Nick Elmi’s Laurel Called “Stellar”

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Brian Freedman reviews Nick Elmi’s Laurel for Philadelphia Weekly. Freedman calls the East Passyunk BYOB “stellar.”

Berkshire pork lavished in its triumvirate of treatments, and each one, from silky slices of belly to roasted loin to a crepinette of braised shoulder meat secreted inside a cocoon of crisped-up brioche enshrouded in caul fat, had me longing for it days later. Dragging one bite through the mashed chestnuts, dunking another into the shimmering huckleberry-kale vinaigrette, and leaving a third one unadorned became an in situ study in the range and vision of this kitchen.

New East Passyunk BYOB Laurel serves brilliantly imaginative seafood [Philadelphia Weekly]
Laurel [Foobooz]

Where the Web Is Eating

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Oyster sliders at The Fat Ham | Two Eat Philly

Two Eat Philly sit down and order much of the menu at Kevin Sbraga’s The Fat Ham and finds lots of highlights including the oyster sliders and hot chicken.

Midtown Lunch checks out Ol’ Boy’s Soul Food Restaurant,at 243 South 6oth Street and finds great lima beans and cornbread. It’s also the fourth anniversary of Midtown Lunch, so congrats to Jamie.

Brian from Bridges, Burgers and Beer orders up the South Philadelphia Tap Room burger rare. And he loves it.

One of Adam Erace’s Best Meals of 2013

Photo by Neal Santos, City Paper

Photo by Neal Santos, City Paper

Adam Erace recognizes that the talent at High Street on Market goes behind Fork frontman Eli Kulp. Baker Alexandre Bois has turned High Street into the best bakery in town. A second dinner at the Market Street sibling of Fork had Erace crowing about one of his best meals of the year.

High Street on Market is Bready for Its Closeup [City Paper]
High Street on Market
 [Foobooz]

Grilled Cheese That’s as Good as It Gets

Photo by Mike Persico

Photo by Mike Persico

Brian Freedman reviews Meltkraft, the grilled cheese stand that’s part of the Valley Shephard Creamery in the Reading Terminal. The grilled cheeses are of course glorious, after all you can choose bacon fat or duck fat for the sandwich to be grilled in. Freedman aslo provides tips on how to resurrect the sandwich should you decide to get it to go.

Artisan Grilled Cheese at the Reading Terminal Market [Philadelphia Weekly]
Meltkraft [Foobooz]

The Revisit: Southwark

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The easiest way to tell a bar from a restaurant is by the smell of the men’s room.

I couldn’t keep that thought away from my olfactory nerve during a recent night at Southwark. It had been years since my first time there. And my first time had also been my last. I remember having a fine dinner, but one that failed to cast the spell that so many other folks had fallen under at the then-new, classically styled Queen Village haunt.

In retrospect, that was probably because I’d eaten in the back dining room instead of at the bar, where bartender George Costa was mixing Gibsons and Aviations when the rest of the city was still one big slosh of pink-lemonade Cosmotinis.

Almost ten years later everyone else has caught up—and Costa has moved on—but Southwark is still humming along. It recently installed a new chef, Sam Jacobson, whose previous tenure at Sycamore helped put Lansdowne on the dining map.
Read more »

Where We’re Eating: Han Dynasty

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Han Chiang has graduated, shutting down his beloved (if small) Han Dynasty in Old City and moving the Szechuan restaurant across the street into the enormous, opulent 180-seat space formerly occupied by Reserve steakhouse (among other operations). The bar manager from the University City location has come over to craft a cocktail program for the new space. The menu is roughly the same burn-your-face-off-spicy Chinese food that’s served at all of Chiang’s other locations (at the same price point, despite the upgraded digs), but he’s added a late-night menu inspired by Taiwanese street food, served fast and cheap across a small second bar on the main floor. Highlights include the dry pepper fried chicken wings and the pork belly buns, but be on the lookout for frequent changes as Chiang tinkers with the new board.

Han Dynasty [Foobooz]

First appeared in the December, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Where We’re Eating: SoWe in Graduate Hospital

sowe-bar-400I’ve gotten better service at the DIY froyo place off South Street than I did at SoWe. One Saturday night, I made a reservation for 8:15. The table wasn’t ready then, so our party of four was ushered outside, where we waited five minutes for a server, and then another 10 minutes for the drinks she forgot to bring us. The cocktails were comped, which almost made up for the fact that it was nearly 9 p.m. when we were finally seated—at a hastily arranged table outside the dining room, next to the bar, with broken hinges that kept knocking big flanks of wood against our knees. After the move, our food was brought out at random. My mussels and mac-and-cheese gratin were delivered simultaneously, while my friend’s starter soup came after her tuna tartare. Oh, and then our waiter decided to argue with us when we raised objections. If the food had been exceptional, the nonstop horrific service might have been forgiven. Alas, it was not.

SoWe [Foobooz]

First appeared in the December, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Where We’re Eating: Cerise in Bryn Mawr

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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.

Cerise [Foobooz]

First appeared in the December, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Great Expectations: Pizzeria Vetri Reviewed

Rotolo | Courtney Apple

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]

Little Nonna’s Takes Comfort Food To the Next Level

Spaghetti and meatballs at Little Nonna's | Photo by Jason Varney

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]

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