Chef Ben Thomas and his wife, Elena, have taken a big risk opening Cerise, a BYOB in Bryn Mawr. If you want to have dinner here, you have to buy into a $47 four-course prix-fixe menu (a $39 three-course is available Wednesday and Sunday), and at that price, proper Main Liners are going to balk at the lax (though very friendly) service, the too-bright room and the lack of table linens. And though the menu can be a little hit-or-miss, the French-trained Thomas, who has worked at Lacroix and Sycamore, does have some real skills, which he best shows off with his perfect chicken liver mousse and house-made pastas. It’s just too bad you can’t order them à la carte.
First appeared in the December, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
Rotolo | Courtney Apple
Trey Popp comes to Pizzeria Vetri with great expectations but too many of the pizzas literally flopped.
The further away I got from the pizza menu, though, the better Pizzeria Vetri got. There are lovely salads: arugula and roasted fingerlings slathered with killer pesto, and a “wood oven” salad that’s a belly-filling medley of corn, chanterelles, blistered green beans and top-drawer ham, studded with ricotta salata. There’s exceptionally fresh-tasting kegged wine from the Gotham Project, and bottled sloe-gin fizzes and Americanos that serve two for $12. The rotolos are instantly the best savory pastry in town: crispy pizza dough coiled Cinnabon-style around mortadella and ricotta, doused with pistachio pesto.
Two Stars – Good
Restaurant Review: The Best Food at Pizzeria Vetri Isn’t the Pizza [Philadelphia Magazine]
Pizzeria Vetri [Official Site]
Spaghetti and meatballs at Little Nonna’s | Photo by Jason Varney
Trey Popp finds that Marcie Turney has breathed new life into red-gravy Italian at Little Nonna’s.
Just to be safe, though, order the polenta and meatballs to share; Turney packs her cornmeal with enough cream, taleggio, fontina and parmesan to put the most shameless cheese grits to shame. And you’ll want to have room at dinner’s far end for pastry chef Sara May’s spumoni, which ditches the usual neon palette in favor of a moody sundae richly muddled with roasted cherries, chocolate pizzelles and pistachio-olive oil.
Three Stars – Excellent
Restaurant Review: Next-Level Comfort Food at Little Nonna’s [Philadelphia Magazine]
Little Nonna’s [Foobooz]
Mistral in Princeton lands reviews in the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer this week. Scott Anderson and business partner, Stephen Distler who also on Elements in Princeton, opened the BYOB in May with Ben Nerenhausen as the chef de cuisine. Both the Times’ Fran Schumer and the Inquirer’s Craig LaBan gave the Mistral a “very good” rating. Both highlighted the octopus and scallops. LaBan definitely had problems with service (they lost his reservation on one occasion) or he might have even rated it higher.
Small Plates, and a Taste of Many Cultures [New York Times]
Mistral helps put Princeton in culinary Ivy League [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Mistral [Philadelphia Magazine]
Late Summer Farmstead Collection | Photo by Courtney Apple
Trey Popp says it’s a shame that Talula’s Daily’s chef Scott Megill’s dinner was interrupted by a sales pitch.
But somewhere before dessert and the individually tailored cheese course, our cheerful waitress broke the enchantment of Aimee Olexy’s ode to homespun coziness by delivering what you’d have to call a sales pitch. Everything on the table, she divulged, was a product for sale by Anthropologie.
Two-and-a-half stars – Good to Excellent
Philadelphia Restaurant Review: Talula’s Daily [Philadelphia Magazine]
Talula’s Daily [Philadelphia Magazine]
BBQ Lamb with cumin flavor. Photo by Jason Varney.
Trey Popp reviews Xi’An Sizzling Woks (formerly Xi’An Famous Food) in Chinatown. There he discovers a side of pickled garlic cloves that set the tone for his glowing review.
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Adam Erace reviews Marc Vetri’s temple of pizza, Pizzeria Vetri, and comes away impressed.
They all begin with a dough that eschews oil, per Neapolitan doctrine, and cooks up with a crisp crust and soft but structured center. Most follow with an aurora of the bright, tangy tomato sauce, then a collection of toppings, like house-made sausage, mozzarella, roasted fennel and fennel fronds. That pie, the Salsiccia, was great, but I liked the straightforward Margherita even better.
The shiniest new addition to the Vetri Family is turning out serious pies [City Paper]
Pizzeria Vetri [Foobooz]
Indian Sloppy Joe sliders were another hit
Craig LaBan has problems with the service and execution at Munish Narula’s Tiffin Bistro in South Philadelphia.
[T]he Bistro has an air of the unattended stepchild, with a menu executed by line cooks whose efforts seem adequate for takeout, but not much more.
There are definitely some worthy highlights, especially with the starters. The chaat of fried baby eggplants drizzled with yogurt and multihued chutneys is a novel twist on the crunchy-creamy-tart chaat salad craze that’s finally taking hold locally. The cauliflower bezule, florets crisped in chickpea batter, then glazed in creamy coconut and mustard seed, are a hearty taste of South India.
One Bell – Hit-or-miss
Dining Review: Tiffin Bistro [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Tiffin Bistro [Facebook]
There is something endearingly goofy to me about operations that try to make us feel better about our terrible eating habits simply by attempting to make the foods we shove in our snack holes healthier for us. At Farmer’s Road, they make the argument that it isn’t the drive-thru itself that’s bad, but the stuff generally available there. Here, you can order a breakfast sandwich made with all-natural eggs, a whole-wheat bun and locally sourced scrapple, or a stadium hot dog made with an all-natural grass-fed beef dog, low-sodium mustard, low-sodium sauerkraut and a rye pretzel hot-dog roll, with sweet-potato chips on the side, a vanilla-protein-and-skim-milk root-beer float to quench your thirst, and vegan krispy-rice treats for dessert. There are salads, edamame,
burgers and wraps, bento boxes for the kids … and the surprising thing about the place is that nothing tastes as tiresome as the menu seems determined to make it sound.
Farmer’s Road Drive Thru
210 Painter’s Crossing, Village at Painter’s Crossing Shopping Center
Chadds Ford, PA
First appeared in the September, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
Adam Erace returns to Twisted Tail two years after its opening and finds the addition of chef Leo Forneas has made the Southern restaurant and bar, a destination worth checking out for more than just the bourbon and shuffleboard.
Back for dinner, he [Leo Forneas] redeemed himself with an array of vibrant tapas cooked on the Maine hardwood charcoal-powered grill: strips of smoky veal bacon in a garland of pickled red onion; tender marinated quail whose dainty legs I dragged through tomatillo chimichurri; lime-splashed pork-belly squares not unlike the kind Forneas ate as a kid in the Philippines. Forneas comes from a family of food people. His grandfather owns a butcher shop, his grandmother a fishing boat. The chef is at his best when pulling from his heritage, connecting dots between the tropical island of his youth and the American South of his imagination — dots that seem to surprise even him.
Once disappointing, the Twisted Tail makes good with a new chef [City Paper]
Twisted Tail [Official Site]
Photo by Neal Santos