The Revisit: Serpico

Serpico photo courtesy the anagramatic Mike Persico

Serpico photo courtesy of the anagramatic Mike Persico

There’s only so much a clean bathroom can tell you about a restaurant, but every now and then they speak volumes.

To face the poster of Olivia Newton-John wearing her “Physical” gear in the Juniper Commons men’s room is to know, conclusively, that there’s no escaping the 1980s there. The inexplicably unflattering powder-room lighting at the late, unlamented Avance — which had inherited perfectly good illumination from Le Bec-Fin — encapsulated the misguided priorities that sank the place. Even the community chalkboards lining Crow & The Pitcher’s facilities testify to that restaurant’s yearning to be adopted by a neighborhood that’s never really rallied behind a tenant at that address. (And where else but Miami Beach could have a setup like this?) Read more »

Where We’re Eating: V Street, Tuk Tuk Real and Stock

Spicy Dan Dan Noodles from V Street | Photo by Chloe Berk

Spicy Dan Dan Noodles from V Street | Photo by Chloe Berk

V Street
126  S 18th Street
Rittenhouse Square
215-278-7943

Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby aren’t the first restaurateurs to summon night-market memories with bare bulbs strung beneath a black ceiling. But the globetrotting vegans behind Vedge have uncorked an unusually pent-up desire for street snacks at this energetic offshoot of their stately mother ship.

But eat here and you can feel how long the pressure’s been building to yank every taco and noodle bowl into the meat-and-dairy-free realm. Read more »

Restaurant Review: Kensington Quarters

Kensington Quarters | Photo by Michael Persico

Kensington Quarters | Photo by Michael Persico

You walk by Bryan Mayer’s butcher case at Kensington Quarters, and you develop certain expectations about what awaits you in the dining room. These deepen as you pass the meat locker, a sauna-paneled light box punctuated by widescreen windows framing floodlit views of hanging hog carcasses. By the time you reach your seat (the chairs face butcherblock tabletops anchored to honest-to-God I-beams), there’s just no two ways about it: You’re in for meat haunches so stupendous, they apparently require structural-grade steel to hold them up. Read more »

Restaurant Review: Aldine

Photos by Courtney Apple

Photos by Courtney Apple

Everyone knows that opening a restaurant is the surest path to an empty checking account, but George and Jennifer Sabatino know better. For truly shredding your bankroll, nothing beats not opening a restaurant — as the couple spent an agonizing year doing before the first customers finally came to Aldine in October.

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Restaurant Review: Brigantessa

Photo via Brigantessa

Photo via Brigantessa

We expect a lot from restaurants these days. If they don’t transform liquids into powders or barrel-steep cocktails with homemade bitters, they’d better serve chickens that roamed freer than our children do. So when a forneria bowls you over even before the door whooshes shut as you enter, it’s time to ask what really matters most.

I’m not the only winter-bitten soul to feel that way crossing the threshold of Brigantessa, where great blasts of heat from a Vesuvian-ash pizza oven ripple along a bar teeming with platters of sausage-stuffed long hots and oil-poached swordfish and wood-grilled octopus salad. Chef Joe Cicala’s sophomore effort on Passyunk Avenue has been rollicking since it opened in October.

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Restaurant Review: Abe Fisher and Dizengoff

Photos by Jason Varney

Abe Fisher | Photos by Jason Varney

On the first evening of Rosh Hashanah this year, BuzzFeed posted a video called “The Jewish Food Taste Test.” In it, Gentiles sample iconic Ashkenazi dishes. Gefilte fish comes first. “It’s like a cold sausage with sour paste on the top,” one goy cringes. “I’m not quite sure what meat it is,” confesses a hoodie-clad Asian dude. A vaguely Nordic-looking hipster delivers the kicker: “It tastes like a grocery store smells.” Suffice it to say that these people were not eating the gefilte fish on offer at Abe Fisher.

Chef Yehuda Sichel, a longtime loyalist of Abe Fisher co-owner Michael Solomonov, stuffs rainbow trout with a delicately nutty forcemeat of striped bass, smoked trout, walnuts and matzo. After poaching the trout whole, he cuts them into what amount to three-inch-thick boneless steaks, crisps the skin, and glazes them with a sweet reduction of carrot juice and port wine. Smoked Hungarian pepper wafts from a slaw of carrot shreds and pickled raisins piled on one side. Underneath it all is a subtly mustardy puree of butter-roasted carrots, accented with horseradish—lest anyone complain that the “sour paste” is missing.

Read more about Abe Fisher and Dizengoff » 

Restaurant Review: Bank & Bourbon

 

Photo by Mike Persico

Photo by Michael Persico

Pity the Philadelphia hotel restaurant. City dwellers will flock to food trucks, night markets, pop-up gardens and pizzerias with no seats, but just try getting us to eat in a building full of minibars. For every A.Kitchen, there are five Winthorpe & Valentines (a place that really exists, no joke). With Bank & Bourbon, the downtown Loews is now targeting the ground in between.

As the successor to the awkwardly named SoleFood (again, not kidding), which merged corporate decor and loads of dead space under Miami Vice lighting, B&B clearly yearns for some kind of contemporary relevance. Its whiskey-bandwagon name and predictably rustic trappings—now dominating restaurant design so utterly that Fortune 500 conglomerates are doing it, too—are enough to make a cynic roll his eyes and sigh, “Here we go again.”

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Restaurant Review: Paris Bistro

MO Magazine Only 1411 Paris Bistro

Photos by Jason Varney

By the time Gary Cattley maneuvered his tuba into Paris Bistro’s basement, Drew Nugent & the Midnight Society had been ragging Tin Pan Alley curios for an hour already. The bar was full, and every table was taken. At the tip of the arrowhead-shaped room, wearing a brown double-breasted suit, Nugent faced a vintage 1935 Shure microphone lashed to a Walmart towel ring with springs and a bootlace, warbling into a miniature teakettle through a trumpet mouthpiece jammed in its spout.

Cattley, who’d concocted the microphone getup, smiled. Snaking past servers bearing crocks of French onion soup and parfait glasses of chocolate mousse, he squeezed onto the postage-stamp bandstand to join the unlikeliest recent development in Philadelphia nightlife: the Prohibition-era vocal jazz scene in far Chestnut Hill.

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The Revisit: Vedge

Vedge

Consider the radish…

When I reviewed Vedge two-and-a-half years ago, that was my opening line. Sometimes I wonder how many people stopped reading after the third word. But I don’t regret it. Plenty of things on Rich Landau’s menu sounded more appetizing, but the black slate bearing his “fancy radishes” was a dish that changed my whole way of thinking—not only about that lowly stepchild of the brassicas, but about vegan cooking altogether.

Five varieties came five ways, from roasted to half-roasted to raw, with an artful precision and a cup of smoked tamari soy sauce that boldly begged comparison with top-shelf sashimi. It was a definitive dish: the last word on an ingredient nobody else was really even offering a first word about. So if anything was bound to stay on Vedge’s menu, it was the radishes. As an emblem of Landau and Kate Jacoby’s galvanizing approach to vegetables, it was too perfect to replace.

Yet not too perfect to improve upon, as I discovered on a recent, belated return to a restaurant that I’ve spent the last two years sending people to.

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