Last week my girlfriend and I flew into Philadelphia for Penn's Homecoming weekend. We weren't too focused on the Homecoming festivities, however ... we ate a lot of delicious food.
The day we arrived, we dropped by Continental-Midtown as it was close to our hotel. I had a Blur, which was an orange-flavored vodka with Red Bull. Gross, but
did the trick. We ordered the miso soup with shiitake mushrooms, wakame and soba, the chicken satay and the crab pad thai. The miso was GREAT in a huge bowl (generous serving). The chicken was a little dry, but tasted good with the peanut dressing. The crab pad thai we got it to-go, and ate in the morning. Good, standard fare. I don't think the crab went well with the pad thai, but still good.
We had dinner reservations soon after at POD with some friends, and we ordered an obscene amount of food: the Kobe-style beef seared on hot river rocks, the house salad, the rock shrimp tempura with pineapple and walnuts, the macadamia chicken stir-fry, the wasabi-crusted filet mignon, a scallop risotto special and a side of seafood fried rice. The beef was simple but naturally tasty; a dab of wasabi took it over the top. House salad solid but nothing special. I really enjoyed the rock shrimp ... although they seemed smaller than what I was used to (as far as "rock shrimp" dishes are concerned). It was served in a spicy sauce a la Nobu Matsuhisa, but the pineapple and walnuts gave it an interesting spin and thus didn't seem completely derivative. The chicken was moist, tender and delicious, though the macadamia nuts had a weird texture to them (due to the stir-frying process, I suppose). The filet mignon was tasty, perfectly cooked. Great side of wasabi mashed potatoes. The scallop risotto was unimpressive. The scallops were well cooked but small and rather flavorless, and the risotto was severely undercooked (the center of the grains were completely uncooked and hard) ... probably would have sent it back if we all weren't totally inebriated by this time. The fried rice was good ... it was basmati rice which gave it a different mouthfeel than standard Chinese or Japanese fried rice dishes. I gave it a thumbs up. We had desert too, but I don't really remember what it was (by this time we were basically off our rockers). $250 tax + tip included. A bargain for the amount of food that we had.
We had brunch Sunday afternoon at Bleu. Nice place ... I've been before but have only eaten outside. I thought the interior was kinda kitschy, but it wasn't distracting. I had the soup du jour, which was a potato-leek soup with bacon. It was more like a bacon soup with potatoes. It was passable at best but in my condition I would have eaten bread and milk and thought it was the best thing in the world (I was pretty obliterated the night before). My girlfriend had the panini with mozzarella and Serrano ham, which she wasnt too fond of. I had a bite the ham was great but there was too much of it and it overpowered the other ingredients (mozzarella and roasted yellow peppers). My girlfriend picked up the tab.
Sunday night we had dinner at Django. Ive been once before and Ive always loved the homey feeling the restaurant has. We ended up splitting four appetizers: the endive salad, the ahi tuna salad, the lamb croquettes and the sausage-stuffed quail. We were actually quite full after this. The salad was great although slightly overdressed (and the dressing was quite salty), otherwise this dish was great great presentation for a salad as well. The ahi tuna was, of course, cooked perfectly, and I loved the creamy ranch-y dressing on the accompanying greens. The lamb croquettes were fantastic my girlfriend was going crazy for them. I personally dislike lamb but it was the best lamb preparation I have ever had. I wasnt too sold on the chip and puree that came with the croquettes. The quail was an absolute revelation. Amazing. The skin was crispy, the meat and stuffing were very savory and had an intense, umami? flavor (savory is the only word I can equate it to, but to the nth degree). Out of this world. Easily the best dish Ive had in a while. $55, tax + tip included.
We were going to stay for dessert but instead decided to go to Morimoto for a couple more appetizers. Ive been to Morimoto before, for the omakase, which was probably the best meal Ive ever had in my life. So, you can understand I was severely disappointed when the a la carte menu did not deliver. We had the tempura with gorgonzola sauce, which was cooked skill-lessly (the batter was flimsy and moist with oil), and the dobin-mushi, which lacked any real flavor. The accompanying yuzu wedge helped a little but could not salvage this disaster. Understandably, after having such an amazing meal before, I was a little disappointed, but I guess Ive learned my lesson: go for the omakase, or try a variety of dishes and hopefully get some winners through trial-by-error. $55, tax + tip included.
All in all, it was a wonderful gastronomic experience. Django once again made its mark on my list of great restaurants. If at all possible, I would wish to come here every time I was in the city. Pod is a reliable Pan-Asian destination, and Morimoto is a fitful experience, sometimes approaching genius and other times falling squarely in the mire of mediocrity. Continental-Midtown is a welcome addition to that area of Center City, and its trendy décor and atmosphere go hand-in-hand with the well-executed "fusion comfort food" fare. I would not return to Bleu.