Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tequila's

1602 Locust Street, Philadelphia

A work day before a holiday is always a wash, which is why I hate to waste a hard earned vacation day. So, much of my creative team decided to take this opportunity to head out to Tequila's for lunch together.

We were greeted in Spanish by one of their friendly servers. A group of seven had no trouble getting a table. However, even for mid-day the lighting inside was too bright, which is a shame because it's oozing with charm and beautiful architectural details. They had some interesting specials one of which was a shrimp, lobster and crabmeat enchilada.

Try their margaritas which come served in cobolt rimmed Mexican blown glassware. Yummy. Tequila's is edging towards upscale Mexican with a casual attitude. Most entrees are a notch above tacos and burritos. I've been there several times, including for a New Year's Eve with a group and have always had good food. Give it a try.

What others say: here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Buddakan

I wish I could be more specific about our experience at Buddakan recently. All I can say is everything, I mean EVERYTHING, was good. And if you don't get the Dip Sum Doughnuts (five-spice sugar mini doughnuts served warm with blackberry jam, chocolate sauce and ginger cream cheese) for dessert, you are out of your mind. They were amazing!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chloe

232 Arch Street, Philadelphia, 215.629.2337


Chloe is one of our old standbys when we've got a play at the Arden Theatre. It's always good and we always get a table even though it's an intimate space. And since we had our first play this past Thursday, we grabbed a bottle of wine and headed there. It was close to 7 pm and there were two tables left. While we were there, there was never a line, but all tables were full.


They start you off with hummus and bread. The hummus is mild, not too garlickly or spicy. I opted for the Chloe Salad ... baked panko crusted goat cheese, mixed greens, red onion, orange chipotle dressing ($6.50) and had the Red Snapper special with sauteed polenta. It was so much food and so yummy.

We never time for dessert, but once we actually went back for it. It was worth it. And a great date place too!

Read what others think: Here, here, and here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pub & Kitchen

1946 Lombard St. (215) 545-0350

Before heading to Jamaican Jerk Hut, we stopped in the new Pub & Kitchen now housed in the old Chaucer's spot. We only had drinks to scout the place and it was jam-packed tight. They lightened up the decor, took the gorgeous wood off the ceiling (wah!) and opened up the windows. Nice! Definitely heading back to check out the grub.

Read what other's say: Phoodie; City Paper (photos)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jamaican Jerk Hut

1436 South St, Philadelphia (215) 545-8644

I've been wanting to go to Jamaican Jerk Hut all summer. What could be better than hanging outside with your friends, enjoying Jamaican food and our own beverages in a super casual atmosphere with some reggae in the background?

I was incredibly disappointed and skeptical after reading some reviews. But, fortunately, we had a good experience. Although, going into it with low expectations could have made all the difference. At the very least, the food was good. Service, for the most part was fine, but started off slow. We had to find our own bottle opener and corkscrew to get ourselves started. No big deal. There's a double lot yard next door where they host live reggae bands. Unfortunately, not while we were there. But we sat outside with a diverse crowd on the covered deck and almost forgot we were in the city. Oh, and the bathroom is pretty much in the kitchen.

For appetizers we had the Coconut Shrimp. Four to a plate and loaded with shredded coconut. The flavor was nice and subtle, but the coconut wasn't as crispy all around. Jerk Wings were coated in lots of spices and left your mouth on fire. I could only handle one, and they were small.

Most of us had the Mango Chicken. Comes with rice and peas and fried plantains as sides. Chicken is bone in, lots of small parts so beware of the little bones. Good, sweet flavor. Not dried out. Others had the Jerk chicken. Same sides. Good, super spicy. Lotsa food!

By no means will it knock your socks off, but it's worth a try if you're already in the city.

Read what other's have to say.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Jose Pistola's

213 S. 15th Street, Philadelphia

We don't typically have to rack our brains to come up with a decent restaurant in Philly. But, it was after a 4 pm Phillies game and we had contingencies...it needed to be walking distance from the train station and had to be casual enough where Phillies t-shirts blended in. We ended up at Jose Pistola's in the old Copabanana II on 15th Street.
Decor is bare, much toned down from the Copa days. Dark. Exposed brick. A few tv's if you want to catch a game.

For a Saturday night, it wasn't crowded, which was fine with us. The beer selection was excellent--80 international and domestic drafts and bottled beers, including next-to-impossible to find Russian River Pliny the Elder IPA. Phenomenal. However, when we noticed the weekday happy hour featuring $2 PBR, Yuengling and Bud specials, the place when down a few notches.

We decided to get a few things to pick at so we started with the Pico de Gallo, Guacamole and some other pureed green dipping sauce that was a little tangy and sweet. Everything was fresh and flavorful with a nice kick, but not too much.

