Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hoof + Fin

617 S. Third Street, Philadelphia

We went against our own rule of waiting to dine at a restaurant until it's been open at least a month. You know, so they can work out the kinks. But, the Girlfriends and I just didn't want to wait to get to Hoof + Fin in Queen Village. Three weeks opened is close enough.

If you've read anything about it already, then you know it's in the old Gayle space and has outdoor seating in a small courtyard. Bonus!

Overall the ambiance was intimate and cozy, thanks to the very dim lighting. If you have old eyes, bring your flashlight for the menu. It's farmhouse style with a touch of rustic, dish towel-esque napkins, butcher block tables, coat hooks on the wall and vintage paint-by-number artwork (clearly scavanged from someone's grandmother's basement) hanging awry on the walls. The noise level wasn't an issue as the restaurant never fully filled up.

Complimentary skinny breadsticks arrive first in a mason jar with basil cream dipping sauce, heavy on the basil. We heard the couple specials, one of which was a suckling pig. Interesting, I thought. The Girlfriends opted with the calamari and truffle aioli which also came with some grilled vegetables. It was very lightly breaded and mild. A nice starter. We also tried the cheese and corn empanadas. The empanada had a very thick crust, which when you cut into caused the sweet manchego cheese to ooze out. It also came with a small side salad. We liked the calamari better.

Roz had the pappardelle with braised short ribs in a putanesca sauce. It was not a heavy dish, slightly sweet sauce, and a good portion (meaning, not a ridiculous amount). She was very happy with it. Mo had the butternut squash risotto with mushrooms and soy beans, lightly flavored, not overcooked (as I find risotto so often is) and the beans were firm. It was also a good portion. You can order small or large plates of the pasta. While we didn't order a salad, we saw on another table that it comes in a metal bowl - the exact same bowl I use at home for mixing. The consensus at our table was that it was taking the rustic theme a little too far.

Because I don't eat red meat or pork, I had a hard time finding something on the menu. I selected "From the Grill" which has a small variety of seafood and meat. You have the option to pair it with one starch and one vegetable from a list of sides. I had the Mahi Mahi with grilled vegetables and buttermilk mashed potatoes. I hate to say that I was horribly disappointed. There was no description of the fish other than "grilled." I wrongly assumed it would be lightly seasoned and would taste mainly like mahi mahi. Big mistake. One bite in and I had a mouthful of Old Bay. And that's about all I could taste. So much Old Bay in fact, that I couldn't even eat it. Mo didn't have an issue with it so we ended up switching plates. The mashed potatoes were good, but the vegetables were saturated in balsamic vinegar. If you order something From the Grill, do yourself a solid and ask how it's seasoned.

Desserts were limited in selection. I'm always disappointed when there isn't something in chocolate, so we had bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and tres leches. Both were very good.

We had no problems getting same day reservations. Service was excellent and attentive but not overly so.

Check out the menu.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


926 South Street, Philadelphia

The boys tried the highly rated French Bistro Supper for guy’s dinner last night. Whereas we did not ask the Supper crew to "whip us up something special," for the most part it did not disappoint.

The hype about Supper is that it is a quaint space with innovative modern French food reasonably priced but with small portions. And that just about covers it.

The ambience was a highlight. Check out the picture. The open ceiling is a nice touch. We sat downstairs and immediately noticed that the large windows are meant to be opened in the warmer months. That sounds great, but keep in mind that Supper is located on South Street across from one of the most popular Whole Foods Markets in the US.

It was oddly quiet for a Thursday night. The four of us were one of four groups of people in the restaurant with nobody sitting at the bar. I’m not sure if this is due to the location or the economy, but we were surprised. Of course despite the availability, they seated us next to another couple which was slightly annoying since it made our table a little cramped.

After we ordered beverages (nice wine selection by the glass, above average craft beer selection), the chef/owner, Mitch Prensky came by and introduced himself. He is very personable and has a nice sense of humor. We were impressed except for the fact that he was on his way out, leaving us to the other chefs in the kitchen.

For appetizers, we had the smoked wings made with birch beer, buttermilk and pepper. We all agreed that the wings were amazing. They were cooked perfectly and the combination of the tangy pepper/birch beer was beautifully balanced by the buttermilk. We also had the crispy squid which is made with Sichuan sausage and sambal. The squid was flavorful and had a citrus taste to it. Overall, the group had mixed reviews on it. I thought it was just ok.

For the entrees we each got something different so we could taste as much as possible. Why does that sound so gay when I type it? Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I digress. John had the vinegar chicken. I know John very well, too well. He never orders chicken at dinner. He was relatively happy he did as it was very good, but a tad dry.

Marcus rolled (yes Marcus rolls) with the Spicy Crusted Tuna. From the moment he ordered it I thought mistake. I was right. It was good, but tiny and not different than other tuna entrees at other Philadelphia restaurants.

From the moment we walked in, Marc was set to have the Duck & Waffles. Remember this is a newish French Bistro so you are bound to find a few offbeat items. Marc made the reservations so he clearly looked at the menu prior to us going to know that this dish was offered. Marc loved it. It was good, but you have to appreciate Duck. It was cooked perfectly and the maple bourbon ad jus was an excellent compliment.

I ordered the only Large Plate, Beef Short Rib. This was also cooked perfectly. The meat literally fell off the bone and the saffron cous cous was also tasty. I was a little disappointed with the amount of fat and the portion size.

The good news is that Supper also serves excellent sourdough bread. And, they are more than happy to refill the bread. This minor detail goes a long way with smaller portions.

Overall, Supper is good, not great, but definitely worth a visit.
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