About the Food at A.Kitchen

It isn’t about the farm to table concept at a.kitchen, though there is some of that. It isn’t about the Rittenhouse scene, though there’s certainly some of that. It isn’t about the celebrity chef despite the open kitchen and the lauded Bryan Sikora at center stage. Trey Popp says a.kitchen is refreshingly about the food.

What it mainly wants (or seems to want) is for its food and drink to speak for themselves—though even there, with a voice as quiet as the restaurant is loud. Sikora’s cooking is skillful, from the minimalism of a scallop crudo simply dressed with a red-wine mustard, to more involved preparations like calamari stuffed with (if a bit overwhelmed by) house-made chorizo. Vegetables and fish outshone meat dishes in the summer, when Spain and Italy were the kitchen’s lodestars. The “forest-driven cuisines of Eastern Europe” are on Sikora’s agenda for the fall.

Two and a half Stars – Good to Excellent

Review: a.kitchen [Philadelphia Magazine]

135 South 18th St
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Photograp by Jason Varney

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  • jay

    The linked version of the article indicates a grade of two stars as opposed to two and a half.

    More importantly, I’d like to know what Popp didn’t like if he’s only giving it two or two 1/2 stars. After reading that article, I’d have concluded at least 3 stars (incidentally, I have now twice corrected myself from writing “bells” instead of “stars”)

  • The correct grade is 2 and a half stars. The article has been adjusted to show that.

  • Trey Popp

    Jay, two and a half stars translates more or less into “very good.” To my mind, the number of stars is the most reductive possible measure of a restaurant review; it is a single data point, as against about 800 words of prose. To answer your question, though, two things that could have been better — as I mentioned — were the meat dishes and the noise levels.

  • Dan

    I was there yesterday. I am not understanding these glowing reviews. Well I understand them – it is Adsum II. The restaurant is underwhelming in nearly every aspect. The clientele, reeking of old money and no taste, would be equally well served going across the street for ameritalian. To begin, the service is useless. When asked for recommendations we received the standard “everything is so good, I can’t decide.” Although they purportedly had 4 or 5 interesting taps, the tap system was broken. The drinks were watery and amateurishly prepared. For this town at $12 a pop, you better get yourself a real bartender. The negroni I had was so watery there was barely even a red tint (read: there was no amaro). My wife’s ginger drink was all lime, no ginger and no booze. Basically an incredibly one dimensional Caipirinha. Now the food, the dreaded “small” plates, fared little better. The portions were tiny, which could be overlooked if they were Barbuzzo delicious, they were not. The grouper was overcooked to a flavorless gray; the pork belly was oddly gelatinous with no sear. I honestly can’t recall having worse prepared pork belly. The chorizo balls were basically two small balls covered in tomato paste. I didn’t know you could make chorizo without any spice – that was impressive. The standouts were a decent gnocchi, an OK frisee salad, a nice seared octopus with two of Noble’s chick pea fries and a nice slow cooked veal ragout. Speaking of Noble, this place didn’t hold a candle to Noble or Matyson when it comes to new American. Sadly, it is just a “see and be seen” place with a local celebrity chef for our pathetically fawning “reviewers” to coo over its “simplicity,” AKA lack of flavor (pun intended).

  • anotherfoodie

    Hey Dan, why are you so angry. Is your restaurant dead? Because lets be honest, the only ones motivated to read Foobooz much less write a comment are connected to the industry or restaurant in some way. So you are some local competitor angry to see all the business at akitchen. We get it. There isn’t much compelling about that place, its small, crowded and has a menu for the foodie. So why is it so packed? Because it’s awesome, and you know it, and you’re so pissed your joint is lame and empty. Why don’t you fix what’s wrong in your restaurant instead of attacking the competition.

  • kbor

    foooooooooood fighttttttttt

  • I am not connected to the industry, and I agree with Dan’s assessment about the food (we didn’t have any of the mixed drinks and know even less about mixology than food). I’ve made my impressions known on my own little blog/food journal (actually this bit was posted on the Penn blog).


    And maybe the food is better now as it has been a couple of months since my visit. But compared to what Bryan used to do in his Django and Table days, his dishes now are incredibly lackluster in terms of composition and flavor, which breaks my heart. I do hope that it’s busy for a reason (i.e. the food is better) – but if it’s just a bunch of people who are drawn to his past accomplishments and have convinced themselves it’s better than it is, then I’m still sad. I’ll revisit in October for sure.

  • Dan

    Yea, I have never worked in the “industry.” I had a girlfriend who was a waitress and was related some of the stories Staphmeal has presented (mostly there’s a butt load of coke everywhere, the waitresses are sexually harassed in exchange for food, drinks, getting out of certain “side-jobs” & coke. Overall it seems to be a very incestuous group of generally immature and unworldly people who can parse winter purslane from regular purslane, but could not find Iraq on a map). Incidentally, what is the deal with all the made-up jargon associated with restaurant work? “Industry” generally implies manufacturing or production – don’t get how it really applies to slinging food and drinks. Is seems to be similar to the cashier or customer service “industry.” I do enjoy a good meal and good drink however (way more than I probably should). Bottom line: I gave my fair assessment of a.kitchen so deal with it. Admittedly I was a bit trite, but mostly that is geared at these reviewers. The dude devotes about three sentences to the food in his entire review after saying the restaurant is all about the food (it appears he tried about three dishes?). The rest of the review is simply an ironic masturbation of Sikora’s ego as the “unpretentious” celebrity chef (Did you hear his name isn’t even on the menu!!!). The reviewer doesn’t seem to be aware of even a hint of irony as he exults that the restaurant isn’t your traditional Rittenhouse dog and pony show while simultaneously titillating his audience by name dropping local celebrities (Did you hear that Charles Barkley & Cliff Lee ate there!) and the open kitchen (We can actually watch our chef celeb the “invisible man” cut the purslane!). The forum for this, a magazine aimed at mainline mommies and trustafarians, makes it all the more laughable.

  • lilpit

    Tell us the truth, Dan. Sikora screwed you lady, right?

  • smokeyMcNugget

    I had dinner there a few nights ago. It was Ok at best. The dishes sound good on the menu and then fall short when they arrive. Maybe you have to be a celebrity or a food critic to get “the good food” there. Anyway I won’t be back.

  • intheindustry

    Yes, I am “in the industry”, and yes, I do love a.kitchen. Been there many times, and somehow, always run into others “in the industry”.
    We most always agree: food is great, wine list is beautiful (except a few mispellings!!), service is courteous and detailed ….
    For those that do not agree with me, too bad …. guess your palate is not made for Brian’s food. Check out the yellow restaurant across the street from a.kitchen, maybe you’ll like it better!

  • BuyABestOf

    Don’t believe the hype

  • EA

    @Dan great post! You should be writing some of these reviews.