Ate at the three restaurants listed above while in Philly for the recent convention of college language profs, the week between Christmas and New Year's.
Obviously Morimoto was in a class by itself, though I'm not sure my companions and I paid enough attention to our omakase meals, which started with toro tartare, featured komimoto oysters, lobster, foie gras, toro beef, fabulous sushi, among other things. Still, it was an amazing experience, aesthetically and culinarily.
Pumpkin and Matyson were, I must say, more satisfying as "meals." Less fussy, more down to earth, yet of high quality and expert preparation.
At Pumpkin, I started with grilled scallops over diced beets--fantatic combination, great ingredients. The scallops had that crisp grill flavor but weren't overdone. For my main cours I had braised veal cheeks over some potatoes and greens. The veal cheeks were the best slow-cooked meat I've ever had--better than short ribs or osso buco or oxtail or lamb shanks. They were a bit fatty or gelatinous, but in the most tender way and in perfect proportion to the succulent, moist cheeks. For those who won't eat veal, this is triply bad, as the three veal cheeks that make up a portion stand for one-and-a-half cows. For those who do eat veal, run, don't walk, to Pumpkin.
Matyson was also very good. My starters of oysters etoufee didn't quite work--the oysters did not blend with the etoufee the way shrimp or crawfish does. My main course, braised short ribs over spicy polenta was marvelous. If it wasn't for the fact that I had eaten veal cheeks the night before, I would have been able to appreciate them even more. The restaurant was quite friendly; my friend and I struck up a friendship with the two couples sitting next to us, even exchangin cards by the end of the evening.
Finally, as an out-of-towner, I love the BYO culture. It's easy enough to stop at a state liquor store and pick up a couple of excellent bottles of wine for less than half the price you might expect to pay in most restaurants.
This was my first time in the city, where I ate my first in Philly cheesesteak on 18the behind the Sofitel. I look forward to a return visit to Philadelphia.
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