The Revisit: A.Kitchen

a.kitchen-signYou know those people who go to new restaurants purely to order the same dish they order everywhere else? Because the “litmus test” of a good place is how well it makes a roasted chicken—or guacamole, or steak frites, or chocolate mousse, or whatever that person has arbitrarily determined to be the whole point of eating out?

It’s a dwindling species these days. Fewer and fewer chefs want to cook what the other guy’s cooking; straight-up comparisons are harder to find. And I’ve never counted myself part of that tribe anyway. Meals out are too ripe with potential adventure to waste them looking for litmus tests.

But there’s no need to be dogmatic about it, so today I’m going to nominate one anyway: stuffed squid.

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a. kitchen Reopens Under Eli Kulp

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Not sure how many of you have noticed yet, but a.kitchen was closed Monday. There’s a sign on the door and everything, explaining simply that “a.kitchen will be closed Monday, March 17 in preparation for the highly anticipated new menu by chef Eli Kulp.”

So yes, as promised, Kulp (who has already made his mark at Fork and High Street on Market) has put together a new menu for the space, which will be launching tomorrow. That snap above? Those are his uni rice cakes. There’s also pork jowl, kelp salt, potato skins, dill salsa, potato soup, chicken thighs, pine (as an ingredient) and deviled skate. And we’ve got a couple more pictures of his new dishes plus the complete new menu below. Check it all out after the jump.

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New Concept and Menu Coming For a.kitchen Under Eli Kulp

a.kitchen-signSo remember when we told you about Fork’s Eli Kulp stepping in as a partner at a.kitchen and a.bar in Rittenhouse? Yeah, well it looks like Kulp has had time to look over the space, the set-up and the menu at a.kitchen and decide how he’d like to make his mark.

He’s going to do it by changing just about every single thing about the place.

Okay, maybe not every thing, but he’s certainly changing a lot of it. Like the concept, the basic operating gear of the line and the entire menu. Hell, even the PR people are calling it a “reinvention”.

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Living in Left Field: High Street on Market Reviewed

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Eli Kulp at High Street on Market | Photo by Jason Varney

Trey Popp thoroughly enjoys High Street on Market, Eli Kulp’s follow-up to Fork.

Kulp likes to say that if Fork is “one step left of the mainstream,” High Street is meant to be another step or two to the left of that. Even some of the simplest things on offer here push the envelope on farm-to-table fare—which, let’s face it, has been sorely in need of a little pushing for a while now.

One of my favorites was a bowl of flash-fried broccoli florets battered with such a thin coating of rice flour that the resulting shell was barely visible, then tossed with a “chowchow” subjected to a lacto-fermentation that bent the tangy relish halfway toward spicy kimchi. Think tempura toned down from flavor-dominating crunch to tongue-tickling crackle, with a condiment kicked up from one-note quick-pickle to a full chord of funk.

Three Stars – Excellent

Restaurant Review: High Street on Market [Philadelphia Magazine]
High Street on Market [Foobooz]

Eli Kulp Launches A New Winter Tasting Menu Called “Our Terroir”

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Fork already has a tasting menu, but that wasn’t quite enough for chef and serial overachiever Eli Kulp. Starting tomorrow and running Tuesdays through Saturdays, he’ll be serving a new tasting menu called “Our Terroir,” inspired by the local meats and produce available during winter in the Philadelphia region and creating “a strong sense of place by incorporating the traditions, foodways and culture for which Pennsylvania is known.”

So what’ll he be serving other than snowballs dusted in road salt? How about shaved apple salad with wild hickory nuts, or Dallastown venison carpaccio with charred local cabbages and pine tip tea (which he’s calling “The Pine Barrens”). There’s “Kennett Square à la Pascal Barbot,”–local white button mushrooms turned into a galette inspired by the famed Astrance chef, but substituting cashew cheese, smoked sweet potato and citrus for Barbot’s French foie gras, and “Brown Butter Noodles,” the classic Pennsylvania Dutch dish with house-extruded spaghetti served carbonara-style with smoked pork jowl, farm egg and local pecorino. My favorite thing listed on the early preview provided by Fork? “Saffron’s Revenge,” which is rabbit from Bucks County grower Justin Hulshizer whose grandmother’s saffron is grown and eaten by the wild rabbits around his property. Nice.

But hey, don’t listen to me. There’s a video where Kulp explains the whole thing.
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NYT Video Unwittingly Reveals Entire Problem With Fishtown

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A screen shot from the New York Times video about Fishtown.

Longhaired singer/literary impresario Joey Sweeney gave a little zetz yesterday to Fork chef Eli Kulp, who seemed to look down his nose at Philadelphia when talking about the city in a GrubStreet piece. Kulp said, “People in New York just don’t go to Philadelphia.”

Nonetheless, New York’s paper of record, the New York Times, sure does — and to Fishtown, in particular. (About which we can only say, “Lots of Philadelphians move to New York and work in the media.” Write what you know, and all that.)

Thus we have “Rebirth Along the River” from 2008:

THE Fishtown district of Philadelphia was known as a tight-knit Irish Catholic enclave — and a place to score drugs. … But these days artists easily outnumber fishermen and heroin addicts.

We have a Drink Up column about Johnny Brenda’s, Frankford Hall and other Fishtown haunts. We have a section on Fishtown for 36 Hours in Philadelphia. As recently as October, we have an article about Fishtown’s “creative renaissance.”

And now — this week! — we have this video about Fishtown from the Times’ online Style section. Please watch it before we move on. I will wait.

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Three Bells for High Street on Market

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Craig LaBan is wowed from bread to cocktails at High Street on Market. And he’s similarly impressed by dinner, especially the dishes that are products of the kitchen’s obsession with fermentation.

A kimchi-style fermented parsley-mint vinaigrette adds punchy spark to the richly marbled Wagyu short rib, served as an irresistible sharing platter with a salad of roasted Brussels sprouts and crispy tater-tot-shaped rice cakes.

That rib was the best piece of beef I’ve eaten in months – and one of several unusual ingredients Kulp revels in serving. Another was a huge pork shank, a sharing entree served over a wooden bowl of cracked-corn porridge scattered with crumbles of liver sausage ragu. The cider-braised mallet of meat was so yielding, it shimmered with juice at the touch of a fork, then fell apart.

Three Bells – Excellent

High Street on Market: Veggie-focused, ambitious, bold cafe at former Fork Etc. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
High Street on Market [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]

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