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Where can I go for a GREAT meal in Philadelphia?

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My parents are flying in on Friday, and we have reservations at Susanna Foo's. We had a great meal there 10-15 years ago, but after reading posts on this board I'm not sure that it will live up to the memories/expectations. Also, this restaurant is at the upper boundary for price, and while I don't mind spending that type of money, I want to feel I'm getting good value.

I'm a big fan of Asian influenced cuisine, but we like anything flavorful and interesting. Two people in the party eat fish but no meat. Any recommendations for a truly great meal in Philadelphia? Extra points for being accesible from the airport/95.

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  1. If you're looking for GREAT, flavorful, and interesting, I'd recommend Amada if you can get a reservation. It's got a delicious and well-conceived tapas menu, a great selection of sherries, wines, and mixed drinks, and the food is top-notch. While it's not Asian-influenced or very convenient to the airport, it offers a good selection of non-meat dishes (try any seafood a la plancha) for your party, and it's definitely a unique experience.

    1. If half your party doesn't eat meat, don't bother going to Amada, most of the great items have meat in them. It would also be incredibly inconvenient to get there and park your car from the airport on a Friday night. It's also expensive, at least as expensive as Susanna Foo's depending on how many plates you get and which ones.

      There are lots of great Asian restaurants down on Washington Ave., which is pretty convenient to 95. Cafe de Laos is excellent and not expensive, it's on 11th a few doors south of Washington. The menu is Thai and Laotian, so there are lots of veg-friendly choices. BYO. Queen Village and South Street are also pretty convenient to 95, though parking would be a little harder. That would give you all kinds of possibilities: Ansill (definitely interesting, too much so for some diners, not really veg-friendly), Shouk (middle-eastern small plates), Dimitri's (great for seafood lovers)...

      5 Replies
      1. re: Buckethead

        aw, i'm vegetarian, and amada is one of my all-time favorite restaurants! believe me, i found plenty there. the gazpacho i am convinced is the best in the world. the mushroom plate, while expensive, was fantastic. try it out, you can't be disappointed.

        you can also get some tasty fish at morimoto. we did the tasting menu there and while expensive, i definitely felt we got our money's worth.

        1. re: rabidog

          I like the suggestion of Amada. I'm not vegetarian, but I actually order more vegetable tapas there than meat.

          1. re: rabidog

            following up, that to-die-for gazpacho is a seasonal thing. but there are plenty of others to choose from on the menu.

            just make sure you go back in the summer, and place TWO orders for that gazpacho.

          2. re: Buckethead

            Visited friends this weekend and loved Ansill! Here's what we had:
            oysters, served with lemon granita, a good condiment match. The oysters were pretty petite for more than $2 each.

            bone marrow, also petite but delicious

            shirred eggs, truffled, with foie gras: amazing, amazing, don't miss that dish

            wild boar prosciutto: super flavorful, serevd with pisctahios, I enjoyed this more than I do most prosciutto

            a lovely Italian blue cheese served with honey

            pork belly with spaetzle: this was perhaps the least successful dish, great taste but a bit too salty

            With 1/2L carafe of house Shiraz, I thought this was a very good value, each dish very intensely flavored so that the portion sizes were appropriate, split three ways. A light meal for three for $75 plus tip. (I live in NYC) Spend a lot more and you will be well rewarded.

            1. re: kenito799

              i was at ansill this past weekend myself and just so you know, beau soleils (the oysters available) are typically TINY as far as i've ever seen.

              the table beside us ordered the shirred eggs twice and that italian blue cheese was truly amazing, i'd aboslutely agree. we ordered a french that was served with honey but we found the blue dipped i honey magnificent.

          3. Many people may disagree with this, but i would go with buddhakan. It is a Stephen Starr restaurant, but the food is really good, and the atmosphere is great. I think the best dishes there are mostly seafood -- like the black cod (my favorite). Buddhakan is expensive but well-refined.

            If you are looking for something that is more casual with less scene, Asian restaurants abound in the city. I would recommend Lee How Fook for Chinese or Vietnam Restaurant for Vietnamese. The asian restaurants down on washington are VERY ethnic and may be a little intimidating -- Chinatown (around 10th and Arch) are a bit more accessible to visitors of the city, not to mention the fact that you are actually in center city with other things to see and do, as opposed to down in south philadelphia, where there isn't much else. Washington Ave is closer to the airport though......

            1. Skip susanna foos. If you are looking for a great special meal you might want to relax the asian theme too. We have many great places to eat but I don't that that any of them are asian or asian influenced. If price is no object try the Fountain or vetri. For good byo I would go with Matyson, Marigold or Radicchio. Recently I had a wonderful meal at waterworks. Nice atmosphere and very good food.

              Stay away from the starr machines like buddahkan. I agree with the prior poster, you would be much better off going to a little hole in the wall on washington avenue but they definitely aren't worth flying here to dine.

              4 Replies
              1. re: joluvscards

                I would add Pif, Django, Mercato and August to the byob list.

                1. re: joluvscards

                  If everyone in your party eats fish/seafood, you would all enjoy Estia, on Locust St. near Broad St.
                  There are a few other options - some lamb dishes, moussaka, etc. - but their specialty if fresh and delicious fish and seafood, flown in fresh daily.
                  It's very attractive and comfortable, with good service. It can be pricey, but they have a three-course prix-fixe dinner menu with about four options for each course. You would need to use a parking lot, though they may have valet parking.

                  More casual and less expensive but quite good is Nan, at 4th and Chestnut - French/Continental. Chef/owner is from Alouette. Try one of the puff pastry dishes or desserts. Great pad thai. BYOB. Street parking not a problem.

                  1. re: sylviag

                    I disagree about Estia. You pick your own whole fish and pay by the weight of the fish.It came without any vegtables or starch. I found it very expensive with spotty service. I agree with Buddakhan and Amada, both I have eaten at recently. However, they are expensive if you want to do it right. Amada has mainly small plates and you ahve to order a lot of things to get a good idea of the place. But it was great, just stay away from the $40 tasting menu- it was very small and not very good. Buddakhan is always good upscale Asian influenced. Their calamari salad, ahi tuna, and beeef rib appetizers are excellent.

                    1. re: pof

                      I am sorry to hear that you had spotty service at Estia. We have only been there twice and we had good service.

                      I was recommending the prix-fixe menu, which keeps it from being too pricey. Otherwise, you're right - it would be quite expensive.

                2. Amada is definitely a great selection. I'm kind of a vegetarian, and I thought they had plenty of options. Very well rounded, great atmosphere, well informed staff.

                  1. We love Amada, Pif, Ansill, Gayle, and Django!