ISO restaurant to celebrate 40th birthday
LA Hound looking for a great dinner spot to celebrate a 40th b-day...party of 2, just the girls.
Price range $20-$30 entrees or thereabouts (will spend more if it's one of those truly spectular places...places where it'd be a shame for a foodie to miss)
Cuisine: There's no preference for any particular country's cuisine, just food that's prepared thoughtfully and leaves you wanting another bite even after you've polished off the plate...food that's interesting, with unusual ingredients presented in innovative ways...dishes where the use of quality ingredients comes through. doesn't have to be fancy, just darn good..
Location: will be driving down from Newtown/Langhorne. The shorter the drive the better but we will travel for good food (I'm used to LA distances)
Date: Sat., Aug. 21
That is soon for all the popular spots in Center City Phila. I'd check Open Table quickly to get a sense of what's available.
If you want something good, and probably different from what you have available to you in LA (or Newtown), I'd go with Zahav (I think their concept is Israeli street food). If you want less exotic, I'd go for Amis (Roman/Italian).
If you want something absolutely unbelievable (and money is no object), Vetri (Italian) appears to have a table open on Saturday night (tasting menu night). It is easily one of the best restaurants in the City, and some have said in the Country. Usually books solid (you can only book a month in advance).
I'm chiming in largely to agree with the above recommendations.
Given your criteria, I think Jose Garces' menus are perfectly suited to you (I'm thinking in particular of Amada, TInto, Distrito & Chifa)--all do small plates, so you'll never be left with too much of something, the flavors are loud and precise, and there are rare ingredients aplenty. In my experience, they are all quite good, so choose based on availability and whichever menu interests you the most.
If for whatever reason Jose Garces doesn't do it for you, my second vote goes to Zahav. I visited only once, but I came away so impressed by the vivid flavors--a simple bowl of chicken and rice that packed the whallop of a thousand chickens, the most creamy tahini, and on and on. Desserts were a big miss, though.
I also join in support of a Marc Vetri joint. You are in good hands at either Amis or Osteria (though I have minor gripes about oversalting and overcharging), to say nothing of the phenomenal, which is disqualified by your price constraints.
Whatever you choose, act fast, as these places will likely fill up on weekends.
Thanks for your suggestions. We ended up at Vetri and had the grand tasting menu without the wine pairing. It was quite a lot of food and we ended up doggie-bagging the main course. It was well beyond the planned budget but I'm happy to have splurged.
Overall, it was a wonderful meal and the fabric bags with the take home goodies were a nice touch (particularly the bag itself). Some things were outstanding (gazpacho amuse bouche, foie gras, melon granita/palate cleanser) but the deserts (corn flan and steamed raspberry cake) were not at the same level as the other courses.
There were a couple of minor things that detracted from the experience. Although chicken liver was mentioned by my friend when they'd asked us if we had anything we didn't like from the sample menu items, they still served it to her. It wasn't a big deal since we happily exchanged items between the 2 of us.
Also, it was difficult to make a wine selection since we weren't told beforehand what we'd be getting. I don't know if he was the sommelier or manager but a man had come to see if we wanted to get something from the list and he offered to go find out what we were going to be getting so that helped a little but it was difficult to share a bottle.
Again, it was a wonderful evening and I thank you for making that suggestion.