I heard good things about the Fish Tacos ($5), tempura battered grouper tossed with spicy mayo and pickled cabbage. You get two and they didn't disappoint.

Some friends showed up and they opted for a heaping plate of Chicken Nachos ($11.50) to share. It was loaded with shredded chicken, black beans, lots of cheese, tomatoes and jalapenos. There weren't many chips without something on it.

Good food. Good beer. Worth a visit.

Others say: Yelp, CityPaper, Around Philly,

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dewey Beach eats.

We were in Dewey Beach, DE and, of course, we ate out. So here's a quick summary.

North Beach - go for the Dewey Devils with a floater of 151 and whipped cream. Don't go for the food, unless you need to coat your stomach for the Devils with floaters. Also, don't sit on the railing. The rocks below hurt. And, if you need to go #1, there's sand all around. No one will know. Yeah, it's that kind of place.

The Starboard - absolutely get there for drinks. Sunday's Bloody Mary's are balls to the wall craziness. The food - only good when you're hung over or drunk, which most are. Hardcore drinkers welcome!

Nalu - new, and the menu looked amazing. Saw it too late to get there. Go!

Nick's - sandwiches served by Mamma with a mustache. Used to be good. Must of been hungover.

Ed's - steamed crabs, chicken, fries, etc. Had a couple bad crabs, but still good. Yum.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Primavera Pizza Kitchen & Milkboy

Primavera Pizza Kitchen
7 E. Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610.642.8000


Milkboy
2 E. Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610.645.6259


There's a certain radius from your home where dining out doesn't seem like "dining out". I'm not sure what that radius is, but I've never been one to run to the nearest restaurant for a meal.

This may be the reason why we've been in our house for over a year and are now just getting around to trying Primavera Pizza Kitchen, a mere three blocks away. (It has nothing to do with the horrific website, although that's bound to scare plenty away.) Also, it's enormous. And enormous restaurants to me are synonymous with mediocre food. There's just too many plates moving through to pay attention to the details. JMO.

We didn't intend to go there. In fact, we hemmed and hawwed about going there. But, what the hell, we thought. We started at the MilkBoy for their BYOB night. (BTW, if you type in Milkboy.com, you'll get this great picture that goes no where.) Not so long ago, we saw Jeffrey Gaines and it was incredibly intimate. I mean, Jeffrey Gaines in a coffee house. Come on! I actually photographed the drummer with his own camera. The Milkboy Happy Hour is scheduled from 6 to 10 pm on Thursdays. We arrived, wine bottle in hand, to find just two occupied tables and the band barely set up ... at 7 pm! So, awkwardly, we sat. Long enough to have one glass of wine and high tail it outta there for dinner elsewhere. They were nice enough to refrigerate our wine until we returned later that night. Across the street to Primavera, we wandered.

Hesitantly, we walked in. The entire downstairs was full. Full with a lot of older diners. We almost left. But we didn't. And, yes, there is an upstairs. Don't go unless you're desperate.

The wine list was mediocre at best. A few names were recognizable, but 0f course, they were out of the Savignon Blanc, the only one that was up our alley. We went with our next, and only, choice that ended up being too sweet for our liking. This would prove to be a precursor of things to come. The beer selection was standard domestic (Read: Miller, etc.)

We asked about sharing the Insalata Mista salad and they happily obliged, even stating that the salad size was perfect for 2 people. It wasn't special, but the ingredients were fresh.

I had Agnolotti - pasta filled with chicken and cheese tossed with roasted peppers and rosemary in a tomato cream sauce, worth bringing home in a doggy bag, but didn't since we were headed back to Milkboy. The husband had the Pescatora - linguini with clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and calamari in a spicy tomato sauce, which was great. FLAVOR! The shrimp, albeit small, were fresh. However, both the clams and mussels were bad.

All in all, it was an okay experience. But once again, it was an experience that demonstrated places like this exist and persist because there is no other option in the 'burbs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Christopher's

108 North Wayne Ave., Wayne, (610) 687-6558

Bustling, hip Christopher's in Wayne is everything you would NOT expect from a family-friendly restaurant. For one, it doesn't look like a chain restaurant. It's actually furnished and decorated tastefully in a casual elegant style, and yet perfectly comfortable for kids. The staff is friendly and patient, and the menu offers a full range of grown-up American dishes.

On a recent Saturday evening, we stopped in and found every table occupied by families. A good sign, we thought. We only waited about 15 minutes. Crayons, coloring paper and bread arrived right away with the menus. The beer list included lots of local micro-brews and your standard domestics. All wines come by the glass, 1/2 carafe or bottle. The most expensive bottle being $45. Plus, some fun cocktails like P.I.N.K. martini and Blueberry Creamsicle.

