Archive: December, 2009
Maybe you don't celebrate Jesus' birthday with a consumer extravaganza, maybe you don't want to cook a formulaic feast again this year, or maybe you just don't care.ï¿½ Philly has a handful of restaurants, mostly in hotels, that are open Christmas day serving the full array of grub.
After the jump, check out the joints that will keep the stoves lit and the lights on this Friday.
La Fontana Della Citta (1701 Spruce St., 215-875-9990); Moderately famous for veal and seafood dishes, this one is right in pretty, sparkly Rittenhouse, serving their full a la carte menu for dinner.
S&H Kebab House (611 E. Passyunk Ave, 215-639-3214);ï¿½ Doner and chicken kebabs, Turkish veggie salad and babaganouj for peanuts.ï¿½ Super casual for those who reject holiday requirements of putting on their big-boy pants.
Divan Turkish Kitchen (918 S. 22nd St., 215-545-5790); A fancier take on Middle Eastern cuisine, the full menu will be available on Christmas.
Novita Bistro (1608 South St., 215-545-4665);ï¿½ Hey, did you know Morocco is part of the Mediterranean? Merguez, gnocchi and tagine all happily coexist here.
Fancyface Hotel Dining
Sole Food (Loew's Hotel, 1200 Market St., 215-231-7300); Seafood and complicated cocktails in a posh setting. Lovely lounge for secular merrymaking.
Fountain Restaurant (Four Seasons Hotel, 1 Logan Circle, 215-963-1500); One of Craig LaBan's precious few four-belled experiences in a setting right out of the golden age of Hollywood.ï¿½ Both the Fountain and the Swann Lounge are serving groaning tables of brunch fare all Christmas day, $98 per person.ï¿½ Last seatings are 6:30 (Swann) and 7 p.m. (Fountain).ï¿½
Lacroix (Rittenhouse Hotel, 210 W. Rittenhouse Square, 215-790-2533); The typically lavish Sunday brunch at Lacroix will be served all Christmas Day, $75 per person, until their last seating at 7 p.m.
Chez Colette (Sofitel, 120 S. 17th St., 215-569-8300); A Sunday brunch-styled buffet breakfast runs 8-11 a.m. for $21 per person; lunch and dinner menus will be available a la carte, or a $36 holiday prix-fixe menu includingï¿½ Maine lobster bisque, Muscovy duck, French cheese plate and traditional Yule log dessert.
Palace at the Ben (Franklin House, 843 Chestnut St., 267-232-5600); Dine like a Raj with a luncheon buffet, $14.95 (vegetarian) or $16.95 (omnivore).ï¿½ Dinner will be a la carte from the regular Indian and Pakistani menu.
Derek's (4411 Main St., Manayunk, 215-483-9400); Manayunk's original mover-and-shaker chef, Derek Davis, will serve his Cal-Italian influenced new American menu as usual.ï¿½ The vodka bar upstairs is waiting for you.
Chart House (555 S. Columbus Blvd., 215-625-8383);ï¿½ The a la carte dinner menu will be served riverside all day, starting at 11 a.m. for the ambitious.
The South Philly outpost of super-multi-outlet franchise Pho Hoa (1111 S. 11th St.) can now be considered home of the Ultimate Hangover Cure: a bowl of fragrant, curing noodle soup plus a little hair of the dog that bit you.ï¿½ Team Meal Ticket discovered the new liquor license on a Friday night jaunt for a bowl of #145 (roast pork, dumplings, ramen-type egg noodles, $6.50).ï¿½ The manager pointed us toward the new offerings, noting that only beer is currently available (Tiger, Sapporo, Tsingtao, Singha, etc., $2.75-$3.50 for a 12-ounce bottle) but hot and cold sakes and wine are on the way.
With its avant, one-of-a-kind maple-wood-laden design, handled by Jun Aikazi of creme design (Jose Garces' go-to dude), Zama (128 S. 19th St.), which opens this Saturday, Dec. 19, might catch you a little off guard. We kinda think that's the point, though. Chef/owner Hiroyuki "Zama" Tanaka, who's finally realizing his dream of owning his own spot after working for Stephen Starr (Pod, Morimoto) for years, is far ï¿½ and we mean far ï¿½ from your average Tuesday night California roller.
