If you're planning a trip to the City of Brotherly Love...
There are precious few verities in life -- but a host of variables... And nowhere is this more apt to be the case than with regard to restaurant dining. Returning to an eatery that set off major bells and whistles several years before is often an extremely disappointing experience. A great many things may have transpired in the interim: an establishment changes hands, a chef moves on... and all bets are off.
On the other hand, maybe you CAN go home again... After a decade's absence, my wife and I recently return to one of our old favorite haunts, Philadelphia's Friday, Saturday, Sunday. And I'm pleased to report that one of the leaders in this city's original restaurant renaissance remains a neighborhood "classic" in every sense of the word.
The ambiance is as cozy as ever, the eclectic cuisine continues to deliver the goods, and the wine list is still one of the incredible oenological bargains in town. There have been a few changes, however. Like printed menus, for instance... Although the famous iridescent chalkboard still announces the daily specials.
An excellent place to begin is the "Pate Maison," which changes nightly. Featured during our visit was a rich and creamy chicken liver pate flavored with brandy and garnished with cornichons and heavenly French bread. Another winner among the starters is the cold asparagus embellished with a chunky tomato vinaigrette.
Entrees are equally ingratiating, and finny creatures tend to play a most prominent role. Recently sampled were a tilapia filet encrusted with seasoned breadcrumbs and a luscious poached salmon spruced up with a sorrel beurre blanc.
And be sure to save room for dessert, as all are homemade. The coconut cream pie is far from ordinary, and sports an incredibly delicious crust, and the lemon/blueberry chantilly is also up to the mark.
Habitues of this delightful establishment are well aware of its one glaring shortcoming: tables are entirely too close for comfort. Which means, unfortunately, that it is virtually impossible not to eavesdrop on other people's conversations -- especially when they rattle on like a busted chain saw. A medical doctor at an adjacent table, for example, proceeded to share with her dining companions the intimate details of a patient's urinary tract infection. So much for doctor-patient confidentiality. And nauseating to say the least... especially when you're attempting to enjoy an excellent 1997 King Estate Pinot Gris.
Oh, Well, Come for the fun and the food, plan on spending approximately $100 per couple... and hope that the surrounding conversations will be infinitely more appetizing.
The Artful Diner
The Artful Diner is the food critic for New Jersey Online. His most current review can be seen at http://www.nj.com/dining . An archive of past reviews for New Jersey Online can be found on this Web site at http://www.artfuldiner.com/newjersey.html .
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