhere (and, agreed, $50 is also too much to spend on this wine). And the list is well put together--lots in the $30s and $40s, with a few well chosen splurges (Didier Dageneau Silex for $120!).

For food, I consistently enjoy the roast chicken (including a few weeks ago). Moist, covered in herbs and garlic, well-served by the super salty fries and dressed greens.

Oct 25, 2012
nwinkler in Greater Boston Area

Any good noodles near Pine Street?

One more highly recommended Chinatown noodle dish: the hand-made noodles at Dim Sum Garden, particularly the beef brisket noodles dry style (meaning as a gravy rather than in soup). Thick, beefy, fatty and rich with Chinese five-spice, these rock my world especially hard when the noodles are on point (sometimes they're firm and chewy--to my liking--and sometime a bit too soft). I would in fact liken this dish to the stewed meat noodle dishes at Xi'An.

Note that there is exactly zero ambiance at this place, and little in the way of service. If you do go, also consider ordering the cucumbers, any of the boiled dumplings, any of the soup dumplings, and any of the steamed buns. Good times.

Aug 08, 2012
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Take-out for picnic in Rittenhouse Square (or other park)?

If you go the DiBruno's+Rittenhouse route, which I heartily recommend, you might consider getting your breads from Parc. They sell their fantastic baguettes right at the hostess stand.

Apr 30, 2012
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Bottarga?

Thank, guys.

Ended up at Ippolito's, and though bottarga wasn't in stock, it is orderable. Meanwhile, Anthony set me up with some beautiful fillets of black sea bass that ended up as a very memorable tartare. Can't believe I'd never been to this place before; best fishmonger I've come across in the area.

Apr 25, 2012
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Bottarga?

Has anyone see any bottarga (salted & dried mullet/tuna roe) around recently? I tried DiBruno Bros. but they stopped carrying it, and I don't know where else to look. Any suggestions appreciated.

Apr 19, 2012
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Where to go for craft cocktails on a Saturday night?

Given that your dinner at Vetri is going to take a good 3 hours or more, you'll be hitting the street just as prime drinking hours are getting underway. Although my favorite craft cocktail bar is the Franklin, I fear you'll be waiting in line there. Better bet from a wait standpoint is Farmer's Cabinet, and it's the closest to Vetri to boot.

Are you a heavyweight? The path from FC to Franklin to Ranstead Room is a fun walk; you could hit all three...

Feb 10, 2012
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Philadelphia's 4 Bell Restaurants

This is true, but fortunately the choice isn't just between aging your own wine or buying from a 4-star's cellar. Many wine auction websites make it easy to obtain aged wines for much less than what I'd have to pay at a 4-star.

Moreover, for those of us who are passionate about wine but couldn't afford the mark-ups that the 4-stars charge, it adds to our enjoyment of the BYO experience (and detracts from that of the 4-star experience) that we don't have to worry about whether we can afford the wines we'd like to drink.

Feb 05, 2012
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Philadelphia's 4 Bell Restaurants

I admire the populist sensibility behind the new ratings, and share Laban's view that perfection in a restaurant is an equation more ephemeral than food + service + decor. But I'm afraid I agree that Laban's departure from the received meaning of fine dining is going to beget some confusion and disappointment. I adore Zahav; it's my favorite restaurant in the city. But people are going to look to the 4-bell category in search of that special-occasion place, and I don't think Zahav is this, nor is it trying to be. (I've also always noticed a weakness on desserts, a fact possible acknowledged by their absence in the 4-bell review?)

On the other hand, I don't much lament the absence of Le Bernardins and EMPs in Philly. The elaborate show of luxury at these restaurants has, in my view, more to do with flattering the sensibilities of the super-wealthy than it does with providing actual comfort. I do lament that we don't have more restaurants doing 4-star food--more Brooklyn Fares and Robertas, to continue the New York analogy.

Final thought: I wonder whether Laban's food-focused view of restaurant excellence might soon be the norm. Even the New York Times has recently challenged the received sense of fine dining, with Bruni gave 4 stars to Masa on the strength of the food alone, and Sifton giving Roberta's chef's table 3 stars "no matter the paper napkins or hard wood seats."

Feb 05, 2012
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Food Trucks

Strangely enough, there isn't really a dedicated cheesesteak truck out there yet. Lil Dan's truck has cheesesteaks on the menu, and the Koja truck has their Korean version of a cheesesteak. Definitely worth looking into these options, but this is all that comes to mind...

Jan 19, 2012
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Food Trucks

Though you didn't want another pizza truck, note that Pitruco (the other pizza truck besides Nomad) also does private events, and the menu includes breads and antipasti in addition to pizzas.

(Full disclosure: it's my truck; take my recommendations below with a grain of salt if you must!)

In addition to the two taco trucks mentioned above, Honest Tom's taco truck is also available for parties, though he may be tied up right now opening his sit-down place.

I'm betting you could also get the Smoke Truck (Mark Coates' awesome new BBQ truck) to do a private event.

You might also consider the Lucky Old Souls truck--excellent burgers, fries and milkshakes, everything made in house (down to the ketchup & mustard).

Finally, though they're not quite launched yet, the Strada Pasta truck will be available for private events--homemade lasagnas and pastas from a chef who trained in Italy.

Jan 17, 2012
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Bluefin in Plymouth Meeting- What's good on the menu?

I also council against rolls, only in that the rolls at Bluefin didn't stand out to me as special (if you're all about rolls, it's not like theirs are bad, they just aren't what sets them apart). I love getting sashimi that I might not trust to get elsewhere--shrimp, scallop, makerel; whatever is on their specials menu.

