Serious Food at Sancho Pistola’s

Photo by Neal Santos

Photo by Neal Santos

Adam Erace visits Sancho Pistola’s in Fishtown and has praise for chef and partner Adan Trinidad’s food.

The tomato-based Veracruzana sauce forming a crimson moat around the whole snapper is like a Mexican puttanesca — punchy with crushed olives, salty capers and fresh cilantro. The fish’s salamander-broiled skin shone and crinkled like tinfoil, its flesh beneath moist and glistening as it flaked into the chunky sauce dammed by tender peanut potatoes and sweet fried plantains. I’d put it up against any whole fish in the city.

Sancho Pistola’s brings solid Mexican fare and a righteous beer list to Fishtown [City Paper]
Sancho Pistola’s [Foobooz]

 

Adam Erace Falls in Love with the Bar at Avance

avance-burger-neal-santos-940

City Paper’s Adam Erace dines upstairs and down at Avance. He finds plenty to like on both floors but falls in love with the bar and burger.

The bar is also where you’ll find my favorite thing at Avance. Garnished with onion marmalade, harissa mayo and feta, the perfectly cooked Border Springs lamb burger arrives on a bronzed, sesame seed-speckled potato bun, part of the restaurant’s extraordinary bread program. It is the finest burger I have ever eaten. That it’s served at the old Le Bec makes me love it, and Avance, even more.

Out with the old French guard and in with Avance at the former Le Bec-Fin [City Paper]
Avance [Foobooz]

Sbraga Takes His Shot at Southern Cooking at The Fat Ham

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Lemon Bar by pastry chef Marqessa Gesualdi

Adam Erace approaches Kevin Sbraga’s The Fat Ham with a bit of a raised eyebrow. Can Kevin Sbraga really cook Southern food and is it good?

And mostly, it is. When dishes started arriving, clean execution and confident flavors quickly trumped geographic culinary authority. The sweetest lobster tail got country-fried (and countrified) in a buttermilk batter that cooked up crunchy and thick. The panko casing on wheels of juicy green tomato was different — light, crisp and laced with Locatelli Romano.  Boiled peanuts replaced tahini in a smart hummus that was delicious (albeit fridge-direct frosty) and paired with superior house-baked rye-and-wheat bread.

Kevin Sbraga’s sophomore effort, The Fat Ham, brings a shot of Southern comfort to University City [City Paper]
The Fat Ham [Foobooz]

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]

Pizzeria Vetri Is Serious About Pizza

pizzeria-vetri-reviewed-margarita-pizzaAdam 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]

The Guardian Praises Philadelphia’s Food and Restaurant Renaissance

serpico-facadeAs Adam Erace tweeted regarding his Philadelphia dining story for The Guardian, you could file the story under the theme, “immigration is good.” Whether from New York or much further away, newcomers continue to raise the bar in Philadelphia’s food and restaurant scene.

Philadelphia’s food and restaurant renaissance [The Guardian]

Photo via Starr Restaurants

Redemption at Twisted Tail

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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

Breaking the British Mold at Pub & Kitchen

chicken-pub-kitchen

Adam Erace checks out the second act of the popular Pub & Kitchen where the interior has been redecorated and Eli Collins is the new chef.

“I wanted to get away from the English pub mold,” Collins says of his initial alterations to P&K’s menu, a change echoed by renovations that freshened the furniture and whitened the dining room. There are still tureens of mussels and a noteworthy burger (double patties, American cheese) with fries that are still called chips, but looking beyond, for instance, to the bread service, you’ll find slices of semolina with cloud-like interiors and crusts that crackle like M&Ms shells. Collins scents the loaves with fennel, working honey into the dough for a subtle sweetness, a thread connected by the bee pollen dusted on the softened butter. Ingredients often link up this way on Collins’ menu. Flowering lemon thyme and candied lemon peel reinforced the lemonade-like citrus notes in gingered chicken-liver mousse studded with pickled blueberries.

Pub & Kitchen Gambles on a New Chef and Wins [City Paper]
Pub & Kitchen [Official Site]

Photo via Mark Stehle

Adam Erace Says Serpico Is Extraordinary

caviar-dreams-serpico

Adam Erace says that Serpico is everything we wanted it to be and maybe even more.

The dashi haunts my dreams. It comes ice cold, an umami-dense tonic of kombu broth fortified with bonito, mirin and soy so inexplicably refreshing it should be served with a Collins glass and a straw. Instead, the staff pours it tableside over a landscape of purslane, charred pea tendril, shiso, compressed zucchini, cucumber pearls in sugar-snap pea pods and cubes of chilled crème fraîche that look like tofu and taste like mozzarella. If you order only one dish at Serpico, make it this one. If you order only two dishes, make the second the decadent egg custard. The mix of eggs and dashi steams in its own little cocotte till barely set; wobbling like a panna cotta, its brown-butter-submerged surface bears enough rare Siberian sturgeon caviar to explain the $25 price tag.

Serpico: Everything We’ve Waited For [City Paper]
Serpico [Official Site]

Photo by Jessica Kourkounis

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