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 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


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,,
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.
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