Restaurants You Should Try, Part I
I eat out at restaurants at least 3-4 times a week. I know good food. I love good food. And I love restaurants that serve good food. And over the past month or two, several people have asked me what my favorite restaurants are in the City. I tell them, I love most of Stephen Starr’s restaurants, including Buddakan, Barclay Prime, Morimoto, and Striped Bass. Of course, I also love other posh restaurants such as Vetri, Brasserie Perrier, Le Bec-Fin, Pasion, and La Famiglia. But what fun is it in writing about these restaurants? Well, below is a partial list of my favorite restaurants (listed alphabetically) that may not be as well-known as the ones I’ve mentioned above but should be because of their outstanding foods and flavors.
If I had more time, I’d have included 15 more restaurants I love, but five is all I can do this time. Perhaps I will write a review on 5 other restaurants the next time.
Bistro 7 (contemporary American)
7 North Third Street
Philadelphia Weekly calls Bistro 7 “the Jackie O. of the Philadelphia BYOB scene: pedigreed, refined and possessing that certain something that makes it stand out from the crowd.” I can see why PW said that. I love the fact that the restaurant’s menu changes weekly. I love the fact that the owners use heirloom silver. And most of all, I love the fact that the chef uses fresh, locally grown veggies.
My favorite dishes at Bistro 7 include homemade potato gnocchi almost as light as cotton (this week’s gnocchi is tossed with roasted morel mushrooms, baby squash and asparagus in sage-brown butter with freshly grated pecorino Romano), escargots (this week’s escargots are stewed in fennel-pernod cream with mirepoix veggies, tiny sourdough croutons and tarragon oil), and duck (this week’s duck is spiced with coriander and glazed with sweet and sour raspberry sauce). I also love Bistro 7’s beet salad. And as for dessert, I love everything on the menu, but the chocolate malted pot de creme, coconut jasmine rice pudding, and the cheese plate have got to be my favorite.
Oh, and did I mention that Bistro 7 is owned by a husband and wife team, and that the wife is a lawyer who’s active in the Philadelphia legal community?
Third and Catharine Streets
23rd and Pine Streets
If you like grilled foods, from the pita bread to the whole fish, this is the perfect place for you. The restaurant in Queen Village is a great BYOB, and the restaurant in Fitler Square is a bit less crazy and a bit bigger (I prefer the one on Third and Catharine, though). Both places offer amazing food to share at very reasonable prices. Dmitri’s got the best grilled octopus I’ve ever had. And the grilled fish there is simple and delicious, with just a touch of lemon, olive oil and vinegar. I also love its shrimp scampi, grilled pita with hummus, and fried calamari. The food there is really fresh and simple but very tasty. The portions are generous.
2201 Spruce Street
There is usually a long wait at Melograno, but it’s totally worth it at this chic, neighborhoody BYOB. I have to admit, though, that I haven’t been there in a couple of months because of its always long waits. But if my memory serves me correctly, I love Melograno’s grilled shrimp salad with artichokes and chick peas in a tangy lemon sauce, homemade ravioli stuffed with potato and pecorino in butter sauce with fried sage, and parpadelle pasta with truffled mushrooms. I’m not much of a meat eater, but I know that some of my dates have raved about Melograno’s steak on a bed of warm white bean salad as well as its quail. Usually, I’m so stuffed by the time I’m done with dinner that I haven’t had a chance to sample Melograno’s dessert. In that case, I just walk to Capogiro several blocks over and order a Thai coconut and fior di latte gelato.
112 N. Ninth Street
I am totally addicted to Burmese food. Fine, okay. I admit it. I am biased because I was born and raised in Burma. Still, I’ve been to many Burmese restaurants in the East Coast, and this is, by far, one of the best and most authentic Burmese restaurants. For those of you who are not familiar with Burmese food, it’s a little bit like Thai, a little bit like Indian, a little bit like Malaysian, a little bit like Chinese, and A LOT UNIQUE. I love the food there, and I go there a few times a month. I’ve taken many friends and colleagues, and now they’ve become regulars themselves.
If you go there, try the thousand layer bread with potato curry dip, spring ginger salad (ginger with cabbage, sesame, peanuts, tomatoes, split peas, fried onions, dried shrimp and Burmese seasonings), mango shrimp, jungle chicken (stir fired chicken with veggies and lime leaves in a coconut green curry sauce), basil beef, and pork with mango curry. Yes, obviously, you should go there with many friends so that you can sample all these dishes.
And if you’re still hungry, go ahead and order the Rangoon house noodles (flat rice noodles with diced chicken, onions, tomatoes in a red bean sauce) or chicken with pickled cabbage. Or…. if you want to try typical Burmese comfort food, order the festival fish noodle soup (if you want to impress the waitress or the owner, just say, “Mohinga, please”) or creamy coconut chicken noodle soup (can you pronounce “Ohn-no-kawk-swe”?).
I’d skip the dessert at Rangoon, though. I think I am the only one who really loves Burmese dessert.
114 South 20th Street
I love Amada, and I was really happy when the chef/owner of Amada opened Tinto, which means “red wine” in Spanish. But didn’t think it would be as good as the popular restaurant in Old City. And I was pleasantly surprised after I sampled Tinto’s “pintxos,” the Basque region’s equivalent of tapas.
I’ve been to Tinto many times since it first opened, and my only complaint about Tinto is that it makes me want to come back for more. And more. I just can’t seem to get enough of arroz con almejas (clam rice with shaved artichoke, parmesan, and lemon zest), revuelto de langosta (lobster & asparagus shirred eggs with oyster cava cream), cipirones en su tinta (baby squid and crab bomba rice in squid ink) and moules basquaise (mussels and chorizo in sauce basquaise with lemon aioli and frites).
I also love its de ternera kobe (kobe beef, consomme, royal trumpet mushrooms, and truffle poached egg), and montaditos de pato (duck confit, black cherry, bleu de basque spread).
But my favorite has got to be arroz bomba (morel mushroom bomba rice with green asparagus and a touch of lemon oil).
Yes, Capogiro is across from Tinto (and who can resist gelatos?). But you would be doing yourself a disservice if you leave without trying Tinto’s goat milk mousse with orange blossom gel and olive oil caramel!