Taste: Where We’re Eating: December 2008

The hot spots Philly Mag staffers are eating at this month

The debut of Mémé was bittersweet for this Rittenhouse neighborhood, still mourning Melograno’s five-block move, but hungry to see what praised (remember M Restaurant?) and embattled (umm, Silk City?) chef David Katz is cooking up. The chalkboard menu advertising foie gras tarts, oysters (the printed menu elaborates: “good condiments”) and roasted lamb for two is the focal point of the brighter, still spare space. It can be tough to navigate the “small-ish” and “larg-er” plates; “small-ish” has the feel of tapas, while “larg-er” is smaller than a full entrée, even when prices reach $25. But one thing is sure: No serving of the unusual “sizzling” mussels – caramelized in a cast-iron pan, each bite bearing a burst of lemon – could be larg-er enough to satisfy our craving.

On the street level of Atlantic City’s high-style Chelsea hotel, Stephen Starr has refashioned a HoJo into a super-chic, extra-retro version thereof, with breakfast all day, waitresses in sunny yellow uniforms, plaid-upholstered counter stools, and a wallpapered Florida room overlooking a saltwater pool. It’s a great spot to bring the grandkids for hot apple pancakes, Russian-dressing-ed double burgers, sublimely buttery pierogies and classic banana splits. (Skip the puny carrot cake.) But with prosecco cocktails, delicate crabcakes and serious steak frites on the menu, it’s also refined enough for a night out with the grown-ups.

Kaya’s Fusion Cuisine
At this new BYOB, housed in the old Carmine’s space on Havertown’s main drag, owners Michael and Jessica Hawthorne deliver local ingredients and earth-friendly practices; even their fryer oil is turned into biodiesel. Look for seasonal specials inspired by the chef’s farmers’ market excursions, like the recent sweet-and-savory heirloom pumpkin dumplings. Reasonably priced entrées – like a perfectly cooked duck breast or prefab tricolor tortellini – can be hit-or-miss, but the restaurant’s signature chocolate chip cheesecake is a – winner.

Bar 210
Classy new Bar 210, slipped inside the serene Square-side dining room at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, is a nod to our recent flirtation with serious cocktails. Here, elaborate and sometimes overwrought specialty drinks – the cool factor of strawberry-flavored orbs bubbling in your sparkling wine is offset by the difficulty of actually drinking them – meet seemingly familiar dinner options. But this is chef Matt Levin’s kitchen, so fresh potato chips come with quivering house-made ranch foam, and tempura-ed mushrooms are paired with a soy sauce/Coca-Cola combo. The miso mustard is undeniably delicious, but the playful chicken “nugget” it accompanies, it must be admitted, is too familiar, with the same mysterious texture as the original.