Tanaka's still-being-finalized menu will be fiercely seasonal in terms of what seafood will appear ï¿½ sustainable farming practices means you can get pretty much anything you want year-round, Tanaka explains, but he feels it's important to celebrate and showcase the freshest fish, oysters, etc. at their natural peaks. Entrï¿½es featuring pan-seared or steamed fish are described vaguely on purpose, as the centerpiece product will likely switch up weekly. "I think people will say, "He's paying attention to the market,'" says Tanaka.
He's still got some pet dishes to highlight, though, including a sizzled whitefish roll (striped bass, citrus-soy, finished with a drizzle of incredibly hot sesame oil), tofu prepared tableside in a hot pot and served with a white mushroom sauce and a New York strip steak served with a trio of green tea, smoked soy and wasabi salts. A roll called "Bullish!" ï¿½ "no, not 'bullshit,'" Tanaka reassures ï¿½ will consist of seared kobe atop sushi rice, paired with all manner of flavor-enhancing accompaniments, from pickled veg and chimichurri sauce to shiso leaf and pink peppercorns. (If his intricate multi-layered dish breakdowns are anything to go by, you're going to get way more than what you can read off the menu here.)
Zama's got some cool stuff going behind the bar, too,ï¿½ including a gang of specialty cocktails, many of which feature Calpis, that cult-following Japanese soft drink that's best described as sweet, mineralistic milk. (Try it out in the Grasshopper-san ï¿½ Midori, Calpis, vodka and Zen green tea liqueur.) Sakes both hot and cold (check out the sake-heating machine above) and a selection of hard-to-find shochu (single-distilled alcohol from Japan, which is most commonly made from barley) round out the sips.
The chef's really into branding, literally ï¿½ he's got a metal brand, bearing the name Zama, that he'll use to personalize the tamago (egg cake) that goes along with his sushi. And here's one more neat in-the-works idea that should entice the utensil-savvy ï¿½ Tanaka's planning a "chopstick club" that'll see customers paying a modest fee for a pair they can use every time they come in to eat. They'll keep them in a custom-built box on the sushi bar. The box, of course, will be made of wood.
|Photo l James Narog|
|Drinky Pabbit strikes again.|
House wine is a bad deal. Paying six bucks for a glass out of a bottle that cost $9 is not only a crappy value, the juice generally sucks.ï¿½ Convinced that casual and affordable doesn'tï¿½ have equal drinking cheap, hangover-inducing plonk, Pub & Kitchen (1946 Lombard St.)ï¿½ owner Dan Clark, general manager Ed Hackett and executive chef Jonathan McDonald got to work on getting an affordable house wine made specifically for P&K.
Oregon's A to Z Wineworks was enlisted to create a red and a white table wine that compliments McDonald's modern pub fare without molesting your wallet.ï¿½ Glasses go for $9, half-carafes $26, bottles for $40; available exclusively at Pub & Kitchen.
Check out their descriptions:
2007 White Wine:ï¿½ A bright, intense 2007 Chardonnay vinted from Dijon clones of the grape grown exclusively in Oregonï¿½s renowned Willamette Valley.ï¿½ Aged in stainless to attain classic Oregon ï¿½steely Chardonnayï¿½ character, the wine is complex and well-balanced between acid and richness, with a long, clean finish with lingering mineral and citrus notes.
2006 Red Wine: A soft, subtle 2006 Merlot blend featuring Cabernet Sauvignon for richness and Syrah for depth.ï¿½ Crafted from grapes from across the state, this wine was born in what Robert Parker called an ï¿½exceptionalï¿½ year for Oregon grapes.
It's weird to walk in to Capogiro Gelato Artisans (119 S. 13th St.) and totally bypass that tempting spaceship full of cool, colorful cream.ï¿½ But their candy selection --especially around the holidays-- is so good, sometimes you have to gird yourself and just keep on walkin', especially when buying treats for others.
I strolled right up to newcomer sweet Bissinger's Gummy Pandas, all-natural, organically sweetened gummies in antioxidant-laced flavors like Pink Grapefruit with Grapeseed, Goji Guava with Camu Camu, Blueberry Acai and Pomegranate White Tea.ï¿½ The $4 resealable bag, perfectly sized for stocking stuffing,ï¿½ yielded up a bounty of super-tender bears that were much more tart than sweet, a welcome change from your typical bouncy corn-syrup candy.ï¿½ï¿½ As both a grapefruit and gummy aficionado I give these two snaps and a twist for the unexpectedly bright, clean flavor;ï¿½ though I am suspicious of Bissinger's claim that the naturally-flavoredï¿½ pandas "deliver good taste as well as nutrition."
