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another 4 nights - pls help me narrow it down!

pinstripeprincess Mar 31, 2010 01:36 PM

it's been a while since i've made it to your fair city, but lo and behold a trip has come up. i hope you can all yay or nay my thoughts on dinners and perhaps offer up some suggestions with regards to portable breakfasts. here's a quick run down of where i've been so far:

YAY:
osteria (tried nearly everything but the pizzas, i'm an offal junkie), amada, tinto, morimoto (buribop!), ansill, good dog, paesano (arista is salty gold), standard tap, naked chocolate

NAY:
distrito (too much going on), matyson, bar ferdinand (not a complete nay, but i like amada much more), capogiro, white dog cafe, le bec fin (didn't get to try the food, the service was too much of a disaster)

i've probably missed a couple that don't really matter and purposely left out all the cheesesteak hunting... this go around i'm not going to double/triple up on restaurants in one night, it was pretty ridiculous. now i'm thinking of dining at:

vetri - loved osteria, how could i not love vetri (they still have spots open for when i'm there)
zahav - sweetbread schnitzel, need i say more? someone please tell me they do it well!
ladder 15 - i adored my experience at ansill
sansom oyster house - just because i haven't been, might just be a pre-oyster thing
cochon - reviews are good, i like pig!
morimoto - it's kinda my go to and this time i will eat the steaming bowl of ramen
bibou - the menu speaks to me
garces trading company - i like half his operations... so maybe i'll like this one too
modo mio - good italian just gets to me

please help me narrow it down to at least 4 and maybe 1 or 2 "happy hour" (nibbles before a walk to the next destination) or confuse me and add to the list! also, any thoughts on where i can get a delicious sandwich/packaged food that will survive overnight for a tasty reasonably healthful breakfast would be wicked. i may go bahn mi hunting around washington ave if all else fails.

thanks for reading my ridiculous post and offering up suggestions!

  1. b
    bonappetite Apr 2, 2010 06:48 PM

    Definitely o Zahav and Bibou, and know that Bibou has 2 seats at bar area in front of kitchen for walk-ins unless someone happened to reserve it. Have never seen anyone sitting there though

    1. pinstripeprincess Apr 2, 2010 07:57 AM

      thanks all! you've given me a few things to think about which is why i haven't responded yet.

      has anyone done the happy hour at fish? curious what their small bites are like since i'm not a big drinker. also what is the price difference between little fish and fish? little fish is more in the price range i like but the byob aspect is a detractor for someone who will be generally dining on their own.

      bibou is definitely on the list, pending reservation request. the more i stare at the menu at zahav the more it cements it in my mind that i should go. sweetbreads, marrow, kibbe, hearts, etc.. what is there not to crave?!

      so here is where i'm not sure.... i feel like vetri is up my alley but it's really hard to tell. i've had a few michelin star experiences that have been disappointing and so hearing that it is "expensive" vs. worth it is a little troublesome. since i'll be there during the week i wouldn't be able to do the grand degustation, is the a la carte or regular tasting worth it? i'm more keen on good food than perfectly orchestrated service (though completely ignoring me like le bec fin did would be awful). if i didn't go to vetri then it might be a roaming evening with oysters/soup at sansom, xiao long bao at dimsum garden, and then maybe the ramen at morimoto. or just go back to osteria!

      thanks for all the other suggestions of james, meme, koo zee doo (sounds interesting but i will be alone), meritage, etc.. they were on the short list before but i'll have to save them for the next time around. good to know that they're still going strong!

      oh and it's a shame but i know i won't be able to get to reading terminal market... they close at 6 and i will be working at least until then.

      thanks all!

      7 Replies
      1. re: pinstripeprincess
        p
        Philly Ray Apr 2, 2010 09:37 AM

        To me, Vetri is our best intimate dining experience. If you want something else on par food-wise then try The Fountain at The Four Seasons hotel. The biggest difference is that The Fountain is bit more "grand-scale" than Vetri.

        1. re: pinstripeprincess
          JanR Apr 3, 2010 07:49 AM

          I have never done the happy hour at Fish but have been there for dinner. Very good. I don't think prices are higher than Littlefish (although, depending on how long it's been since you visited LF, prices may be higher than you remember). Only difference would be the price of the drinks.

          1. re: pinstripeprincess
            n
            nwinkler Apr 4, 2010 11:32 AM

            Based on my one experience at Vetri 4 years ago, I really do think it's worth it a visit, even though prices have steadily crept up since then (I believe the tasting menu was $75 at the time). I would willingly pay $115 for the meal I had, though, or I'd build my own tasting menu out of my favorites from the first 3 categories on the menu (the secondi would be too large for me, were I dining alone).