We started with the Sesame Crusted Tuna ($18.50) with Thai ginger sauce, wasabi mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables. I'm a sucker for mashed potatoes, and these had a nice, little kick. The tuna came rare as I asked, and it was yummy.
Husband had Barbecue Pulled Pork ($14.50) with grilled bread with garlic mashed potatoes and a side salad. Good, fresh, and you could actually taste the garlic. The kids didn't get too creative only having the pasta with butter ($4). But, if they wanted to, the options were there. And, chocolate cake was a winner.

Absolutely worth a visit. Without kids? Go a little later when they're all in bed.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Standard Tap

2nd & Popular Sts., Philadelphia, 215.238.0630

Nothing could be better after rock climbing than a freshly poured beer from the Standard Tap, one of many great bars and eateries in Northern Liberties. Don't expect to get typical bar food here, although it may appear that you could. No chance. You definitely won't get any food between 3:30 and 5 pm when they take a break between lunch and dinner. And, by no means, should you think you'll get a Bud or Coors. Just walk away.

What's extra special: they have two hand pumps for the smoothest pour around. Beer taps change on occasion, so who knows what'll it be. Dark, woody and eclectic right down to the servers. Definitely stop in when you're in the neighborhood.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Parc

227 S. 18th St., Philadelphia, 215.545.2262

Parc hasn't been open even a week yet, but I work nearby and have been watching the crowds descend on it. It's Steven Starr, after all. Well, it's also Girls Dinner so why not head there to see what the hype is all about. We called the same day to see about reservations but the earliest was 5:30 (way too early) and the next open was 9:45. We stopped by about 8:15 to see how long the wait would be. For an outdoor table facing either Rittenhouse Square or on Locust Street, it was 1 1/2 hours, inside was an hour. We headed over to Tria for a drink first and to wait out the crowd.

I like Tria because it's a great place to try new wines and cheeses, plus they pair their cheese with interesting condiments. We had La Tur ($9), a goat, sheep and cow's milk semi-soft cheese from Piedmont, Italy, with honey marmalade and Cashel Blue ($7), a blue-veined cow's milk cheese from County Tipperary, Ireland, with a chocolate fig sauce. The La Tur is their most popular. I'm not sure why. We didn't love it.

By 9ish, we went back to Parc and were seated right away. Although, the wait for a table outside was still an hour!

The decor is authentic vintage Parisian. Every little detail was considered, right down to the European styled phone number on the awning out front. The floor is made up of tiny tiles. The tables are marble top. Huge mirrors on the walls have been antiqued. The bar is Paris in Philly. The only thing I noticed that wasn't so French was the wine list. A bottle of Angeline Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley, California was priced at $42. That hurts, especially when I see it in Total Wine for $10.

The first thing you'll notice when you walk in is the noise level. It's astronomical. Even at 10 pm, we were still yelling to each other. The crowd is about as diverse as Philadelphia. Old, young, sloppy, dressed up. Everyone is checking this place out. And they should be. It's amazing. Steven Starr has simply outdone himself.

The menu is, surprise, Parisian bistro. The winners for the night were the Tuna Carpaccio and the Boeuf Bourgiunonne. Girlfriend Roz does not ever eat anything raw and she raved about the tuna. So, I'm just sayin', it was good. My bronzino was delicious other than it was a tad overcooked. Lingiuni with Clams was just ok. Service was on the slow side, but we'll give it a pass since it's new. According to our server, they are taking 400 to 500 reservations a night, and doing about 800 covers, if that gives you any indication of what's going on here.

Get there. Run, don't walk.

Others say: Phoodie;

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A two-fer quickie: Maia and Tango

Edited to add: Closed

Maia is the new mega-restaurant/market/coffee shop by the Feury brothers that recently opened in Villanova. While I am completely turned off by the location - a corporate office setting next to the Blue Route - once you walk inside, you're transported to a food connoisseur's haven. Since we opted not to eat there because it was so loud and too bustling for our mood, I can give you a first impression of the atmosphere.

Immediately when you walk in you'll be overwhelmed. It's loud to begin with. Large bar to the left with tables for bistro dining. Prepared-foods market straight ahead to the right. They have a nice take out beer selection too. Upstairs is the fancy dining with an outside patio. My first thought was that it reminded me of an upscale cafeteria/food court. Don't get me wrong, it's really nice. There's just a heck of a lot going on.

Others say: Philly; The Brew Lounge;

Tango
We weren't up for the noisy dinner so we headed back towards home and stopped at Tango. We had lunch there a while ago and were really impressed with the menu and wine selection. But, we were a little let down. Average is how I'd describe the food. Maybe I'd go back though and give it another chance.

