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Restaurants You Should Try, Part I

June 21, 2007

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
(215) 931-1560

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?

Dmitri’s (Greek/seafood)
Third and Catharine Streets
(215) 625-0556
23rd and Pine Streets
(215) 985-3680

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.

Melograno (Italian)
2201 Spruce Street
(215) 875-8116

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.

Rangoon (Burmese)
112 N. Ninth Street
(215) 829-8939

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.

Tinto (Spanish/pintxos/tapas)
114 South 20th Street
(215) 665-9150

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!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2007 4:56 am

    I also like and frequent the following restaurants. Maybe I will “review” five of these restaurants in the near future.

    526 S. Fourth Street
    (215) 922-7151

    1127 Pine Street
    (215) 592-8333

    Ernesto’s 1521 Cafe
    1521 Spruce Street
    (215) 546-1521

    1720 Sansom Street
    (215) 564-1720

    Las Cazuelas
    426-28 W. Girard Avenue
    (215) 351-9144

    Little Fish
    600 Catharine Street
    (215) 413-3464

    106 South 13th Street
    (215) 546-7100

    Marigold Kitchen
    501 South 45th Street
    (215) 222-3699

    37 South 19th Street
    (215) 564-2925

    Monk’s Cafe
    264 S. 16th Street
    (215) 545-7005

    Morning Glory Diner
    735 S. 10th Street
    (215) 413-3999

    4000 Chestnut Street
    (215) 382-0818

    North Third
    801 N. Third Street
    (215) 413-3666

    1009 S. 18th Street
    (215) 625-2923

    2048 Sansom Street
    (215) 751-1175

    Rose Tattoo Cafe
    1847 Callohill Street
    (215) 569-8939

    4443 Spruce Street
    (215) 222-9590

    Sang Kee
    238 N. Ninth Street
    (215) 925-7532

    Snack Bar
    253 S. 20th Street
    (215) 545-5655

    Standard Tap
    901 N. Second Street
    (215) 238-0630

    Tequila’s Restaurant
    1602 Locust Street
    (215) 546-0181

    Vientiane Cafe
    4728 Baltimore Avenue
    (215) 726-1095

    221 N. 11th Street
    (215) 592-1163

    3600 Lancaster Avenue
    (215) 895-0139

    Zorba’s Taverna
    2230 Fairmount Avenue
    (215) 978-5990

  2. MMS permalink
    June 21, 2007 1:50 pm

    Tre Scalini

  3. Dave Koller permalink
    June 21, 2007 1:52 pm

    dmitris is the best bargain with quality food. barclay prime is the biggest rip off with quality food. its tasty and was a dining experience but ill never go there again unless its on someone elses dime. i had a 100 dollar gift certificate and went there two weekends ago. we ordered one app, two salads, one steak entree, one seafood entree, two sides, and two iced teas, no alcohol, no dessert and i still spent 101 dollars on top of my gift certificate. what?

  4. June 21, 2007 2:37 pm

    I haven’t been to Tre Scalini. Guess I’d have to check it out! Italian?

    [Girlygirl34’s Note: After I wrote this comment, I realized that I have, in fact, been here once. It’s a nice, intimate Italian BYO serving nice pastas, and I remember now that I had a great tiramisu].

  5. June 21, 2007 2:40 pm

    I agree that Dimitri’s is awesome for the food and price! I have to say, though, that I do LOVE Barclay Prime’s truffled mashed potatoes. I also love the fact that when you order a steak there, you get to choose one of four different knives. More than anything, I like the atmosphere there – it has the feel of a traditional steakhouse but with a lot more feminine touches. But you are absolutely right. If I have to pay for the meal myself, I would not be going there. I was there just recently, and even though I didn’t see the bill, I know it had to have been at least $75 per person without tip!

  6. June 22, 2007 2:07 pm

    James – a new restaurant on 8th St. in Bella Vista – is excellent, though not inexpensive. The space is elegant but not stuffy, and the wait staff does a nice job of helping you pair wine with your meal.
    If you want to go just for drink I highly recommend the Honeydew and Hendricks – gin with honeydew juice. Very Refreshing.

  7. June 22, 2007 2:54 pm

    Sounds like a great summer drink! Talking about summer drinks. I love the “tonics” at Farmicia in Old City, too.

  8. jocelyn g permalink
    June 22, 2007 7:28 pm

    Yes, and speaking of drinks–the BEST winetasting experience I have ever had was at Tria’s fermentation school. The folks over at Tria really know their stuff. And they don’t make you spit the wine out.

  9. June 22, 2007 7:31 pm

    Tria is definitely a nice wine bar, and you’re right – folks there know their stuff. If only they don’t charge us $9 for a couple of sips of wine, I’d be there more often.

  10. June 24, 2007 11:50 am

    By the way, I just went to Bistro 7 last night and had a FABULOUS dinner there. A friend and I shared the gnocchi and beet salad as appetizers, crispy-fried squash blossoms filled with jumbo lump crab and corn over rock shrimp and basil/asparagus risotto (it was SOOOO good!!!!!!!) and striped bass over calamari with beans, tomatoes, and capers (really very delicious as well) as dinner entrees, and chocolate pot de creme and coconut rice pudding as dessert. My friend had never been to Bistro 7 before, and he couldn’t stop talking about how much he loved its food. We really cannot wait to go back to Bistro 7!!!

  11. May 11, 2011 7:56 pm

    Hiya! I just love shrimp scampi!! so I just want to say thanks for such an interesting write up. I’m starting a blog myself about shrimp scampi recipes!

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