Finding myself in Old City on Saturday afternoon and needing an early, light dinner... I remembered Amada.
They had just opened for the evening when we arrived and we were seated in the bar area by request. The decor is very appealing-- very simple, symmetrical, with rustic wood feel.
As soon as we were seated we ordered a pitcher of sangria-- turned out to be the one major glitch of the meal. More on that later...
The waiter arrived and quickly reviewed the menu with us, along with some specials. The choices are dizzying. Truly there is something for everyone-- adventurous, picky, vegetarian were all represented in our group and we all had trouble narrowing it down to a few items with which to start.
So, to make it easy we started with cheese. We selected a garrotxa, accompanied by membrillo and slices of baguette, as well as another whose name I don't recall. Cheese was delicious, however the accompaniments were sparse.
Next arrived an amuse of a chilled white bean-almond soup garnished with American sturgeon roe and olive oil. It was very rich and the amuse portion was just right. We were also delivered a complimentary tapas of flatbread served with a creamy tuna-caper spread. This one was excellent. Both arrived without explanation and subsequently some confusion on our part, compounded by the poor language skills of the server.
Which brings me to the service... There is a veritable mass of staff buzzing about the place. I suspect this is due in part to opening weekend and perhaps this will thin out quickly. Every attempt is made to be very customer-service oriented and they mostly do an excellent job. Our main server was very nervous and it showed, but he was quick to get answers to questions about the menu and continued to apologize profusely for the sangria that still had not arrived. However our bus person (?) was not very proficient with English and as he delivered our meals had difficulty answering questions about which menu item was which, what various garnishes were, etc.
However, beautifully prepared dishes continued to arrive. I can't recall the Spanish names of each item, but we enjoyed fried anchovies with poached egg, spicy potatoes with smoked paprika, a very smoky stew of chickpeas and greens, fava bean salad, hamachi with olive oil and lime, and my favorite: tono la plancha, which was three pieces of tuna served seared on one side and raw on the other, accompanied by a fabulous roasted tomato chutney and manchego croquettes.
Food was blissful, with each flavor distinct and right on the mark. Next time, we will be prepared for a longer evening & try the $40 tasting menu and not miss the charcuterie selections.
I did find that the narrow bar tables could have been a tad wider to accommodate the numerous items, plus the very large menus that you want to keep around as you continue to order. I would imagine the restaurant side is better suited for this.
Merging into dessert, my friend ordered the warm goat cheese with toasted almonds. This brings me to my biggest complaint-- many menu descriptions leave out key parts of the dish, leading to some surprises. What sounded like a great closer, turned out to goat cheese and roasted tomato sauce, sprouts, a FEW sprinkled chopped almonds, and crostini. Believe me, it was excellent, but not at all what it read like on the menu.
Similar experience with dessert which was described as caramelized bananas with a saffron crème anglais. No mention at all of the brownie it was served on. Again, no complaints here-- it was amazing. BUT... I regularly dine with someone who has many food allergies and often NEEDS to have a better sense of what is in a dish. Again, the language barrier was a bit of a problem too in getting explanations of the dishes when they arrived.
But alas with dessert, our sangria finally arrived... with a sincere apology, but no comp. By this time we had requested that our order of a pitcher, be scaled back to a round of drinks.
Would I go back? Absolutely. Every night. For a month. Well, at least until I tried all the many tantalizing items on the menu. I feel confident the glitches we experienced will be smoothed out and hopefully they will work on their menu. This is truly a welcome addition to the Philadelphia food scene.