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CC RW 2015W: 6 restaurants, 7 meals

lepidoptery | Jan 27, 201507:50 PM

I see ppl do some posts where they do a rundown of all that places they've eaten at when they visit, so I figured I could do the same sort of thing with restaurant week.

I did this sort of thing once before a couple years ago (actually that time I think I managed 8 restaurants if opentable isn't leading me astray); basically I felt bad about having been in philly for several years without taking advantage of the great restaurants here. Anyway, this year has been a great success~

Bistrot La Minette - had considered going here lots of times before, already.
There was a cheese gougere, and the house bread was tasty.
Tartare de Saumon - Salmon tartare, cornichons, shallots, fines herbes, mustard vinaigrette, lentils, creme fraiche, blood orange vinaigrette <--pretty good
Magret de Canard Sauce Foie Gras - Seared duck breast, celeriac puree, carrots, black currants, foie gras sauce, red wine reduction <--SALTY WITHOUT RESPITE. Textures and flavor combinations were otherwise really good.
Gratin de Pâtes Facon Peggy - Macaroni and cheese <--additional order; just wanted to see what an ostensibly french place would do with mac&cheese, pretty decent.
Poire Pochee aux Cassis et Vin Rouge - Red wine- and black currant-poached pear, creme Anglaise, black currant reduction <--very good, pears in desserts have a good track record with me :9

Aldine - liked this place so much and found so much else I wanted to try on the offered menu I came here twice for dinner. The value is very good assuming the portions are the usual; the desserts are very small imo. Both times I left full but not very full; if one were very hungry beforehand it might not be enough. The descriptions are more mysterious than they need to be. >.>
First meal: raw beef(mushroom,gribiche,quinoa), pork belly(squid,black rice,mint), duck breast(cabbage,rye,quince), bread pudding(butternut,pomegranate), also a fancy soda of some kind (tea, blood orange, ... something) and the "bread service" was a focaccia of some kind. It was very oily (in a good way) yet came with additional (compound?) butter which seemed wholly unnecessary but of course I ate it anyway. They only bring the bread out with the main course, not sure why.
Second meal: (hamachi) crudo(radish,citrus salt,herbs), cauliflower(orange,truffle,hazelnut), skate(clams,brown butter,caper), chocolate mousse(duck skin,sea salt), potato focaccia bread. Was also gifted the onion soup (creme fraiche,celery root,sage) as they remembered me from the previous week. :) This came with little crispy onion rings with a bit of vegetable ash on the side. I think the cauliflower was really good (I like cauliflower, though). I think the skate also had a celery root puree? The flavors were nicely balanced there.

Varalli - the food here was good, but less interesting than the other restaurants I tried (to be expected though). Interior decor is unremarkable but for the giant squid over the bar area.
Bread was focaccia with olive oil and (I think) a pesto for dipping
Soup of the Day - Butternut squash puree <--what you'd expect
Colossal Crab Cocktail - manga, avocado, evoo and lemon <--pretty good flavor combo, ingredients seemed fresh
Filet Mignon - shallot and sweet roasted garlic reduction <--came with asparagus spears and mashed potatoes, which were quite good. I feel the steak was well-cooked but I guess I'm not really a steak person, and the sauce didn't seem to want to stick to the steak when I dredged it through it, although it was tasty when I tried a little bit on its own.
Bread Pudding - with chocolate, cranberries, served with a bourbon cream <--pretty good

Tashan - lunch!
Samosa Trio - Cheese steak, Chicken Tikka, Saag paneer <--frankly was not impressed
Green Chicken Tikka Mustard greens, mustard seed, mustard oil, green chili, Greek yogurt <--this was good! Chicken v tender and I don't think it was even dark meat.
Old Delhi Butter Chicken - Tandoori chicken, Tomato, Spices <--I've only had butter chicken in 2 places and both skewed sweet; wiki sez butter chicken isn't as sweet in India but I wonder if it's sweet abroad because chicken tikka masala is also popular whereas it's not a traditional indian dish (conflicted reports on whether they have it in india at all?) so there needs to be a point of differentiation or something? Served with rice, also a choice of either naan or roti. I went with roti (the naan I think is a garlic naan). I haven't had this particular kind of roti before, I think. Anyway, this was pretty good but I would probably prefer it less sweet.
Spiced Molten Chocolate Cake - coriander, cardamom, white pepper, cinnamon <--eh.

Zahav - lunch; the service everywhere was good, staff were welcoming and attentive and all that good stuff. Same here, but I got the feeling they needed to iron out some kinks. Two different servers explained the restaurant week menu to me, and after one server went to get my water another came up and asked if I would like sparkling or still (not because the other had forgotten which I requested, just because he thought no one had gotten to me yet?) This isn't actually important, it just stood out to me. Anyway, Zahav's RW lunch menu is a really good deal!
Salatim+hummus+laffah - 4 salads: pickled onions with sumac, beets (a bit creamy but probably not actually dairy?), carrots (no real memory of the description), double-cooked eggplant. Also there were pickles (primarily cauliflower stem if I'm not mistaken) on the table once they bring you your water. You can almost get full on this alone (I didn't finish it to make sure I'd still be able to eat what I actually ordered).
Crispy haloumi - dates, pickled onion, walnuts, urfa <--I never figured out what the urfa was, possibly some spice? I've had a haloumi+dates combo elsewhere, but for some reason it didn't go over great with me this time. The haloumi seems batter-fried, and I guess I like a more pure experience where I can taste the milkiness of the cheese more clearly and feel it squeak between my teeth. The date jam got a bit cloying eventually and some of it actually was left behind; the onions were a nice respite. Overall I think it's just not the dish for me; others may like it a lot.
Branzino - celery root, apples, tzatziki <--This was great! The skin was incredibly crispy while the flesh was incredibly tender.
Pumpkin basboosa - honey mascarpone, cranberries, walnuts <--REALLY GREAT and I'm not even a particular fan of pumpkin. The honey in particular really came through nicely and the textures were excellent. So small, though. :(

Little Nonna's - lunch. Interior is very cute.
B+V+P MEATBALL - soft polenta, san marzano gravy, fontina <--got this after I realized I'd read an article about it before; was good but did not quite live up to my hopes
WILD MUSHROOM LASAGNA - maitake & royal trumpet mushrooms, tuscan kale, parmesan, blistered tomatoes <--Hm... the lasagna was kind of one-note and cloying, I was grateful there were a few tomatoes to cut through the (somehow bland) richness. The mushrooms were also not well-integrated into the lasagna itself, imo. There were much more mushrooms (fried crispy) on top of it than in the layers. The frying was well-done, I guess, but I missed some of the meaty chewiness mushrooms can have. Huh, so there was kale there? It did not make its presence known....
TIRAMISU - espresso soaked lady fingers, marsala zabaglione, pizzelle crumble <--REALLY GOOD I especially like the crumble. Dryer than I expected (not a criticism, just a description since I expect tiramisu to be kind of wet).

As a note, I went for early dinners and noon for lunch (except Zahav where I went at 11a), and none of the places were busy (which is sad to me, considering how much slower business must be on regular weekdays... and Varalli in particular seems huge! Tashan seemed to have a biggish space as well) so the kitchen and waitstaff were probably on top of their game. I might try to squeeze in another lunch at Zahav before the week is over. In February I guess I'll be living on rice gruel. >.>

Bistrot La Minette,
Tandoori Kabab,
Little Nonna's
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