I'm visiting from out of town for a convention, but I'm a regular at the Boston area chowhound board, and have found a number of the recommendations from the Philly group extremely helpful (not least for the spectacular burger at Good Dog!).
I thought I'd share reactions to the tasting menu at Fork this past Wednesday. Apparently the idea is that Fork Etc. (normally the brunch/lunch place) offers a chef's tasting every Wednesday. The menu is the chef's whim; the latest menu can be viewed at <http://forkrestaurant.com/chef_bistro...>. It's $40 per person, with all-you-can-handle booze included (quite the deal considering they're quite liberal with the pouring if you let them!).
The first course is described as "Grilled Sea Scallop with Grilled Romaine Lettuce, Citrus Segments and Chervil-Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette" The scallop was grilled to perfection, lovely crispy grilled goodness on the surface but not overcooked in the middle to bring out its lovely brininess. It would also have never occurred to me before to grill romaine lettuce, but the grill draws out a surprising sweetness. There is a strong citrus presence which complements the scallop beautifully, making for an innovative combination that was a fave among several at the table.
The second course was "Fresh Shaved Yellow “Pho” Noodles with Clams, Grilled Pork Ball, Bean Sprouts and Fresh Herbs." The clams were steamed open, and a little gritty and briny for some at the table, though I liked mine just fine. The pork meatball had a strong seasoning to it which complemented the clams and worked well with the noodles and sauce. The fresh herbs were chunks of Thai basil and mint, which lent a surprising spiciness to the combination. One person cited this as his favorite, another as her least favorite, so it's clearly the furthest out there of the dishes.
For a secondi, we had "Stuffed Roasted Eggplant with Braised Beef, Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano and Adobo Sauce." The inspiration appears to be Turkish/Middle Eastern cooking, with stuffed eggplant at the center. Unfortunately, the eggplant doesn't have quite the attention to detail and seasoning that a great Turkish place is capable of having. A stronger adobo presence might have helped, but the overall flavor was a shade on the bland side.
All was forgiven with the dessert: a nouveau take on the ice cream sandwich, with a crisp biscuit-like lemon cookie for the outside and a dulce de leche and espresso gelato as the filling. This combination was evil incarnate. It isn't a stretch to imagine dulce de leche and espresso as compatible ice cream flavors, but the cool sweetness blended well with the tart crispness (especially if you had the presence of mind to ask for espresso with dessert!). There was also a lovely selection of chcocolate truffles handed out as well (one called "Sichuan" flavor, I'm wondering what on earth is Sichuanese about chocolate?!?, one dark chocolate ball of concentrated evil and one ball with a caramel filling).
There were two pours for wine: for the first two courses, there was a Baumann, Les Cassagnoles, 2006, France. This was a blend of sauvignon blanc and "ugni" grapes (new to me). I won't claim any expertise in wine tasting, but I liked this result was a curious mix of sauvignon blanc's cool citrus thing with a hint of oak (though the waiter looked it up and assured me the wine was not oaked). Went especially well with the scallop salad thing. The second pour was a Pedro Martinez, Rioja, Tempranillo, 2004, Spain. Nothing overly deep or complex, but nice friendly fruit and a good coupling with the eggplant. And the coffee was outstanding.
All in all, some adventuresome eating, some stuff I would never have tried on my own but am very glad I did. I would definitely go back next time I'm in Philly mid week.
Thanks for your indulgence.