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]
University City’s City Tap House is honoring Eagles quarterback Nick Foles with a dish, Catfish #9. The entree is Foles’ favorite, fresh catfish. At City Tap House, chef Chad Vetter is soaking the fish in buttermilk and then deep frying it. The catfish is accompanied by cornmeal crusted green tomatoes, Andouille white cheddar grits and Creole cocktail sauce. The Catfish #9 is $21 and 25-percent of the sales will be donated to the Eagles Youth Partnership.
Chef Vetter, who specializes in Southern cuisine was excited to learn the red-hot quarterback’s favorite food is fried catfish. ”We’re big Eagles fans here at City Tap House, and we have caught Nick Foles mania over the past few weeks” said Vetter. He and his staff might even don number 9 jerseys this week.
The Catfish #9 will only be available for a limited time. Foles, will hopefully remain hot for a long time.
City Tap House [Foobooz]
Philadelphia’s Top Chef winner, Kevin Sbraga is opening his second restaurant today. The Fat Ham will bring a broad swath of the South to 3131 Walnut Street, just across the Schuylkill River in University City.
We stopped in yesterday to take a look at a restaurant still very much being touched up for its premiere, despite hosting a couple of nights of friends and family dinners this week. Among the local culinary dignitaries that stopped in, Jose Garces and Georges Perrier. Perrier held court on the deck and even brought his dog with him.
Photos of the interior and dishes »
Country fried chicken lobster | Photo by Vanessa Beahn
In just a few days Kevin Sbraga will open the doors at The Fat Ham–his new Southern-inspired spot in the former Tria wine bar space at 3131 Walnut Street. Obviously, there will be pork in abundance, but you can also expect inventive veggies as well as dishes and flavors that pull from all over the South. Here’s our first peek at the opening night menu.
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Back in 2011, on the day Joey Vento died, I attended a “media night” at Twisted Tail with a dozen or so other writers. That night, I walked out before the entrées came, because the food and service were just plain terrible. Subsequent reviews by critics pretty much backed me up on that. Well, I am happy to report that a recent meal—featuring both a new chef and a revamped menu—was remarkably better. Standout dishes included the oxtail rillettes, a fantastic Pennsylvania trout, charcoal-grilled corn and oyster mushrooms, and a simple but delicious mac-and-cheese that had our table of six fighting over the last bite. Quite the turnaround.
509 South 2nd Street
First appeared in the October, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
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
Kevin Sbraga is opening his second restaurant in University City this fall. The Fat Ham promises to bring the heart of the South to Philadelphia. The Fat Ham will replace Tria Wine Room at 3131 Walnut Street. Sbraga was inspired to open a Southern cuisine restaurant in Philadelphia after the reception his country fried lobster received at his eponymous restaurant. Sbraga’s menu at The Fat Ham will be pork-centric, reflecting dishes found at Sunday suppers and on country porches across the South. Look for house made pickles, hot sauce, buttermilk, and fresh macaroni to share the menu with chef Sbraga’s twists on country ham, chicken-fried steak, and hot fish.
Menu items and the cocktail program »
Leigh Maida, Brendan Hartranft, and Brendan Kelly are the gastropub virtuosos of this city, and their transformation of the almost-cursed location is really quite impressive. Brian Freedman had some high praise for the Southern-esque beer bar in Washington Square West:
This is where Strangelove’s finds its greatest success: in its rendering of classics, often with a twist. To that end, fried catfish bites, all creamy and tender inside their crackly carapace, were lovely on their own and even better when dragged through a spicy-tart remoulade. Mushroom torta, constructed on a base of Mexican-style flatbread, proved to be a clever reworking of the more familiar ones that have grown so tired lately. And its topping, like the best of the dishes here, managed to be both restrained and rewarding: arugula, lemon, a truffle vinaigrette and a spread of butter-cooked corn pureed with honey. Even the fried green tomatoes, if their crown of crabmeat ravigote, tomatoes and cucumber was a touch too wet, ultimately won me over with the sheer pleasure of its flavors.
Strangelove’s takes bar food to a whole new, exciting level [Philadelphia Weekly]
Tonight and all day tomorrow the Mint Juleps are on special for $8 at Rex 1516. The South Street bar and restaurant has the timeless combo of whiskey, mint, sugar and club soda on its menu all the time but this weekend, a special derby version with peach-infused cognac, will also be available. Additionally the cocktail makes an appearance on Rex 1516′s dessert menu. The Mint Julep dessert pairs a rich mint chocolate pot de crème, topped with candied mint leaves and a pecan macaroon filled with whiskey cream frosting.
To accompany all that sweetness, Rex 1516 is offering bacon-scallion hush puppies with Cajun ailoi for just $5 for an order of five.
Rex 1516 [Official Site]
Craig LaBan travels to Conshohocken to try Southern Cross Kitchen, the latest restaurant from Kim Strengari and Marianne Gere. He was not happy with the shrip and grits, the fried pickles nor the fried chicken. They were all removed from the check but what remained didn’t impress the reviewer either.
Southern Cross has more than a few great beers to wash it down, with those 23 rotating taps featuring American stars from Firestone Walker to Left Hand’s refreshingly restrained English-style IPA, 400 Pound Monkey.
But let’s face it: the giant craft-beer list, as much as I applaud its thirsty march to prominence, is becoming an all-too common cover for restaurants that don’t have the rest of their act together. Anyone can order good beer.
And Southern Cross’ many menu flaws cannot be completely obscured by the latest high-octane Imperial IPA. Or I could be wrong, judging from the dude at the bar who obliviously devoured a plate of calamari that had such a fishy stink I could smell it from the hostess stand.
Southern Cross [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Southern Cross [Official Site]