            Here's the thing: My endorsement of Vetri comes with a warning. Whereas many fine-dining Italian restaurants create their refinement by "frenchifying" their food--putting lots of different tastes on a plate, saucing in the french and not the italian manner--Vetri's food is staunchly Italian: simple almost to the point of austere, very rich, but impressive for the way that simple flavors are magnified. The spinach gnocchi, for instance, were just a plate of spinach dumplings sauced with brown butter and topped with a bit of cheese. But they conveyed the essence of spinach, and that brown butter was the most nutty and complex I'd ever had. Likewise the asparagus flan, which tasted like the platonic ideal of asparagus, and the sweet onion crepe, who's onion filling had taken on notes of coffee and chocolate. These three dishes were my favorites, but their simple beauty characterized the entirety of my meal, from the bread and olive oil to the incredible creme brulee.

            So there you have it. By all means, go to Vetri, so long as you know what to expect and are willing to spend top dollar on relatively "simple" food. Oh, and one more warning: if you do the tasting menu, consider skipping the baby goat, which seems to be hit-or-miss: those who love it seem to have been served a melt-in-your-mouth version, whereas the one I (and others on this board) got was dry as jerky.

            1. re: nwinkler
              pinstripeprincess Apr 5, 2010 05:15 AM

              thank you, that was very helpful.

              i've had high end experiences where they tried to do something interesting and complex and it just failed miserably... course after course. i'm happy with very well executed food which seems to be more difficult to come by in lieu of trendy.

              as for the intimate part as mentioned by Philly Ray... well it'll just be me romancing myself ;)

              and thanks JanR for the heads up on LF and F, sounds like i'll just go to which ever is closer since that night will likely be dependent on a coworker.

              1. re: pinstripeprincess
                h
                Hungryin theBurbs Apr 5, 2010 05:23 AM

                Well, your decision is a lot easier now. I read that Little Fish closed this weekend, citing the ongoing structural problems with the building, which has been unsafe for a while. Supposedly, he's looking for a new space, but for now, Fish is your only option.

            2. re: pinstripeprincess
              d
              drjane Apr 6, 2010 07:40 PM

              Little Fish is now closed, if that helps narrow things down. Apparently there is a structural problem with the building that housed it.

              1. re: drjane
                p
                Philly Apr 7, 2010 06:59 AM

                Already mentioned 2 days ago by Hungryin theBurbs!

            3. sockii Apr 1, 2010 10:24 AM

              I really loved Cochon on a recent visit. Hearty food, well prepared, just all around satisfying.

              Someone suggested Meritage up thread and I'd second that. The new chef is great. Worth stopping in for at least a cocktail and some small bites, but the large plates are great too.

              I've not been to Vetri but really loved my one meal at Amis, though the place seems to get mixed reactions. Just coming off a trip to Rome it was a welcome tribute to the city's food. Good again for small bites and a seat at the bar, same I'd say for Cichetteria 19 for Venetian Italian.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sockii
                bluehensfan Apr 1, 2010 10:44 AM

                Forgot to add about the Oyster House. The oysters there are great but the rest of our meals there were pretty mediocre. You may want to consider Tria for a glass of wine and a small plate too (especially the truffled egg toast) and also the Reading Terminal Market, a true foodies haven, for places like the Dutch Eating Place for breakfast (admittedly not a healthy one...but it's good) or the roast pork sandiches at DiNic's.

                1. re: bluehensfan
                  b
                  barryg Apr 1, 2010 11:11 AM

                  Agree about the Oyster House menu, but if you do end up there it's worth getting the Snapper Soup. It's a real Philadelphia treat and is very good there, though a bit nontraditional. Also, if Shad is on the menu (the season is coming up) that is worth ordering. It's another old school Philly food and few restaurants serve it anymore. However, I don't think I've had it there since the ownership change/reversion. But they will be serving it.

              2. b
                b1979 Apr 1, 2010 05:23 AM

                zahav is great, we just went there last month and liked it. it was not blow-your-mind amazing, but it was good. little fish is excellent and i like that it's a byob. fish is also delicious, but more pricy. i don't get the hype of modo mio, we went there once and only really like about 3 of our dishes (out of 6). vetri is good, but not as good as i had imagined. i think i have a habit of getting too excited for a meal and nothing will live up to my expectations! my favorite italian in the city is melograno.
                you should definitely hit up some happy hours deals for "mini" meals. some good restaurants that have them are supper, morimoto and chifa. you have to sit at the bar for them, but they are all delicious!

                1 Reply
                1. re: b1979
                  bluehensfan Apr 1, 2010 06:37 AM

                  Zahav is a good choice. Garces Trading Company can get crowded (and it's pricey) but the food is very good.

