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]
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]
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]
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]
As 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
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
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 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
From Cafe de Laos to Ratchada, the South Philly Thai/Lao haven may have changed its name, but to Erace, it’s still bringing the heat—both literally and metaphorically.
…the heat of the crushed red chilies colliding with the sweet of palm sugar, sour of lime juice and salty of fish sauce and peanuts in the chaotic harmony that underscores Thai cooking. They flamed the tom zap, the lemony soup from the north poured over chopped spare ribs that separated from their bones like bananas from their peels, and the tom kha, the quenching coconut soup from the south best provisioned with tender curls of pink shrimp. They electrified the laab duck, finely minced bits of tender meat, unctuous fat and candy-shell skin greened with cilantro and scallion, blended with bell pepper, red onion, pineapple, lime, fish sauce and roasted sticky rice — an uncommon ingredient made from roasting raw grains with lemongrass, kaffir-lime leaves and galangal and grinding the mix into a toasty herbal gunpowder. The flavorful, dynamic mix was piled over lettuce, though to call it a salad would be like calling a T. rex a lizard.
Ratchada Brings Together the Big Flavors of Thailand and Laos [City Paper]
Ratchada [Official Site]
Adam Erace publishes his thoughts on Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen, which he describes as “a haven of tempeh Reubens and Nitro Milk Stouts catering to the Memphis Taproom/Johnny Brenda’s set”. Erace praises the restaurant’s all-inclusiveness, but scratches his head at some of the cuisine choices.
He has this to say of Cedar Point’s menu and patronage:
Dougherty’s menu balances meaty (jambalaya, pulled-pork grilled cheese) and meatless (vegan cheese board, fried-green-tomato po’boy) fare, and the down-to-earth staff makes Old and New Fishtown equally welcome. When I arrived just after happy hour — deals include $2 off draughts, $1 off cans and wine and half-price wings — all sorts were camped out and enjoying the late sun on the deck: couples, CrossFit buddies, beer philosophers, grandparents, teachers celebrating graduation, girls in short-shorts and tank tops, guys in short-shorts and tank tops, dad groups with curly haired Little Leaguers in tow. At one point a woman wandered in with a Hula-Hoop, and no one batted an eye.
Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen [City Paper]
Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen [Official Site]
Photo by Neal Santos