I have to start out by saying that I wasn't given much of a choice but to go to Vetri. One of the women I went with is related to one of the owners. She insisted we go and try it. Naturally, she's prejudiced about the food and sings its praises to the hilt. There were 3 of us all together. My first impressions were good. The restaurant is in a beautiful old building and the dining room has lovely old-fashioned feel. The service was very good but we didn't get any special or preferential treatment. The food, well.....maybe I'm just not a 'tasting menu' type of person. Some of it was very good, some of it, eh. My memory is such that I may have forgotten one or two of the courses. We started off with an amuse- buche, some sort of pastrami thing, it was just OK. Our server presented the menu and then asked if we had any food allergies/things we were adverse to eating, etc. and that the chef would create a menu from there. There were some things I didn't care for and thought I made it clear, for example, I said I would prefer not to have consomme. We were brought one scallop dish for my friend and two consommes. The soup plate was 'adorned' with raw mushroom shavings. The consomme was poured from a pot tableside- it was awful, luke-warm and tasted like the water from which dried mushrooms were reconstituted in with no seasonings added. Next was ravioli. One of us was brought a liver pate ravioli the other two were artichoke ravioli. The artichoke was good but the liver was outstanding. Next we all had spinach gnocchi - I'm not much of a gnocci fan so this didn't impress me, I found the texture a bit too thick, I prefer a much lighter texture. The sauce around it though was delicious but there was so little of it that there wasn't enough for each gnocci.
I think we were brought a salad, if we were it was fine. Next we all had boneless guinea hen, that was excellent and IMO the best thing on the menu. We were brought 3 desserts that we all shared. Parsnip creme brulee, quite nice and different, a polenta chocolate souffle and a semmi freddo of some kind, sorry, can't remember the flavor, they were just OK, nothing special. So in all I wasn't that impressed with the tasting menu and wouldn't go back for that...sorry, I know there are many of you out there that love this place. I think the thing that bothered me the most, besides not being impressed with the food, was that the chef decided what I was going to eat instead of the other way around, and when I'm paying I want to make the choices.
Valanni - originally we had wanted to go to a BYO on Sunday night, but my friend remembered the banana/coconut dessert from last year and wanted to go back. Everything was just as good last year as it was on Sunday night. I started out with the mussels in white wine, my friend had the warm romaine salad. My main couse was the duck breast w/parsnip/potato puree. Delicious. My friend had the seared tuna fillet - also delicious. We shared the banana/phillo/icecream thing. Though both restaurants were very different from each other, in all I preferred Sunday's dinner at Valanni to Saturday's dinner at Vetri.
I want to end by saying how much I love the city of Philadelphia, the old with the new. It's only my third time there and its just so beautiful. I can't wait to go back and discover some more of your wonderful restaurants. Thanks everyone.