Arde Osteria Gets One Bell

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Water buffalo mural at Arde Osteria in Wayne

It’s a high-stakes pizza game in Wayne on the Main Line. Craig LaBan notes ten spots within a few blocks in downtown Wayne that are serving up pizza. In LaBan’s review of Ardé Osteria & Pizzeria, he reveals that the Regina Margherita at neighboring Vecchia is one of the best now in the region. As for Ardé, things are a bit more dicey though the Inquirer critic sees potential.

My first visit to Ardé was odd in many respects, beginning with the fact that our pizzas were delivered unexpectedly as a late third-course between entrees and dessert. Either way, they were thoroughly scorched, the coveted leoparding of dark spots having swollen into a charry inner-tube of briquette-sized puffs crumbling black dust over every bite. The delicate harmony of tangy San Marzano tomatoes and sweet mozzarella was overwhelmed. A similarly burnt “mais” pie topped with incinerated corn had other issues, with half the crust refusing to rise and a noticeably salty afterburn.

One Bell – Hit-or-Miss

Craig LaBan visits Ardé Osteria & Pizzeria [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Arde Osteria [Foobooz]

Restaurant Review: Kensington Quarters

Kensington Quarters | Photo by Michael Persico

Kensington Quarters | Photo by Michael Persico

You walk by Bryan Mayer’s butcher case at Kensington Quarters, and you develop certain expectations about what awaits you in the dining room. These deepen as you pass the meat locker, a sauna-paneled light box punctuated by widescreen windows framing floodlit views of hanging hog carcasses. By the time you reach your seat (the chairs face butcherblock tabletops anchored to honest-to-God I-beams), there’s just no two ways about it: You’re in for meat haunches so stupendous, they apparently require structural-grade steel to hold them up. Read more »

Two Bells for Lo Spiedo

Murals by "Distort," the same artist who did the much more wild artwork at Alla Spina.

Craig LaBan reviews the Navy Yard’s Lo Spiedo. LaBan enjoys much of the menu but inconsistencies have him wondering if the South Broad Street restaurant can be the magnet that Marc Vetri’s Osteria is on North Broad.

The meats and seafood are obviously the main event, and each brimmed with a zest of the live-fire.

The spit-roasted octopus, in contrast to the roll, was magnificent undressed on the plate, its long, tender arms kissed with little more than olive oil, lemon and char. The spice-rubbed brisket was also superbly rendered, moist and infused with smoke. But I preferred it as a composed sandwich, chopped on toasted bread with slaw and horseradish, rather than as a lonely hunk in a pan, as it is offered in the entrée section.

Two Bells – Very Good

Lo Spiedo: Go for the wings, stay for the octopus arms [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Lo Spiedo [Foobooz]

Rubb: Good Old Fashioned Barbecue in Manayunk

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After much ado, Rubb, a beer, bourbon and barbecue joint in Manayunk finally opened. And now, Philadelphia Weekly’s Brian Freedman has visited the restaurant and is singing its praises.

 Rubb will win over plenty of fans as word gets out about this simply decorated yet inviting spot an easy drive from the city. The rub itself is a uniquely sweet one, yet not overwhelmingly so, and it’s plenty complex. When applied to the generous ribs and allowed to meld with the meat over the course of its stint in the smoker, an almost molasses-like texture develops on top, sticking to the teeth in layers with each bite and providing the slightest sense of crystalline crunch. Bumping up against the smoky-earthy meat, the result is a mouthful that’s rich in sweetness and savor in equal measure, and a seriously fine serving of ribs.

Rubb [Philadelphia Weekly]
Rubb [Official]

Three Bells for V Street

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The newest seats at V Street.

Craig LaBan visited V Street this weekend, three months after Vedge chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby opened their Rittenhouse spot.

Vedge fans can get a more casual, globe-trotting taste of Rich Landau’s culinary magic at this affordable Rittenhouse Square ode to international street foods, which just happens to also be vegan. From Hungarian fritters to Latin-inspired carrot “asado,” borders melt away on these small plates, thanks to Landau’s inventive vision and uniquely wide-ranging command of bold ethnic flavors. The long and minimalist three-room space is an intimate and cozy haven to graze, watch chefs work the grill at the back kitchen counter, or sip an excellent cocktail at the airy front bar while 19th Street strolls by.

Three Bells – Excellent

V Street [Philadelphia Inquirer]
V Street [Foobooz]

Restaurant Review: Aldine

Photos by Courtney Apple

Photos by Courtney Apple

Everyone knows that opening a restaurant is the surest path to an empty checking account, but George and Jennifer Sabatino know better. For truly shredding your bankroll, nothing beats not opening a restaurant — as the couple spent an agonizing year doing before the first customers finally came to Aldine in October.

Read more »

Two Bells for Blue Duck Sandwich Co. in Northeast Philly

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Craig LaBan ventures to Northeast Philadelphia this week and finds Kris Serviss (COOK Masters alum) and Joe Callahan’s Blue Duck Sandwich Co., a BYOB that’s waking up the neighborhood.

[W]hile Serviss plays with ingredients that would be at home on any trendy Center City menu – black garlic, sunchokes, crispy tri-color cauliflower (very loosely inspired by Zahav) – the core items here are simply the kitchen’s whimsical updates to familiar comfort flavors. They up the savor quotient on the classic blue-plate special with meatloaf made from wild boar (delicious, though it could use a little more softness) and earthy, sweet mashed parsnips. Tender gnocchi play sweet on spice, swapping sweet potatoes for the usual white spuds, and adding the hot spark of shaved jalapeño rings to the nutty gloss of sage brown butter.

Two Bells – Very Good

Blue Duck Fills the Bill in N.E. Philly [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Blue Duck Sandwich Co. [Foobooz]

Restaurant Review: Brigantessa

Photo via Brigantessa

Photo via Brigantessa

We expect a lot from restaurants these days. If they don’t transform liquids into powders or barrel-steep cocktails with homemade bitters, they’d better serve chickens that roamed freer than our children do. So when a forneria bowls you over even before the door whooshes shut as you enter, it’s time to ask what really matters most.

I’m not the only winter-bitten soul to feel that way crossing the threshold of Brigantessa, where great blasts of heat from a Vesuvian-ash pizza oven ripple along a bar teeming with platters of sausage-stuffed long hots and oil-poached swordfish and wood-grilled octopus salad. Chef Joe Cicala’s sophomore effort on Passyunk Avenue has been rollicking since it opened in October.

Read more »

The Pub in Pennsauken Gets Reviewed

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The Pub gets in the holiday spirit | Photo by Dan McQuade

Danya Henninger reviews The Pub for the Courier-Post and finds that the throwback steakhouse is still worth a trip, for the drinks, the all-you-can-eat salad bar and of course, the steaks.

No seasoning is added to the choice cuts, but the char over hickory is enough to saturate even the biggest cuts of meat with flavor. A 12-ounce filet mignon was surprisingly easy to polish off — I don’t think I’ve ever seen three quarters of a pound of beef disappear so fast.

At $35.99 (including salad bar and sides), that giant filet is a good value. The stuffed flounder ($25.99) was less exciting, but still a good deal, since the huge mound of seafood was full of big, sweet jumbo lump crab, and the fish was perfectly flaky.

Dining Review: The Pub
The Pub [Official]

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