Others say: Citysearch; TripAdvisor

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bindi

105 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, 215.922.6061

It was a Girls Dinner night and Girlfriend Roz (who refuses to eat most ethnic cuisines) was covered in Poison Something to venture out comfortably. So Girlfriend Mo and I jumped at the opportunity and headed straight to Indian BYO Bindi (after a warm-up drink at Vintage, of course (get there if you love wine) ).

Inside, it's stylishly dark, narrow with high ceilings, tight and loud. As much as we wanted to absorb the interior energy and ambiance, it was a nice night and we opted to sit outside. Watching the Gayborhood nightlife blossom is always entertaining.

Our service was fine, nothing to complain or brag about. To start us off, a complimentary flatbread of sorts showed up. Two, to be exact. And they were like giant potato chips with embedded toasted sesame seeds and a dipping liquid. Tasty only with the dips. Otherwise, it was cardboard-like.

The menu has just the right amount of options so as not to be overwhelming, and there's something for everyone. But, don't expect your traditionally classic Indian dishes. These have a little twist. Well done, we thought. For an entree, I started with the Lobster Pani Puri ($9) which came with a lime tamerind water to splash on. Girlfriend Mo had the pan seared scallops and cauliflower pakora ($11) with tomato-mustard seed chutney, thai basil pea puree, pea shoot salad. Surprisingly yummy.

Mo had the chana masala chicken ($18), a fenu greek-yogurt marinated chicken, ginger, chickpea-onion masala and pulao rice pilaf and I had the goan shrimp xacuti ($21) made with chili, aromatic spiced coconut milk, radish koshimbir and lime rice. Rice for both entrees came on the side. There was enough spice (but not too much) in each dish that by the end of the meal, both Mo and I were congested. Personally, no Indian meal is complete without a roti, so we had the Paranthe. It was a little crispy for my liking, but the flavor was nice. As far as portions go, everything was just right. Probably could have done without the roti though. It was the size of a small pizza, folded.

I've read mixed reviews, but we really enjoyed our meal. It was slightly different than what you'd get in a traditional Indian restaurant, prices were average for the city, portions weren't ridiculously huge or small, and everything was flavorful. I will definitely be returning.

Also, if you don't want to byo wine or beer, grab your favorite rum, tequila or vodka and throw it in a pitcher of one of their fun Indian-style mixers.

Read more reviews here, here, here, here and here.

P.S. It's cash only.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Fellini's Cafe

31 E. Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610. 642.9009

You'd assume a restaurant that inevitably has a line out the door would have incredible food worth waiting for. You'd assume, and you'd be wrong. But, before I get into the food, let's get in the front door first. While they take reservations, by no means are they honored. If you don't want to wait, plan on showing up around 6pm, at the latest. We arrived at 6:30ish and had to wait about 10 minutes, which is tolerable, but the place was already jam packed. By 6:50, the crowd out front had reached no less than a dozen or so people, and it didn't disperse until around 8:30, just to let you know what you're in for if you haven't already been.

I can't comment much on the decor since we didn't even make it past the hostess station. We had a table for four tucked into a windowed nook in the front, away from the "wait area". We were happy.

Our server seemed new, and particularly slow. That was okay since we weren't in a rush, but now I understand why the line was so long. Our meal did not need to be over 2 hours long, but it was.

Now about that food. The menu is endless and overwhelming. I lost count around 85 items. I can't make a decision when there are that many options, plus Specials. Fortunately, there was a separate menu with 8 or so handmade pasta entrees. I stuck to that.

My Mozzerella Caprese was a mound of spring mix topped with thick mozzerella slices, roasted red peppers, onions and black olives drowning in balsamic vinaigrette. DROWNING. There was enough to share with three other people. My husband's salad was also piled high with romaine, tons of shaved parmesan, a slice or two of tomato and was, ironically, nearly void of dressing.

My entree was handmade tortellini with crabmeat, shrimp and peas in a cream blush sauce. This portion also could have been shared. While the tortellini were fresh, the sauce required salting and peppering, the shrimp had tails (annoying) and the crabmeat had shells (even more annoying). Not a meal I'd wait in line for. My father-in-law had the Veal Parmasan and was very happy with it.

Fellini's is another clear reminder that the most mediocre restaurants can be incredibly successful with a good location in a town like Ardmore that has so few options. The key features of Fellini's is that it is a BYO with inexpensive Italian food. To our knowledge they are the only choice in Ardmore.

Overall, the consensus was average. Would we return? Possibly, but only because it's in walking distance.