And one plug above all others: try the broiled eggplant dish. Not sushi, but the best eggplant I've ever tasted, anywhere. They get the flesh the texture of custard, and create a sweet, nutty crust on top that you have to break through to spoon out the eggplant. Amazing.

Nov 16, 2011
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Where to go?

Aha, sorry I missed that and went on a useless disquisition. Sounds like you're all set--hard to go wrong at Osteria. Enjoy!

Sep 08, 2011
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Where to go?

I finally made it to Koo Zee Doo for the first time a few weeks ago and was very impressed. Vivid flavors, attention to detail (most notably in textures--every piece of shellfish came out remarkably tender, and the duck on the arroz con pato was perfectly medium rare), and with all the protein options, gluten-free shouldn't be a problem at all.

The only potential issue is that the portions are sized to be shared, which means that a party of two will have a hard time tasting many dishes without having to over-order. I couldn't imagine putting away more than 2 apps, 1 entree and 1 dessert between two people. If you do go, my recommended dishes (based on only one visit, of course): shrimp piri piri (very spicy), chicken gizzards, arroz con pato, any of the salads. We didn't try the pork & clams, though I've heard consistently good things about it.

And if hearty Portuguese doesn't end up being your thing, maybe Fish? Or Pumpkin, with their newish chef? Or Fork?

Sep 07, 2011
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Wine pairing?

I think that all of the Garces restaurants do a roughly $65 tasting menu with wine pairings available in the area of $45. I've done these at Amada and Tinto without major regrets--the wine program at Tinto is pretty exciting, with its focus on Basque wines, though the young sommelier the evening we were there was wholly uninterested in engaging us about the wines--just wanted to pour them and get on with it.

Aug 23, 2011
nwinkler in Philadelphia

BEST fast food experience I ever had. I give it five out of five waffle fries.

This... is awesome.

Aug 17, 2011
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Moving to City Ave Area

You aren't too far at all from Weaver's Way, a terrific co-op. You have two locations to choose from: the original location in Mt. Airy, which is closest to you--it's small and cramped but packed with goods, and here you'd need to become a member to shop; and the new Chestnut Hill location--bigger, and doesn't require a membership, but prices are a tad higher without one.

Aug 14, 2011
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Lacroix Brunch Anxiety

Good point--this was Easter Sunday and they were open later than usual; we had a 3pm table or thereabouts, I think.

May 26, 2011
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Lacroix Brunch Anxiety

Having just been recently and made the very mistakes you fear making, here is my advice:

Do not dwell on the raw bar. I went through two rounds of oysters, caviar and shrimp cocktail to start of the meal, and the truth is it wasn't worth it. Though those shrimp were amazingly tender, the oysters had all been shucked long ago and given up their liquor, and none of the caviars were memorable.

Do a round at the cold station (right as you enter). Many memorable bites were had here, including that old bay macaron, and I was particularly impressed by their execution on salads--they were all great.

Don't miss their homemade charcuterie, and don't miss the homemade pickles and mustards that go with them.

Take note of how long things seem to have been sitting under the heat lamp. A subtle parmesan-truffle-egg custard that I was very excited about had been cooked to hell by the lights. Certain meats also looked passed their prime, though my lamb chop was perfectly cooked.

Spend sufficient time in the hot side dish area--many memorable tastes here. I loved the roasted wild mushrooms and the bananas with barley and cream--sounds nuts, totally delicious.

Save room for dessert! And, ideally, try every one--they are sinfully rich, and awesome.

I regret that I was too full for the chocolate fountain and liquid nitrogen station; will have to save those for anther visit.

Have fun!

May 25, 2011
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Rod Dee Porter Square: Progress?

Just thought I'd toss in another data point.

I visited two days ago, motivated entirely by the translated Thai menu above, and left very pleased. This was Thai food unlike any I've had in the area, reminiscent of my only other experience with these sorts of dishes, at Sripraphai in Queens.

We had the boat noodle soup with beef. Explosively flavorful, spicy (but only just so), accessorized with all manner of loud condiments--it tasted like Pho meets mole.

But more to the point. When I tried to order Yum Naam Khao Tod (what eventually came as a salad of chinese sausage and fried rice ball), the young guy who was taking my order looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. He pronounced my written phonetic translation to himself a few times and declared they served no such thing. Then an older woman came over and interceded. They do serve it, as it happens, and she was very pleased to find me doing so. She asked whether a Thai person had sent me, and confirmed that I wanted the dish spicy.

Well it was. I counted three different kinds of chili in the dish--fresh bird chilies, dried toasted (bird?) chilies, and a chili flake-based sauce loaded with seeds. It was very, very spicy, and fantastic. There were little bits of ginger, red onion, fried shallot, lemongrass, cilantro stem, peanuts, mint, and who knows what else. And it was really spicy.

So just saying: maybe the complaints registered on this board have gotten through to them, and they'll now actually cook spicy for food for a gringo?

May 19, 2011
nwinkler in Greater Boston Area

Meme

I've also enjoyed the foie gras terrine. Very straightforward preparation, and a sizable piece for the price. If you're in the mood for that sort of thing.

May 05, 2011
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Sbraga cooking at Blackfish

I was thinking that a light, acidic red would play well with the savory components of that dish--chicken jus, lobster, tomato--plus turbot is a pretty meaty fish. But I do concede that it's a bit of a risk...

Apr 27, 2011
nwinkler in Philadelphia

Need suggestions for Center City/U City dinner tonight and rather specific requirements??

I'll suggest Nan, knowing that it's probably not quite the right fit to your parameters. But it's quiet, nice, and good in a very classic french way. Prices aren't quite ~$15/entree, but several entrees are just under $20 an several just over, and they are big enough that you wouldn't necessarily need to order appetizers. Just throwing that out there.

Apr 27, 2011
nwinkler in Philadelphia