A recent dinner at Pumpkin (17th and South)
This place is now without a doubt my favorite BYO in Philadelphia and one of the best places at which I have ever dined. I went with my girfriend and I got the fig appetizer, which was figs prepared three ways: First, there was a whole fig stewed in red wine, next a fig sliced and dressed with balsamic vinegar and chives, and third a flaky pastry baked with fig and goat cheese on top. All three dishes were spectacular. What stuck out about this dish was the execution - the ingredients were all fresh and the preparations simple, but the flavor combinations were bold and precise, enhancing the natural goodness of the in-season figs. Next, I had the braised veal breast, on a bed of rissotto ringed by a veal sauce. The meat was soft and flavorful and the risotto and sauce matched perfectly. Of particular note, however, was the fat on the meat, which melted in your mouth and became one with the rich sauce with which it was served. My girfriend ordered the whole grilled trout, which was simply dressed with olive oil and salt and pepper. It was served atop a mushroom-lentil cooked salad, whose earthiness highlighted the simple flavor of the minimally treated whole fish. For dessert we shared a pot of chocolate topped with hazelnut cream and served with a chocolate hazelnut biscotti. This was fantastic. It was easily as good as the last time I had this dish, in a great rustic-style place called Astier, in Paris.
I don't know why there isn't more of a buzz about Pumpkin - I often see it mentiond on the boards here as one of a handful of good BYO's, but the consistent quality of the ever-changing menu, and simplicity of the dishes along with their unerring execution marks it as a superior, not simply good, BYO. I'd love to hear from others who have been there recently and would like to share their experiences.
You reminded me that we liked Pumpkin very much the first two times we were there, so we went back tonight.
For a first course we shared mussels over long tubular pasta. The mussels were plump, the sauce was nicely full of diced tomato, the pasta was on the edge of al dente - all very good. For mains, we had whole bronzino and skirt steak. The bronzino perfectly done, served whole and hot, with an uninspiring side of Maytag cheese in little cubes, chorizo, and greens. The skirt steak obviously waited for the bronzino, since it was just warm - but tender and very good, with crispy potato shreds, juice, and creamy sauce. Service was excellent. I thought that the mussels and the bronzino were a bit over-salted, though not seriously. Otherwise the meal was perfect and we're glad you suggested it.
Although there is not always a vegetarian option on the menu, the server told our table last time we went that the kitchen could accomodate vegetarians. I assume this means the chef could "whip something up" on the fly, but you might want to call ahead and ask what the status of that is.
And Max - I am glad you went back and enjoyed! This is what chowhound is all about!
I was there last week and it was pretty good, but not quite up to my expectations, which were set very high by friends of mine who have been there. Maybe it's because Ian wasn't there that evening. My entree was fantastic, but my app, grilled radicchio, was way too bitter, made worse by the balsamic vinegar it was drizzled with. Maybe it's just that there was too much of it, it was a huge pile of leaves. The same dish with a portion one third the size probably would have been much better. Between my date and I we had the hanger steak with 'frites' (actually incredibly thin cut, like the Continental's), which was very good but not as good as the skate and chorizo.
As for the buzz, it's been featured in at least two national magazines that I can think of, so it's definitely getting more recognition than most other restaurants in the city..
I recently went there 3 times over a month long period because we were going to host my rehearsal dinner there. All three meals were really top notch, and my father--a big time foodie from the San Francisco area--was really, really impressed. The mussels there were among the best I've ever had, and there wasn't a clunker among our dishes. We wanted to host our dinner there, but it was just too small for our party.