Read more here and here.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Chipotle

133 W. Lancaster Ave, Ardmore

Since moving out of the city and away from our favorite and regular La Lupe Friday night meal, we have been hankering for a Mexican restaurant to open here, ANY Mexican. Hello Chipotle. Beggers can't be choosers, I guess. We haven't eaten there yet, but on a whim, we tried yesterday when they were giving away free burritos at the Grand Opening. Let's just say, someone put the word out on every nearby college campus. Imagine "free food" being popular among college students. The line went around the corner. Maybe next week we'll give it a try.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

J.R. Monaghan's Pub & Grill

34 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore 484-416-3547

We have been anxiously waiting for any smoke-free, family-friendly restaurant in walking distance to open, crossing our fingers it wouldn't be horribly cheesy with tasteless food, and finally we got J.R. Monaghan's Pub & Grill from the owner of Brownie's, a sports pub with plasmas visible from wherever you sit.

Apparently, every other family in a 5-mile radius was also waiting. It hasn't even been open a whole week and by 6:15 pm on a Friday it was jam packed with families. (So, if you're without children and aren't into that chaotic atmosphere, wait until after 8pm to go when all the kids are getting ready for bed.) A line out the door. Smoke-free, people. This is huge!

Since it has been open only a few days, our expectations we're low. They've got kinks to work out, after all. We arrived just in time to grab a table; booths were gone by this point. Did I mention it was only 6:15?! Our server was really friendly and helpful. Beers on tap were above average and included Hoegaarden and Yards.

They provide crayons and activity placemats for the kids. No kid-cups though, which was disappointing but we survived. The kids menu included all the standards, including fish and chips. But beware, it's not what you expect (if you're expecting fish sticks). It was really french fries and a breaded fillet of something. Fortunately, it was flavorful and the girls ate it. That's all that matters in my book. I had the Southwestern Salad with grilled chicken, black beans and jalapenos. It had a nice kick to it. Husband had the Roast Beef sandwich. It wasn't dry and better than the one he had recently at McCloskey's.

We also split the Triple Chocolate Mousse which was agreed by everyone delicious. Overall, we thought the food was better than expected, but not great. It has a chain restaurant vibe: bright, bad carpeting, generic furniture, standard menu. Nothing exciting. BUT IT'S SMOKE-FREE!

For a dinner out with the kids, it's perfect. To grab a beer and watch a game, we'll take it!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Xochitl

408 South Second St., Philadelphia 215.238.7280

You won't find burritos or tacos at this hip Mexican on Headhouse Square, but you will find an overwhelming list of tequila to chose from and a lot of really good food (but no chicken either!) If it's worth anything to you, Xochitl recently landed at #20 on Philadelphia magazine's 50 Best Restaurants list.

Xochitl has plenty of ambiance: loud, red and dark enough to be romantic, but hard to read the menu if your eyes aren't what they used to be. If that's a problem, let the server know and they'll bring you a mini-flashlight. I swear.

A girls night out Mexican-style can only be kicked off with margaritas. I can't handle lists of liquor, so I decided not to decide and opted for the house tequila. I know nothing about tequila, and quite frankly, don't care. As long as it's not going to give me a hangover, then pour away. The margarita was yummy, but if you love Copabananas tart margarita, then this ain't it.

We started with the guacamole ($7) made to order at the table. YUM. We all agreed that if this was the only thing we ate for dinner, we would have been happy. It was that good. And, we also tried one of the ceviches... Vuelve a la Vida “Return to Life” ($15) with shrimp, octopus, scallop, oyster and onion, cilantro, jalapeƱo, tomato and avocado. It was served in an oversized martini glass. Personally, I didn't like that it was all thrown together, but I'm weird about my ceviche. I like to taste each piece separately. Regardless, the flavor was nice.

Both girlfriends had the pork shank because they were out of the pork chop. It came on the bone for gnawing, which they were too graceful to do. I don't know what else it came with because it was too dark to see. I had the Salmon con Mole Verde ($20), roasted salmon with green mole, roasted potatoes and cabbage, mushrooms and figs. Again, too dark to see what the sides were. I don't recall potatoes though. It was all slimey, but the salmon was prepared medium rare after all. I know slimey isn't an attractive description, but it was and it still tasted good.

Dessert was simple. Just a couple of churros ($7) with Mexican chocolate and cajeta dipping sauces. They were hot and sugary. Wished there were more.

We'd go back.

Read other reviews here.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Radicchio Cafe

314 York Ave, Philadelphia, PA 215.627.6850

On a recent date night, we rushed into the city to trusty BYOB Radicchio Cafe for some tableside filleted fish. I love the drama. Because we also had theater tickets, we got there early so we had no problem being seated right away. Usually, there's a wait since they don't take reservations. Keep this in mind for the dog days of summer. You'll work up a sweat waiting outside. However, if you've BYO and you're outside, they've been known to open your bottle and hand out glasses to keep you busy while you wait.

