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It only needs to be new, exceptional, interesting, and New American or European

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I'm trying to arrange dinner around Center City for a demanding group of guests. The guest of honor, who will probably read this post some day, is a foodie and excellent cook, and wants something interesting and also new to them, which restricts us to recently opened or changed restaurants. Another member of the party enjoys only cuisine from that is American or European (or from parts thereof).

Of course, I want to find something extraordinary, but the above requirements reduce my options considerably. I've looked around, but nothing really sticks out as more than a little above ordinary. Cost is not an issue, as long as the meal is worth it, and we'd like to eat at a nice place, though we probably don't want too much of a 'scene'. But I'll take what I can get.

Thanks in advance!
guanxi

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  1. How new is new? Within the last year? The last six months?

    9 Replies
    1. re: Buckethead

      Six months is relatively safe. A year might be pushing it.

      1. re: guanxi

        If the party isn't large, Meme is a good option.

        1. re: saturninus

          5 of us. What did you think of Meme? It appears to be a little more causal than what I'm looking for, but food takes priority over setting.

          1. re: guanxi

            I wasn't too impressed on my one and only visit to Meme. It's casual, definitely not scene-y. Not extraordinary, though.

            My favorite places that would meet your criteria are probably Kanella (Cypriot cuisine, which is kind of pushing your 'European' criteria, but it's fantastic) and Cochon (French). Both are BYO.

            It's not new enough, but on the off chance that this person has never been there, Ansill is excellent and meets your criteria (except for its age).

            1. re: Buckethead

              We love Kanella, so good call, but we've been several times. We've been to Ansill a few times too. Cochon -- I think we went once and liked it, though that was my choice unless I found something better.

              Are you sure you aren't the guest of honor? :)

              1. re: guanxi

                No, but that could be arranged..

                I agree with what HungryintheBurbs said below, most of the newest openings (Table 31, 10 Arts, Meme, Parc, Bistrot La Minette) are good, but not exceptional. The one that is, Distrito, doesn't meet your cuisine requirement because it's Mexican.

                Cochon recently changed its menu to reflect the season, so if you do go back it would be a different menu from your previous visit.

                One other place that is very new (I think it opened in November) and excellent is Alison Two. It's kind of a hike from center city though, in Fort Washington.

                1. re: guanxi

                  What about Zahav? Is it too old? Too far from European/New American?
                  Otherwise, it might fit the bill.

                  1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                    I figured the cuisine type was wrong, but now that you mention it, they do a prix fixe dinner on Thursdays that is excellent and definitely 'new American', totally different from the menu in the main dining room. It's more like the menu at Marigold Kitchen when Zahav chef Michael Solomonov was there. They do a vegetarian prix-fixe and a meatitarian one. The sweetbread dish (more like a bite, really) I had there was the best I've ever had.

                    1. re: Buckethead

                      Been to Zahav. Was the music excessively loud when you went? It was like a dance club on our visit. The owner came by and was very friendly.

      2. That is tough. The first two that came to mind were Kanella (a friend who I sent there just called me up and raved about what a fantastic meal they had there) and Cochon. Both are BYOs, small and somewhat casual, but fantastic food. Most of the new fancier places w/bars aren't that exciting food-wise (i.e., 10 Arts, Table 31). If it wasn't for the cuisine restriction, I'd say Distrito. I've heard several lukewarm reviews of Meme.

        1. Been to Cochon... poor service food just ok IMHO. Bistrot la Minette was pretty good with great service and nice atmosphere. Seems like a typical Parisian bistro. Much more comfortable than Cochon. However I wouldn't consider it extraordinary in any way. New and extraordinary are going to be tough.

          If you are willing to go to S. Jersey maybe Blackbird would work. Food and atmosphere are great. It is a byo. http://www.blackbirdnj.com/

          1. As the guest of honor is a demanding foodie, he/she probably already has a list of restaurants they would like to try. I would start by asking honored guest to name 2 or 3 restaurants they would like to try, then you can narrow down based on the cuisine.

            Another thought: if honored guest lives in the city, perhaps he/she has not tried all the good restaurants out in the suburbs. Worth asking.

            1. I made my reservation at Cochon. As Buckethead says, the menu has likely changed even if the honored guest has been there. Also, the concept will appeal to the many foodies in the party. Many thanks everyone. I do want to try Blackbird (too far) and Distrito (wrong cuisine), but that will have wait for another day. Maybe Friday.

              4 Replies
              1. re: guanxi

                let us know how it goes!

                1. re: guanxi

                  It would be nice to hear your review.

                  1. re: guanxi

                    I ate at Cochon last week I guess it was the winter menu. Also, they are now offering a 4 course tasting menu at $35 on weekdays. I can highly recommend the appetizer of chicken livers though I suggest you share them among the group as they are rather heavy. I also had the braised lamb shank which was delicious and tender and served with a rich sauce. I believe that the slow roasted pork is always on the menu as it is the signature dish. I had it on a previous visit and it was delicious. Several people in my group ordered it and they cleaned their plates. On the whole people were very happy with the food except for the person who ordered the duck breast (it came well done instead of medium rare). To my taste everything at Cochon is very good but a little on the heavy side. The main downside of Cochon is the noise level making it a bad place for quiet conversations.

                    1. re: rocknroll52

                      sorry I am replying to my own post, but I wanted to add that while I think that Cochon has some very good food I would not categorize it as "extraordinary." Compare it to a place like Matyson and it does not really stand up. That is to say, it is supposed to be French country cooking, hearty and satisfying, but not something truly delicate, exquisite or original. Rereading your other comments I would add that Cochon is fairly casual so if you are seeking a more upscale dressy atmosphere this is not the right place.

                  2. The party at Cochon was last night (Thu). The sight of the dining room reminded me that we had eaten there previously; the honored guest was happy to return; I remembered a good but forgettable meal. My guests were delighted by the menu, complaining that they couldn't eat all they desired.

                    My meal began with the french onion soup. It's not advanced cuisine, but I am choosy in that I want refined culinary art, not cheese and onions. It was a ok, but the cheese was too heavy and the onion too sweet. We opened a bottle of 2003 Chateau Margeaux Burgundy, a gift we'd saved for a special occasion. It made up for the soup.

                    But it was unnecessary.My entrees soon arrived, the sausage and pork, with (collared?) greens, fingerling potatoes, and a mustard. The sausage was the best I can remember tasting: A strong black-peppery spice, subtle (for a sausage) meaty flavor, and tender with a medium texture. The pork was perfect: Pink, tender, flavorful, and not too salty. The burgundy was no longer the highlight of the meal, though I recommend it with the sausage.

                    The service was, I think, overworked. The waitress was polite but tense, and seemed to busy to give us the attention you might expect. Two guests out of five complained that the room was too loud, and asked that we leave before coffee or dessert. To me it seemed like a typical loud, small restaurant, but not uncomfortably so.

                    I also tasted another guest's curried duck. It was also very good: exceptionally tender, and the curry was interesting but overwhelmed by the peppery sausage taste left over from the sausage. Other guests seemed to enjoy their meals nearly as much as I did. I'll see if the 'honored guest' will post their impressions.

                    Overall, I highly recommend the sausage and pork. What else at Cochon? My prior meal was forgotten, but this one won't be.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: guanxi

                      Sounds good! Thanks for reporting back.