                2. m
                  micreynolds Mar 31, 2010 03:09 PM

                  I had a very memorable meal at Cochon recently. I have been drooling about it ever since. It was a dinner special that night, the smoked short rib - which tasted so different and interesting than I could have ever imagined (and i eat short rib quite frequently).

                  Vetri's top drawer IMHO, but it is expensive.

                  What about James (italian market neighborhood), not sure if you've heard of it? I highly recommend it.

                  One last suggestion, Meme (center city).

                  1. b
                    Buckethead Mar 31, 2010 01:55 PM

                    Ridiculous post? No, a ridiculous post would be "Hey, I'm visiting Philly, are there any good restaurants there?"

                    Your picks are all good. Ladder 15's atmosphere leaves something to be desired, it's more of a frat-boy bar than a restaurant, though the management seems to be trying to change that with the hiring of David Ansill and they've also revamped the beer list. I went on a Tuesday around 6 PM and it was fine, but I've been in by there around 7 on a Friday and that was not fine. So depending on what days you're here you could make this a happy hour stop. If it's too crowded, the Sansom St. Oyster House is right next door, you can pop in there instead. Don't expect a repeat of your Ansill experience, though, the service/atmosphere at Ladder 15 is nowhere near as good as Ansill and the menu isn't as adventurous. I miss Ansill a lot.

                    If I were you, I'd do my 4 dinners at Zahav, Bibou, Kanella, and Koo Zee Doo. Those are my 4 favorite restaurants in the city right now. The sweetbread schnitzel at Zahav is very good. If you loved Osteria you will probably love Vetri, but you may not love it twice as much, which is how much more it will cost you to go there (at least). If that doesn't bother you, go ahead. I'd skip Vetri's newest place, Amis, it costs nearly as much as Osteria but isn't nearly as good. Modo Mio is very good and much less expensive. If you can't get a table at Bibou (which is likely, it's very small and very popular), Cochon would make a decent alternative. If you do go to Bibou, get the tasting menu, it's just smaller portions of the dishes on the regular menu (and maybe an item not on the menu) but it lets you taste almost everything they're cooking that night.

                    For happy hour, do bar snacks at Ladder 15 (if the crowd isn't too annoying), or oysters at Sansom Street (if the Ladder 15 crowd is too annoying). Or both.

                    Haven't been to Garces Trading Co. yet but I'm pretty sure it's more of a store than a sit-down restaurant with table service. That might make it good for your last request.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Buckethead
                      h
                      Hungryin theBurbs Apr 1, 2010 05:51 AM

                      I pretty much agree with everything Buckethead said. Of your list, I'd put Zahav and Bibou at the top. Having just had an incredible meal at Osteria last night, I'd go back there in a heartbeat. ( I hadn't been in a while and left saying "why am I always wanting to try new places when it is so fabulous here, I should come a lot more often." The roasted boar leg special with chestnut risotto was the single best dish I've had anywhere in recent memory.) Garces Trading Company is fun, but it is much more casual, a cafe in the middle of the store, and is less of a dining experience. There is table service, and it is kind of fun to go into the wine store portion and pick a bottle to have with your meal. The food was delicious, but it's a fairly limited menu.

                      I loved Koo Zee Doo, but if you are eating alone, it might be difficult. Portions are very large and designed for family-style eating.

                      1. re: Hungryin theBurbs
                        b
                        Buckethead Apr 1, 2010 05:58 AM

                        Hungry is right about Koo Zee Doo, sorry, I forgot for a minute that you were going to be alone (at least, it seems like you will be). KZD's portions are almost all really big and meant for sharing, so it may not be the best choice for a lone diner.

                    2. JanR Mar 31, 2010 01:46 PM

                      Vetri, Modo Mio, Bibou agreed. I'd add Littlefish.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: JanR
                        pinstripeprincess Mar 31, 2010 01:55 PM

                        i've been debating little fish for the longest time.. good to know that people are still rooting for it. i will definitely put it back on the long/short list.

                        1. re: pinstripeprincess
                          s
                          sylviag Mar 31, 2010 02:18 PM

                          Instead of Little Fish, go to Fish. The chef/owner from Little Fish is now full time at Fish, and we love it. Creative, comfortable, delicious. On Sunday, it's a set $28 tasting menu. Delightful!

                          We also have been loving Meritage. Small plates, creative, again - delicious.

                          I'd put either of those over Modo Mio. Modo Mio is great value for the money, but ultra noisy and hectic.
                          I'd just go to the Oyster House for a happy hour of good oysters. Otherwise, I felt like I was in a rushed cafeteria - even though it was waiter service. Noisy and not pleasant.

                          Lots of other good choices up there. Bibou is a favorite.
                          Foo Zee Doo we found inconsistent - not as good (to us) as some of those others.

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