Our server was good, if not a little too cool. At one point, as I lifted our wine bottle out of the cooler, he grabbed it from my hand and refilled our glasses. I laughed out loud at the timing of it. Like I said, too cool, without even a smirk. I asked him as he quickly filleted the Sole if they timed him on this feat, and he gave me (actually, he didn't really look away from the fish) this look like, "What a stupid fucking question." So, no they didn't time him.

On to the meal. Complimentary brushetta and obligatory bread arrived first. Not too garlicky as I find most brushetta to be. One per person. For appetizers, Husband had the Insalata di Campo ($7), a meschun salad, green olives, radishes, string beans vinegar and olive oil. Nice and fresh.

I started with the Ricchi e Poveri ($8), grilled shrimp, asparagus and cannellni beans served warm with lemon and olive oil. Two shrimp and a few asparagus tips. It was plain. I salted it. Always a bad sign.
But, we weren't there for the appetizers anyway. We wanted fish. And fish we had. Husband had the Dover Sole (photo) and I opted for the Branzino. Both ($22) were simply prepared with olive oil, lemon and some herbs. They come to the table as whole fish and are filleted before your very eyes. It's lovely. My husband swears by the Dover Sole. So, I asked our super cool server which one was better. Hands down, the Branzino. Yes! Points for the chick with the stupid question. The Dover Sole is thinner, firmer and crisper. To me, it's a very mild fish. The Branzino is thick and meaty. It also has a fishier taste to it. I couldn't even finish it. Both entrees came with side plates of veggies...broccoli, carrots, mashed potatoes. Good stuff. Crisp, not soggy. Everything is prepared to perfection!

Read other reviews: Gophila.com; Yelp; D'Bockol Review;

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Auspicious Chinese Restaurant

11 Cricket Avenue, Ardmore, 610.642.1858

A new, upscale Chinese restaurant has come to Ardmore. With glass storefront windows and neighbor to the famous Milkboy Coffee, Auspicious has over a dozen white clothed tables. Intimate, modern, clean and a sincerely friendly staff. We finally had a chance to try it tonight. We opted for take out and were pleased to find they had a few choices for kids. Really, they're just regular menu items only smaller portions.

So, here we are on a Thursday night, calling at prime "suburban" dinner time...6 o'clock sharp...to order up some chow. Only a 15 minute wait for take out, but crowded inside and people without reservations waiting in line. Nice!

Kids had Ninja Noodles ($5.95) with chicken, carrots and broccoli (chicken lo mein) and sesame chicken with rice ($5.95). One meal would have been enough for my two girls. The lo mein was good, fresh and also had bamboo and string beans. The sesame chicken came in bite size pieces, glazed slightly sweet, but mild.

I had the Fragrant Lemongrass Chicken ($10.95) with brown rice, but instantly imagined that I had opened wide and sprayed a can of lemon-scented Pledge in my mouth. Fragrant is a gross understatement. Won't be ordering this one again. Husband had Stir Fry Creations in which you "create your own". You choose the ingredients and how it's cooked. He went for the Fiery Chile Garlic Beef ($11.95) with broccoli, snow peas, mushrooms and water chestnuts. It was labeled as spicy but not spicy enough for him. Overall, fresh and nice flavor, but the beef was of the thin skirt steak variety. If he had to do it again, he'd try it with the chicken.

When hubby paid for the take out with his debit card, the woman behind the counter walked out and around to hand him the food. Nice touch. I like that Auspicious is trying to be more of a restaurant than a take out place.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

James

824 S. 8th St., Philadelphia, 215.629.4980

James landed at #6 on Philly Mag's 50 Best Restaurants of 2007, and Food and Wine voted the risotta alla Kristina one of 10 Best Restaurant Dishes of 2007. When you read all the accolades, you'll know you simply can't go wrong. But, I'll tell you about our experience anyway because, well, you never know.

Our group of six arrived uncharacteristically late. Rather, we arrived in tiers--10 minutes, 20 minutes, and 40 minutes late--prompting the manager to make us aware of the group with reservations after us. Apparently, James does not prefer parties larger than four, but there is one group table and we were sitting at it. So much for a relaxed meal with all eyes on us.

Promptly after we listened to the Specials, expertly recited by our server (but, way too complicated to repeat here), and navigated the wine list, the appetizers arrived. Fortunately, we weren't moved through our meal at light speed as anticipated; everything was paced appropriately. Guess the other large party cancelled?

Our good friend, John, offered me $100 to try the crispy sweetbreads, ‘sauerkraut’ and mustard ($16), but when I found out I had to eat ALL of it, I chickened out. Animal organs are worth more, don't you think? I opted for the sauteed sea scallop with belgian endive compote and gorgonzola butter ($12). I will point out that it is ONE scallop, but a perfect one. In fact, I was able to share my ONE scallop and it was voted the best appetizer at our table. So, I don't know what the editors at Food and Wine are thinking when they had that risotta - which was pretty darn delicious, too.
My friends will have to comment here. I know they had the langostino tempura with whipped ricotta, grapefruit and black walnut ($18). Again, just one, and really good. And, something with oxtail....

