I thought I would be posting this much sooner, but then my computer went all wonky on me.
My birthday dinner at Pif last Tuesday night was phenomenal. It definitely made the list of the best meals I have ever had. There is absolutely no hyperbole in either of those statements.
I informed our waiter that it was my birthday, we had not had lunch and so we intended to eat like Romans. And we did. It was all very decadent.
We ordered four appetizers, all to be shared. First we had Escargots au Pernod, served over a head of roasted garlic. ($9-abt.10 snails) It was delicious, and the roasted garlic was very good on bread. Bread was handed out by a server with a basket, I saw some reviews complain about this. I had no problem with it, there was no basket taking up room on the table and it eliminated the urge to just mindlessly keep eating bread. The bread choices for the evening were black olive, semolina, ciabotta, and baguette. Throughout the evening I between the two of us had each kind, all were very good.
The next appetizer was sea urchin toasts. Best described as dollops of sea urchin on crostini. ($7.50 - 6 toasts, I believe - may have been 4 or 5) It was the first time I had sea urchin, and I quite liked it. Our waiter described the flavor as very pronounced, but I found it rather subtle. Both the escargot and urchin were served with a garnish of a small frisee salad. My husband was a little hesitant about trying it at first, having had an unfortunate raw sea cucumber incident in Korea earlier this year. But, he did in fact give it a try and liked it, though not as much as I did.
We took Katie's advice and brought along a bottle of Hogue Riesling. It was delicious with both the urchin and escargot. It is a wonderful wine, we will definitely buy it again, probably often. I think Katie stated it would be about $9 a bottle, and it is listed in the new Food & Wine magazine as the best Riesling under $20, with a price of $7 - ours was about $12. Unfortunately I don't have the bottle to see what was different. Whatever, it was terrific and I'm eager to see if I can find the $9 bottle and try that as well. Thank you Katie!
Next on the appetizer agenda was the Foie Gras. ($14) The portion was very generous, easily enough for two or more to share. We still had some of the Riesling to drink, and it was actually wonderful with the foie gras. They both had a buttery taste and silky texture that were very good together. We thought it was a very good pairing.
We finished up the appetizer parade with the roasted beets with Roquefort. I forget the price, but it was in the $7-9 range, I believe. This was a fairly small portion, but very good. I would not have thought of pairing beets with Roquefort, but it was delicious. The serving would have benefited from a bit more Roquefort, but I do love me some cheese.
Other appetizers on the menu included a salad for $6, we saw it delivered to several tables and it looked delicious, and a generous portion. There was also some sort of marinated tongue, veal I believe. I've not had tongue, so considered it, but will have to wait until another time. There were one or two other choices that I am forgetting. I believe most of the appetizer prices ranged from $7-9 with the salad being the lowest at $6 and the foie gras the most at $14. I could easily have a wonderful time there just ordering appetizers.
Finally we arrive at the entrees. Choices included Cote de Beouf (sp?) - a ribeye steak served with a wine sauce and mushrooms, chanterelles I believe. Veal kidneys; red snapper with roasted mussels - about 10 mussels and two fish filets - a good sized portion; some sort of chicken, unfortunately I don't remember specifics; scallops about 10-12, I think - there was a sauce, again I forget specifics; trout; and rack of lamb.
We both ordered the rack of lamb. It is one of my very favorite things. The waiter informed us it would be served medium rare unless requested otherwise, I requested a bit rarer. It was the highest priced entree, at $28, most entrees were in the $22-26 range.
The lamb was wonderful, just delicious. It was a full rack, with a wine sauce, served with a generous portion of a potato gratin and haricot vert. It was seasoned and cooked perfectly. I think just about every table had at least one person order the rack. Happily, nobody seemed shy about picking up the bones to gnaw on. (delicately and with grace, of course) It was so good, and given the size of the portion, not at all overpriced.
As for wine, we ended up with Dogajolo, a Tuscan blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet. At the state store we had asked for Katie's suggestion of Terre de Galatrona, but they didn't have any. We went to our local Doylestown state store, which as David DeSilva said, we have found to be better than many of the state stores.
We were fortunate to find "the knowledgeable guy" as we refer to him, working that day. He said they had not had Terre de Galatrona since last Christmas, when they received a couple of cases and they sold out quickly. He recommended the Dogajolo, said it was wonderful and similar, in that it is also a Sangiovese blend. Well, it was good, but we weren't crazy about it. When they didn't have the Terre de Galatrona, I wish we had taken more time and looked for some of the zinfandels (generally one of our favorite wines) on our list, or our old standby, the Rosemount Shiraz. But it was not bad, by any means.
We then had the cheese course. We chose the five cheeses, you can choose three, four or five. I forget the prices, we paid somewhere between $11 and $14. It was good, but the cheeses could be more interesting. There was Roquefort, Boucheron, Comte, Meunster and St. Something, I forget which one. It was a creamy cow's milk cheese. (I want to say St. Andre, but that doesn't seem correct) They were all very good, but not at all unusual. I do think it would be an improvement to have artisinal cheeses or the like.
Our waiter then mercilessly harangued me in to getting another dessert. I think his exact words were, "Would you like something sweet, as well?" Really, they shouldn't berate customers like that, how could I refuse? We had something called Coup Lorraine, three tiny scoops of ice cream with some liqueur drizzled on top, a few raspberries and crumbled Earl Grey candies. That portion was very small, but perfect after the meal we just had. And our waiter suprised me by having a lit candle in the ice cream, and the entire restaurant spontaniously sang Happy Birthday to me. It was a lovely surprise!
With the cheese and dessert courses we had a very good Moscato D'asti. I forget the name. I wrote it down, but can't find the note right now. It was Italian, and about $11, and really very tasty.
I have read many Pif user reviews, here and at DigitalCity.com and CitySearch.com. Many people complained about small portions. All portions that we saw looked nicely sized, with the exception of the beets and the Coup Lorraine. But, in the context we had them in, they were fine. Maybe they heard complaints about small portion sizes and increased them?
Service was excellent. Michael, our waiter was very good. Friendly and humorous without being too informal. He and another waiter seemed to share some duties. I really think they could use a third person in there, someone to do the miscellaneous tasks such as replenishing bread, seeing if you'd like more wine or water. (They kept the whites chilled in the back - which was nice)
It was a fabulous evening, and we look forward to going back soon, but ordering a bit less decadently. Thank you all for the wine tips and birthday wishes!
Pif - 1009 S. 8th St., Philadelphia - 215-625-2923
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