My weekend in Philly - Osteria, Matyson and Dim Sum Garden
Visited Philly last weekend and after searching the board, settled on the above. I have family in the area so I've dined in the city quite a bit, but all of the above were new ventures for me.
I was very pleased with Dim Sum Garden. One of my disappointments with Chicago is the lack of quality soup dumplings (either the dough's too thick, the filling is not flavorful enough, or they fall apart when you remove them from the steamer). Dim Sum Garden's were about as good as I could have hoped for. Wonderful crab and pork flavor, delicate dough but not sticking to the bottom and coming undone (I hate when that happens) and all around great flavor. The chive pancakes were also delicious as was just about everything I tried. All in all, a very good meal. My only complaint would be what I thought was a somewhat limited menu, but there was plenty for us to order and we were all very impressed.
Matyson was good, but a little hit or miss for me. I had a mushroom escargot dish to begin which was good but not remarkable. For the life of me, I can't recall what my main course was (I believe halibut but I'm not sure), and I recall thinking it was ok, but slightly bland (unfortunately, they don't list a current dinner menu on their website and I believe I ordered a nightly special). I tasted the crispy skinned branzino which I thought was very good. But overall, I thought Matyson was good but nothing special.
On the other hand, Osteria was absolutely outstanding . . . one of the very best meals I've had all year. The pizza with baked egg, bitto cheese, mozzarella, and cotechino sausage was perfect. A nice runny egg, very flavorful sausage, a perfect ratio of ingredients to crust and a fantastic crust with nicely charred bubbles of crust. I believe the gnocchi I enjoyed was a squash gnocchi with brown butter, hazelnuts and sage and it was some of the best gnocchi I've ever had . . . feathery, delicious . . . really prefect. And as good as the aforementioned two dishes were, they were outdone in my opinion by the wood grilled venison leg with parsnips, apples and chestnuts. The venison was perfectly cooked (between rare and medium rare) and the apples, chestnuts and pureed parsnips made for ideal accompaniments. Housemade sorbets for dessert were outstanding . . . great flavor and amazingly smooth and no ice crystals. All in all, a fantastic meal. Service was outstanding too. My only beef was the wine list which I thought offered very few affordable choices.
Osteria was very interesting to me because it doesn't exist in Chicago. We have some very fine Italian restaurants that are in the same price range, but a cut below in quality. Then there's Spiaggia which is outstanding, but much more expensive and considerably more of an event destination. I would kill for Osteria though . . . a very memorable meal.
In retrospect, I recall one item I did not enjoy very much at Dim Sum Garden. The soup with dumplings (not the soup dumplings). The broth was not that flavorful and the flavor it had did not please me. On the other hand, the stewed chicken and noodles were quite impressive. The stewed chicken really packed in the flavor . . . very noticeable five spice if I recall correctly. One further note with respect to Dim Sum Garden has to do with the portions. If you go (and have not been there before) beware the huge portions (not a bad thing, just take note).
I failed to mention my stop at Capogiro -- always a favorite. There's a store around the corner from me in Chicago which sells their ice creams/sorbets shipped in from Philly and it's the one ice cream I don't mind spending $10 for a small container. I've never tasted anything better. Anyway, a very enjoyable dining weekend in what I always tell my friends is one of the most underrated dining cities around.
I totally agree with your entire posting. Dimsum Garden is one of my favorites, as is Osteria. And Madyson is OK, good, predictable cuisine. I do enjoy it but it's a place I enjoy going to with friends for a casual nite out for good food. I absolutely love Osteria. Always a great meal, and always great service.
that pizza you are talking about at osteria is the lombarda and i have dreams about it. i am a fan of an egg plopped onto anything (hamburgers, soups, rice, other eggs) but this pizza is insanely awesome. my party of 5 (1 vegetarian) was waiting at the bar for our table and the kitchen mis-fired the lombarda (they cooked it when no one had ordered it), so the bartender gave it to us. it was the best present i received all year. so good!!!
and i majorly need to hit up dim sum garden. one of my childhood friends comes home to philly for the holidays and we always go to our favie spot (at least 15 years and running), shiao lan kung. but we may have to linger a little longer in chinatown.....
Glad that you had a few good choices - and more importantly - reported back! Most people just ask and ask and never say what they got/went to. A problem of this board. Sorry about Matysons - they are usually spot-on! Give them a try the next time, or maybe even try Tinto, a tapas type place if you're with a few others