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Jan 20, 2011 11:14 AM

Weekend in Philly--yeah, I've read all the prior threads on the subject

We've got a upcoming weekend in Center City and, after reading several very helpful recent threads on this board, I've narrowed down my choices. Would like some Philly hounds to help me finalize my list.

Here are the "rules"
--two lunches and two dinners
--Saturday night dinner should be "special"
--we do not eat meat, but eat fish and all seafood
--would like at least one "ethnic" choice
--we like good wine (not necessarily expensive, however)
--should be walking distance from Center City
--total food tab for four meals: $600 or less

So, I've decided to try one Garces joint (ie, Garces Trading Co., Chifa or Amada), Zahav sounds like a great joint (so, do we do lunch or dinner?), have eaten at Lacroix in the past (loved it, but that was in the days of Monsieur Lacroix...can two have dinner and wine for under $200 and is it still worth it?).

I'm open to other suggestions and appreciate native Philadelphians input.

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  1. If you're into fusion, you might as well hit Morimoto. It's not that far from Centre City and the ambiance is pretty nice. If you're not into fusion, like myself, you can always ask the sushi chef to make your sushi or sashimi Japanese style. While I wasn't a big fan of their sauces, I thought their fish was very fresh and could stand on its own.

    1. Zahav closed for lunch, makes your choice easier. Lacroix brunch has all wines at half-off. That should make that choice easier as well.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        @bigmackdaddy: Considered Morimoto, but we have so many good omakase joints here in NYC that I wanted to try somewhere else. Would you say Morimoto is unique enough for me to change my thinking?

        @delucacheesemonger: Thinking about Zahav for Friday dinner. They have a $36 prix-fixe that looks good. Any opinions? We're not brunch people..and the hotel we're staying in has a nice breakfast.

        1. re: famdoc

          No, not really. I didn't know you were from NYC. I went their only because I heard so much about it, being the flagship. Like I said, the fish is of good quality and tastes excellent without all the fusion schmutz,, but if you've been to Yasuda or Sasabune then there's no need to do Morimoto. There is a Moroccan restaurant which I thought was excellent. I don't remember the name, but I will ask my friends if they do and let you know.

          1. re: bigmackdaddy

            It's called the Sahara Grill. It's on 1334 Walnut Street, not that far at all from City Centre. The only problem is, while the food is delicious, the only, menu items outside of red meat is chicken and vegetarian. But like I say, the food is pretty good.

            1. re: bigmackdaddy

              just as an fyi - sahara grill is lebanese, not moroccan. but i agree that it is really good, verging on excellent.

              1. re: coookie

                Sahara Grill is one of my favorites. (I didn't realize it was Lebanese-- thanks coookie!) Their hummus is absolutely the best I've ever had. No, really, I mean that. Also their falafel is quite amazing as well.

          2. re: famdoc

            The $36 prix fixe is the best way to eat at Zahav. Some people will recommend the slightly more expensive tasting menu, the Mesibah, which includes a lamb shoulder as the main course, but you don't get to try as many things that way. The $36 one gives you the biggest variety.

        2. are you looking for all meals to be upscale? because if not: han dynasty, han dynasty, han dynasty.

          also, i prefer kanella to zahav.

          edit: i missed the center city restriction. han dynasty is in old city, but it's worth breaking the rules!

          further edits: of the three garces places you listed, i think garces trading co is the most interesting.

          1. Couple suggestions.

            Consider fish. for a nicer dinner, or maybe happy hour (great oyster variety on buck-a-shuck).
            Maybe Meritage for a nightcap/midnight snack, they have a large and nicely priced wine list and interesting small plates.

            For an ethnic lunch there are many options in Chinatown, but being from NYC probably Rangoon, Burmese food, would be the most interesting. But I'm not sure if they offer the full menu at lunch, I'd check into that. Argan, a little Moroccan place, might be good too. There are exceptions, but outside of Chinatown many of better/more authentic ethnic places are not in CC.

            1. Okay. So I've reserved Friday evening @ Zahav. Fringe benefit: restaurant week menu still in effect. 5 courses for $35, nice wine match for $24 per person more.

              Saturday evening will be a Garces joint. Help me choose. Which is the most elegant? What are the differences among them.

              Next challenge: lunches. Maybe Moroccan or Burmese one day. Keep the helpful suggestions coming.

