Taste: A Gem in the Diamond District

Restaurant M sparkles in a traditional setting near Jewelers’ Row

Most evenings, a black ironwork gate stands open in a welcoming gesture on 8th Street between Walnut and Locust, with a menu posted discreetly alongside. The brick footpath beyond the gate leads into a


Most evenings, a black ironwork gate stands open in a welcoming gesture on 8th Street between Walnut and Locust, with a menu posted discreetly alongside. The brick footpath beyond the gate leads into a charming courtyard and ultimately to Restaurant M, at the intimately scaled Morris House Hotel. These are relatively new businesses at a venerable address: The Reynolds-Morris House, built in 1787, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a splendid example of Georgian architecture. Owners Michael DiPaolo and Gene LeFevre converted the property to a boutique hotel two years ago, and opened Restaurant M this spring. The secluded courtyard is one of the most enchanting spots in the city for an alfresco meal, but the food wasn’t equal to the setting until David Katz, formerly of Lula and Salt, took charge of the kitchen.

Katz’s pretty plates and unexpected combinations offer plenty of incentive to come back and dine indoors. The urban-chic restaurant and cozy bar behind the 18th-_century facade are furnished with ivory table linens and oversize paintings, steering clear of Colonial clichés. Pinwheel-patterned flash-fried pancetta chips perch atop a green salad; a marvelous veal chop, carved to stand vertically, is paired with smooth walnut pesto, roasted red flame grapes, and a spiky maitake mushroom drizzled with house-made thyme oil. A remarkable appetizer that combines chilled lump crabmeat, pink ribbons of Serrano ham, mini-scoops of cantaloupe and honeydew melon, mâche leaves and fresh mint tastes even better accompanied by a bottle of Ratzenberger riesling. This month, look for game, braised meats and chestnuts on the menu.

Lengthy gaps between courses and the staff’s inclination to clear plates in a piecemeal fashion are fixes that still need to be made. We also had a long wait for the only copy of the wine list, a wide-ranging, well-priced selection. The $8 parking at the garage directly across the street is another good value.

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