For my entree, I had the olive oil poached Scottish Salmon with fricassee of porcini, chestnut and brussels sprouts ($26). Normally, I'm not drawn to brussel sprouts, and I almost didn't choose this dish because of them. But, for brussel sprouts, they were actually pretty good. Small and a little nutty. Kind of like me! Anyway, the Salmon was amazing. AMAZING! I'm pretty comfortable saying I've never had salmon like this before. It literally melted in your mouth. But, it was so rich I couldn't even finish it, and portions weren't extra large.

I know the others had red curry braised wild pink snapper with mustard greens & mussel-potato saute ($27). Scrumptious. And the four story hill farms poularde (that's chicken) with spinach, porcini mushrooms and apple-infused pan sauce ($26). This entree was voted Best of Philly 2007. And, hopefully, they'll comment here about what they liked.

Overall, it was an upscale, casually elegant dining experience. The staff was incredibly professional and friendly. The food is obviously fresh and top notch. I dare you to find something wrong.

Read other reviews: Craig LaBan, Philly.com, Gayot.com
Photos by Jason Varney and Michael Persico.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Chick's Cafe & Wine Bar

614 S. 7th Street, Philadelphia, 215.625.3700

If you were ever afraid to venture inside this corner bar like I once was, don't be scared. It used to look neglected as if it was a dark, lonely hideaway for serious drinkers. But it's been recently renovated and restored and worth a visit. Our group stopped in for a drink after dining at James. We were pleased to find 50 wines by the glass and a good beer selection. The staff was incredibly friendly, too. The menu looked interesting with lots of small plates and a huge variety of cheeses to pair with all those wines. Next time, we'll try the food.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Gioia Mia

2025 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, 215.231.9895 (Edited to add: This has recently closed.)

Girlfriends, you need a night out. If, for any other reason, than to unload your husband-related frustrations, like one of us did Wednesday night at Gioia Mia.

Gioia Mia (pronounced joy-ah mee-ah) is a casual, comfortable Italian restaurant with an open kitchen and many wines by the glass.

You'll certainly have no problem getting a prime table at the time of your choice on a Wednesday night. We were the first ones in just before 8 p.m. greeted by Max, a lovely gentleman with a heavy Italian accent.

We started with the tableside prepared Caesar Salad--a close version to the original recipe. But, you better like garlic because you'll offending anyone within sight and tasting it the next morning. Then, on to the Tortine di Granchio con Funghi, which is sauteed lump crabcake over portabella mushroom in a light tomato sauce. I'm a traditionalist when it comes to crabcakes, (I was raised in Maryland, after all.), so I didn't love that particular combination.

I had Pesce del Giorno--Branzino, baked whole than fileted at the table. Always a nice touch (but, better when they get all the bones out). It was very moist and light with tomatoes, olives, onions and lemon juice, accompanied by green beans, simple yet crisp and fresh in a light olive oil and herb roasted potatoes.

Girlfriend Mo had the Ravioli all’Aragosta, lobster ravioli and jumbo shrimp with asparagus in a tomato-cognac sauce with fresh sage. Girlfriend Roz had the Risotto alla PescatoraRisotto with shrimp, mussels, baby clams & calamari in white wine sauce. You can also have it with red sauce, but the white was recommended. No one complained...well, about the food, that is. We girls love to vent.

Dessert was shared since we were all stuffed, but a good meal must always end with something sweet. The Tiramisu (My must-have dessert in any Italian restaurant.) came in an oversized martini glass. Creamy, thick with nearly a shot of dark rum at the bottom, much of it soaked into the lady fingers. Yum!

Read some other reviews: Philly Weekly; City Paper.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Copper Bistro

614 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, 215.627.9844

Closed June 2009

Good, not great. That was the consensus after dining at Copper Bistro in Northern Liberties recently. It's a small restaurant situated on the main drag. Notable features include an open kitchen, exposed brick wall with little nooks of candlelight and copper kitchenware as decor. There are two dining rooms; the main one with the kitchen and a smaller one in the back with about 4 or so tables. We sat at this table in the back practically tucked into the fireplace. As much as I love fireplaces, I don't want to eat in one. Thankfully, it wasn't working!