              10 Replies
              1. re: famdoc

                FamDoc, great to see you on this board. If you are going for dinner, I would choose Amada over Chifa, and Garces Trading company a distant third. Amada is going to offer you much more a variety of dishes for an vegetarian fish eater. You will have great cheeses to choose from, grilled fish, and other small tapas dishes. Amada has a lobster paella that is wonderful,

                Chifa is a hard to describe. It is based on the fusion of south american and chinese/Asian flavors that has arisen in Peru. There are a few dishes you would enjoy there but personally I believe its strongest dishes are some of the ones with meat. Choose Chifa though if you really want some fabulous ceviche.

                Garces Trading Company to me at least feels more like a market/ high end Dean and Deluca where you can take out or eat there. It is the most casual of the three.

                Personally I would strongly suggest you try to get a reservation at Fish.. one of the newer restaurants around here and will be guaranteed to provide you with lots of choices. I personally love the skate with the truffled spaetzel that they often serve.

                1. re: cwdonald

                  Wow, you guys are great. In just a few hours, our plans are becoming solid.
                  Amada is fully booked for Saturday, so we booked Chifa. I really like what I'm reading about it and the Peruvian-Chinese fusion is unique and certainly not available here in NYC.

                  I booked an early dinner at Fish for Sunday night (we're headed back to NYC on a 9 PM Acela).
                  They appear to feature a different menu on Sundays: a small plate menu.
                  The choices on that menu do not appear on their web site, so I'll hope one of you hounds have experienced it and can tell me a bit about it and the cost.

                  We're going to keep lunch open: it's going to depend upon our daytime activities (galleries, museums, hoofing it if the weather permits), but I like Burmese, Chinatown or Moroccan.

                  1. re: famdoc

                    Fish used to do a prix fixe on Sundays but that is no longer the case. I think it's the same menu every night now.

                    1. re: famdoc

                      For Burmese lunch, go to Rangoon in Chinatown. Everyone I've ever taken there loves it. Banana Leaf is very good Malaysian. Both places are very casual.

                      You could also think about Garces Trading Company for lunch. It's casual, bustling atmosphere is perfect for a lunch, and the food is good.

                    2. re: cwdonald

                      I really would not call what Garces is doing at Chifa "fusion" in any way. He does straight up Chinese (Pork Belly Buns) or Peruvian (Cerviche). What category does Yuca Fries fall into? While I enjoyed my one experience there I did not see any fusion going on. Also he has dishes with the words Thai, Vietnamese or Wasabi in them.

                      1. re: scoopG

                        Well Chifa is the name for the type of cuisine found in Peru, (supposedly CHI FA is from mandarin and translates as eat rice.) Its less about fusing flavors than serving both latin and asian dishes at the same meal.

                        I will say the menu that I saw online looked different than the one that I saw when Chifa first open, and the thai and vietnamese dishes definitely seem like the kitchen is improvising to produce new dishes. So I would question the authenticity of those dishes, but the idea of chifa is real at the Garces restaurant.

                        1. re: cwdonald

                          I am aware of the wide popularity of Chifa restaurants all over Peru. (I think the Peruvian government went to some lengths recently to declare them a national treasure, or something along those lines.) But I don't think what Garces is doing at Chifa is "fusion." His pork belly buns (while delicious) have no Peruvian influence. I don't recall seeing any Chinese halo over his Peruvian dishes like Yuca Fries or cerviche. He may be calling it fusion but I wouldn't.

                    3. re: famdoc

                      Zahav will give you more food than you can ever eat at whatever price point you consider. Unlike the rest of this board do not like Rangoon for Burmese, but never was thrilled with Burmese when lived in Burma for a while. Still say Lacroix for Brunch Sunday. Han Dynasty is good took a bunch of Chow people there a few weeks ago, but compared to NYC or LA environs, not great. Agree Garces Trading Co is the most interesting. His chefs at most places have a very heavy hand with salt if this matters to you.

                      1. re: famdoc

                        I would choose either Amada or Tinto, they're comparable in terms of atmosphere (Amada is more festive, but both are very nice, I'd say Tinto is more elegant) and the food is just about as good at both places. Tinto's menu is more seafood-centric. I'm not a fan of Chifa, the ceviches are better at Distrito, Jose's 3rd restaurant.

                        For lunch, go to Han Dynasty.

                        1. re: famdoc

                          On Saturday or Sunday, I'd hit Kanella for lunch. It's technically "brunch" but they serve plenty of non-breakfast options.