Read a lot of back and forth about Amis on here especially after Bourdain's visit. Had a layover of my own in Philly this week and wanted to share my delightful experience at Amis.
Dining solo I was seated (my choice) at the chef's bar overlooking the open kitchen and the inspiration for the title of this review. When you're solo you can spend a lot of time watching the kitchen and I can tell you they take their work very, very seriously at Amis, and the proof is in the pudding, or in the pasta, in this case.
This was a dinner visit and I arrived towards the end of prime time and was surprised to get such great service for a 'table of 1', and when the dining room was still quite packed. Attentive, knowledgeable, no egos or attitudes about food or wine, and over the course of the meal I was assisted by three different people who all knew their stuff and could discuss it plainly, not counting the maitre d' who seated me or the busboy.
Sampled a couple of appetizers - the salami di giorno was a fennel flavor served with a sweet red onion marmalade. Top notch and at least the equal to Batali charcuterie I have enjoyed in the past. Should also mention the focaccia was unbelievably flavorful and true to tradition with no gobs of herbs all over the place - just an airy, plain country bread with a deep brown, delicate, delicious crust.
Second, the pork belly with fried peppers and shaved sharp provolone. To say this was a disappointment wouldn't be fair, because it was very nicely prepared, tasty and with a quality provolone. However, I thought it was ordinary in that they could have done a whole lot more jazz with the peppers, especially in Philly, the home of the "long hots".
Both appetizers were quite generous portions and good for two people to share - definitely a great value, like the entire meal was, contrary to some comments I've seen here that this restaurant is "overpriced".
The star of the show was the bucatini amatriciana, the result of a great internal struggle on my part to decide on an entree. It was a good pick! The moment it arrived the aroma took me right back to Rome - clearly the result of real deal guanciale. Perfect pasta (as expected) and perfect measure of sauce. The "Jersey tomatoes" which were part of the menu description put this over the top in flavor, probably because my palate leans towards the northeastern tomatoes I grew up with. This was flat out the equivalent of eating good food in Italy but with better tomatoes (ha!) and much closer to home!
Unfortunately since I had to stop myself from asking for more focaccia or licking the plate, this last course meant I could not possibly fit in the melon and cucumber salad with ricotta salata which I had my eye on from the beginning. Another of the disadvantages of dining alone. So, I ended up with the melon granita which I watched the chef demand be made a second time because it wasn't prepped right the first time -- I know, come on, its just a green honeydew granita with diced cantaloupe, but they insisted on it coming out the "right way" and it was indeed very nice and refreshing with a glass of Prosecco, and yes, thanks Chef, it looked very pretty.
In addition to the Prosecco, I had a couple glasses of different reds, both suggested by servers at my inquiry, paired well, and both of which I thought reasonably priced.
I look forward to another visit soon and highly recommend you give it a shot.
Do note it is a very high energy (i.e. loud), young crowd, restaurant so if you are looking for an intimate dining experience, this is probably not your place. On the other hand, if you're like me and have a tough time finding quality dining with a small child, I think I could bring my very um, active, 8 year old in here for dinner and no one would notice.
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