Grab the pandas for your lucky recipients at the 13th St. Capogiro only; 20th St. store is expecting their shipment after the holidays.
Chef and food writer Tim McGinnis, who, along with Philly Weekly music editor Brian McManus threw their first successful Spinal Tapas dinner event in October, are planning a taste-through of Texas barbecue at Philly Kitchen Share on Jan. 16. They'll be dishing out regional variations of smoked meats from the Lone Star State, including chili con carne, apple-brined pulled pork, mesquite brisket and cabrito tacos. Word to the wise, though ï¿½ tickets for the 6 p.m. seating ($40 all-inclusive) are already sold out, so get on that ish quick if you're trying to get a spot at 9. Tix are available off PKS' Web site.
What's more manly than smelling ofï¿½ leather, spice andï¿½ the righteous sweat of splitting logs in a cable knit sweater?ï¿½ Smelling like booze -- onï¿½ yourï¿½ neck, not your breath.
Hickoree's Hard Goods in Brooklyn takes the smoky bite of a fine dram and bottles it to fragrance the manliest man in their #006 Whiskey eau de toilette.ï¿½ï¿½ They describe it as "It is not a scent for every man ï¿½ this is a powerfully masculine scent. Elegance, strength, and charisma describe this fragrance . . . a deep woodsy and amber fragrance with a surprising hint of spice that reveals itself over the hours . . . notes include vetiver, labdanum, vanilla, woods and fruit.ï¿½
Snap it up (or an aftershave version) for your man at Hickorees.com.
Tonight at 6, Dock Street (701 S. 50th St.) is throwing a little shindig to celebrate the release of its first-ever barleywine, a 10.5 percent ABV ale that was aged for 10 months in Pinot Noir oak barrels from Chaddsford Winery, then bottle-conditioned. Available in 750ml big bottles only, it's the first brew to be both crafted and bottled at Dock Street's current West Philly location. The brewpub will be pouring free samples, and they'll be serving some food specials to mark the occasion, including cheese selections from Di Bruno's, a New York strip, a rabbit dish and vegetarian patï¿½, among other eats.
The Wawa that occupied the corner space in the Dorchester closed in early 2008, eliciting existential anguish in many a Shorti scarfer. A Meal Ticket reader just checked in to let us know that the 7-Eleven that's taken over the corner space is now open for business. Judging by this photo taken inside, they're focusing squarely on the essentials.
Team Meal Ticket spent some time yesterday taking in Sampan, which Michael Schulson will open the public tomorrow at 124 S. 13th Street. He first told us about the project back in July, meaning the chef/restaurateur and his team whipped this all up in a little over five months ï¿½ Usain Bolt-like speed by Philly's hurry-up-and-wait standards.
"In Philly, you have great BYOs, which typically have a lower [cost] buildout, and you have high-end design restaurants, which are usually more expensive," says Schulson. Sampan, in its chef's eyes, occupies a bit of middle group between these two camps. The atmosphere is very there ï¿½ a centerpiece bar and an open kitchen; opposing dining rooms with mod color-shifting walls; sexy, clean-lined table and banquette seating ï¿½ but the food is priced quite nicely, with plates topping out at $19.
Schulson, of Atlantic City's successful Izakaya, says he's been "pigeonholed in a good way" when it comes to his Asian cooking. Sampan's small-plates menu, which you can check out in full after the jump, rounds up influences from places like Korea (short rib with apple; rice cakes with sausage, chilies and yu choy leaves), Japan (lobster gyoza; barbecue pork ramen) and Southeast Asia (an entire satay selection; Berkshire pork belly banh mi). Meal Ticket's Felicia D shares some sexy photographic views of the grub above.
Addressing the question most Asian-concept restaurateurs who open in Center City end up fielding, Schulson's steadfast ï¿½ "I don't want to compete with Chinatown," he says. Given Sampan's location, in an increasingly self-sufficient cluster of destinations ï¿½ a handful of new restaurants are on their way to the corridor, too ï¿½ and the subtle-twist refinement of his plates, that should not be an issue.
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