Taste: Where We’re Eating: February 2007
During his stint at New York’s gilded Gilt, chef Paul Liebrandt polished his reputation as a renegade — a “bad-boy chef” full of “highbrow gimmicks” who once (as every review, enthusiastic or caustic, is sure to mention) blindfolded diners during dinner. But as Striped Bass’s consulting chef, Liebrandt has been notably restrained. Even his $85 five-course tasting is merely a tour of the menu: a standard yellowfin tuna tartare, roast monkfish perched on lentils surrounded by a lively red wine miso juice. Surprisingly, the servers are unfamiliar with even modest innovations; a trip to the kitchen is required to learn that the citrus-y dust on one plate is powdered olive oil. 1500 Walnut Street, 215-732-4444; stripedbassrestaurant.com.
The understated nautical theme at newcomer Blackfish is just like the food: streamlined, yet inviting. The whitewashed space — previously Maya Bella — is helmed by chef Charles “Chip” Roman, best known for his namesake Abington catering company. Meticulous attention is paid to each element of the weekly menu. Salads have well-dressed, crisp greens, and the Hubbard squash risotto is toothsome. Pink center slices of lamb are fanned over a hill of brussels sprouts and cranberries, and a shallow bowl holds a bouillabaisse of garlicky saffron broth, individually cooked local seafood, and baby veggies. 119 Fayette Street, Conshohocken; 610-397-0888.
Frog at the Yard
Steve Poses might just convince you to make a career change. Poses, whose Frog and Commissary led the city’s 1970s Restaurant Renaissance, is now feeding the city’s hippest in a Navy Yard cafeteria that serves the employees of Urban Outfitters and any civilian who finds herself at the very foot of Broad Street. You’re the chef in this naturally lit, industrial-chic space filled with “U create” grill, sandwich, salad, pizza and stir-fry options (as well as an assertively tart fresh lemonade). The variety of healthy and affordable items beats any Center City food court within walking distance of your office. Building 543 at the Navy Yard, 215-454-3764; frogattheyard.com.
Everybody eats at Wawa. It might just be the ultimate convenience store, with its computerized self-ordering hoagie system, push-button lattes, and, now, automatic milkshake machines. You select a flavor (coffee, vanilla, chocolate or strawberry) of pre-made frozen milkshake from the freezer, insert the plastic cup into a metal canister, and punch in your preferred thickness. The cup ascends into the machine, and one minute and $1.99 later, you’ve got yourself a milkshake. It doesn’t stand up to the freshly made real deal at places like Franklin Fountain and the Pop Shop, but it beats most quick shakes, and it sure is convenient. wawa.com.