The menu is a melting pot of cuisines: French, Belgian, Asian, Mediterranean and more. We started with the cheese plate ($12.50). I love cheese plates. You learn about new cheeses and usually they're paired with an intriguing side you would never otherwise know about. At the same time, I hate cheese plates--the portion size is always a tease. There was a french cheddar, a goat's milk and fig bread. Not bad. My entree was Day-Boat Scallops with Wild Mushroom Ragout and Potato Rosti Mushroom Jus ($23.50). Husband had shrimp. I'm waiting for him to elaborate on that. For whatever reason, our entrees took really long to show up so we ran out of time for dessert. (We had a play to get to.) Aside from the long wait, the server was friendly and knowledgeable. But overall, nothing wowed us. The best part was the 2005 Frog's Leap Cabernet, but we brought that.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Ardmore Station Cafe

6 Station Road, Ardmore, 610.642.3889

Always packed when we go for a weekend brunch, but worth waiting for a table. The menu is extensive, however on our last visit, I noticed no waffles! Pancakes and French Toast come with just about any kind of topping you can think of, including stuffed with cream cheese. Think dessert for breakfast. They have healthy options too, but why do that? If they're serving La Colombe coffee (which they are), you can be sure they know a thing or two about quality food. Although the syrup comes in the plastic containers with the pull back tops, you can order pure maple syrup for $2. If you go with more than four people, you will be waiting extra long for a table - no reservations. Prices aren't dirt cheap, but definitely affordable. They also serve lunch, but I haven't tried that yet. I've read a few other reviews and they're all positive.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pizzicato Ristorante

248 Market Street, Philadelphia, 215.629.5527

We stopped in here with the kids for something light after the Sleeping Beauty performance at the Arden Theater on Sunday. At 5 p.m., there was just one table for four left. Score! They also offer kids entrees, which aren't on the regular menu or even posted on the menu outside the front door. They had the basics: pasta with butter, chicken fingers, french fries, etc. They even had kids cups and milk! Our little ones opted for the chicken fingers and fries. Four good size, but rather flat, chicken fingers arrived. Way too much for our distracted group. It might be wise to split the dish next time. I didn't taste them - they looked fine, for what it's worth.

The grown-ups started with Spicy Fried Calamari with portabella mushrooms, parmesan cheese and raspberry coulis. It had a nice kick and wasn't overly breaded, but I didn't realize it was a raspberry coulis until I pulled it off their website to write this. Then, we had the Grilled Chicken Pizzette with spinach, fresh mozzarella and red onion. It normally comes with Proscuitto, but we asked that they keep it off. The Pizzette is about 10 inches round and had a light crust. One hungry person could easily polish this off. The concensus, however, was that it was just okay, not really bursting with a ton of flavor. There's a lot on the menu, though, so I'd give it another shot.

The staff was amazingly friendly and accommodating. And, by 6 p.m., there was only one table left of people. Good time to go, I guess.

Siamese Princess

36 E. Lancaster Ave., Ardmore, 610.896.2755

Based on how it looks from the outside, the Siamese Princess is not a restaurant you would normally walk into on a whim. A neon OPEN sign in the window is never a good sign. It has the potential to be intimate, but the small and narrow room is brightly lit, tables have vinyl coverings and black aluminum chairs. Fresh flowers on each table is a thoughtful touch, but the decor overall is pretty tacky and generally lacking warmth. Needless to say, we had pretty low expectations for the food. But, it was surprisingly good, and inexpensive (Prices range from $4.95 to $16.95, and 10% off if you pay with cash.)!

We started with the Tom Yun Goon soup- shrimp, lemongrass, mushrooms in a broth and spicy enough to make your mouth numb. The traditional chicken satay on skewers with peanut sauce did not disappoint. The three large chicken breasts could have been my whole meal. For entrees, we had Bold and Spicy Shrimp (Clearly, there's a theme here.), sauteed shrimp, lemongrass, basil, mushrooms and hot chili peppers. A few too many capers, but fresh vegetables were crisp. The sauce was just spicy enough. The Green Chicken Curry came with a side of white rice, had julienned vegetables and was also spicy, but they can dilute it for you. It could have had more chicken, but overall it was fresh and really good.

The staff of two were friendly. We didn't have to wait long at all for our food, but that could have been because it wasn't crowded, even for a Saturday night. People don't know what they're missing! I overheard the diners next to us, evidently frequent visitors, talking about sending friends there who also loved it.

This restaurant will be getting a return visit!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Marrone's

2744 East County Line Road, Ardmore, 610.642. 9567

Marrone's Pizzeria is the quintessential Del-Co dine-in Italian fare, pizza-and-more restaurant. And, you get the classic Delco warmth and attitude, which by my experience is hit or miss. The place is deceivingly big. There's a room in the way, way back that makes you feel nearly out of the restaurant. But, gosh darn it, you will get a seat.

Portions are large. Pizza is good, if not a little too cheesy. Not an overwhelming selection of toppings. Order a salad and the Italian house dressing comes in a Grolsch bottle.

Basic kids menu. Plus, they get crayons and paper to keep them busy. Worth a try.
 
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