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Looking for a critique of my Philly food itinerary

Yes, I have an itinerary a few months in advance; I am a food nerd.

I humbly ask for your help and suggestions because I am pretty torn on a few choices.

Monday: Breakfast of champions at Dim Sum Garden 10:30 or 11:00am. Wander around Chinatown sampling things. Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House looks like a winner. Rangoon for Burmese cuisine. Chef’s tasting at Han Dynasty, 7:00pm sharp, $25. BYOB.

Tuesday: Morimoto’s for lunch at 11:30am. Yakitori Boy for drinks and karaoke later that night.

Wednesday: Reading Terminal Market around 8 or 9am. Dutch Eating Place, DiNic’s, Sang Kee Peking Duck, Salumeria, etc. Zahav that night for the mesibah at 6:15pm, $45 per person.

Thursday: Brunch at Kanella (BYOB) around 11:00am and then Capogiro Gelato. Dinner at Modo Mio, 4-course turista menu, $34. BYOB.

I plan on going to Paesano's at some point and Argan Moroccan for a lamb sandwich. I am wondering if Vetri is worth it now that it is tasting menu only - I would also have to go alone. I have never been to Philly before and I am not sure when I will return. I have assembled this from sole internet research.

I thank you for your time!

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  1. Asian isn't what our city does best but you've picked out quite a few of them (all good), is that a favorite cuisine of yours?

    I don't see dinner on Tuesday, if you were thinking of having dinner at Yakitori Boy, don't. If you had Vetri in mind I'd go to Osteria (Vetri's second restaurant), the pastas are just as good and it costs a lot less, they also have a lot of bar seating, ideal for a lone diner. The pasta dishes can be ordered in half-sizes, that will let you try more things. Get the polenta budino for dessert.

    Personally I'd skip Morimoto. I don't see a gastropub on your list, if you want to try one (Philly invented them), the South Philly Tap Room and the Khyber Pass are two of the best.

    At Zahav, I'd skip the Mesibah and get the Ta'Yim tasting menu instead. The lamb shoulder is great but it's huge and takes up too much stomach real estate, especially if you're by yourself. The most interesting and delicious things on the menu can be found in the mezze and skewer sections of the menu, and you get more of those with the Ta'Yim menu. I was there a few days ago and can recommend the Gondi, sweetbreads, grilled chicken livers, and the merguez. The duck hearts, crispy haloumi, and fried kibbe are some past favorites.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Buckethead

      Wow, thanks for the great reply!

      I will actually have at least three others with me for the Monday-Wednesday dinners. Asian is one of my favorites, but I could definitely forgo everything but the Han tasting. Osteria does look excellent.

      Would you still recommend the Ta'Yim over the Mesibah with a party of five? Zahav has been on my list from day one and probably the most anticipated place to visit.

      1. re: cocobinga

        If you're a party of five the Mesibah is fine, I thought you were going to be alone. You'd still get to try more things with the Ta'Yim but the lamb is really great.

        I missed that you were going to Modo Mio, you probably don't need to go there and also to Osteria. My pizza preferences are the opposite of Delucacheesemonger's, I think Tacconelli's is just a little better than decent pizzeria pizza (though I'm not a big fan of Zavino either).

      2. re: Buckethead

        l regret Buckethead and l disagree on many things. Here goes. l live one block from Osteria and never go, l really dislike it, call me crazy. Pastas are their best thing IMVHO. Their pizzas as well as Zavino are not my style, l am a Tacconelli's guy. l would go for the lamb shoulder menu and on your open table res ask to salt lightly, as can be heavily salted. Get their mint lemonade non alcoholic, it is the lemonade of your dreams. If you have not been to a Morimoto's, l would recommend the rock shrimp app and the Bim Bop. Found the sushi lately to be less than pristine.
        l am a huge fan of Modo Mio, his current menu has guanciale and liver, again IMVHO, skip the pasta and get those two for your pasta and segundo course, they lower the portion, so not too much food. If l walked in one night and they said the kitchen was down and all they had was bread, l would happily sit and eat their bread, it is as good as bread gets. Last tip, at Sang Kee get the szechuan noodles as well, always lovely. You did your research well.

        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          Wonderful information and thanks. It is disheartening to hear about Morimoto's - I would much rather go to Fuji in Haddonfield and I actually may do just that!

          Modo Mio looks like an absolute gem. I'm sure we'll have a great time there.

          1. re: cocobinga

            It's been a year or so since I've eaten at Morimoto, but I love the food there. Spendy, but some of the best food I've ever had.
            I wanted to like Argan, since Moroccan is one of my favorite cuisines, but, enh.
            Glad you're spending the time at RTM. There's great food there, but the experience transcends any one dish. (That said, during the lunch rush, things get a little crazy).
            I'm not as big on Dinics as others are.

              1. re: cocobinga

                Do it! You won't be sorry. Find a way to get there with your group. Make a rez for one of the Omikase type dinners. When you call for that reservation, tell Matt, or his son Jesse that Carol, from Carol and Lee spoke highly of their creative genius.

                My bet is that the meal you have there will be the standout of your entire trip.

                1. re: cocobinga

                  If you love Japanese go to Fuji. Skip Vetri and go to Bibou whcih Robert Parker called the best bistro in the country. I definitely agree that asian isn't what Philly dining is all about. I recommend trying one of our great new American places like Bistro7, Matyson or Sonata. Have a great time.

              2. re: Buckethead

                "Asian isn't what our city does best..."

                Its a matter of taste. However, most regard Philly Chinatown to be one of the best even when compared to NYC. Asian may be the cuisine Philly does the best. The only exception maybe Dim Sum?

                1. re: shoeman

                  Actually, Philadelphia does have a damn good Chinatown with a few Malaysian, Burmese, and Vietnamese thrown in. Dim sum is indeed lacking.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    Especially post-Lakeside. We don't have a palace anywhere near Yank Sing in SF.

              3. The lamb sandwich at Argan doesn't hold a candle to anything you could get at Paesano's- I'd skip Argan.

                2 Replies
                1. re: rocknroll52

                  I agree, it's a nice lunch if you're in that neighborhood but if you are building an itinerary around food you can do better.

                  1. re: rocknroll52

                    Yeah, you can get the Gustaio (which is made with lamb sausage) at Paesano's. That might just be their best sandwich.

                  2. btw here is a guy who did the Vetri tasting menu by himself:

                    All of his writeups on Philly are great, and he did almost everything solo--including the entire lamb shoulder at Zahav.

                    1. Completely agree with Buckethead on Vetri vs. Osteria. I tend to skip entrees at Osteria and stick with pasta, pizza and budino.

                      1. OMG if you hit DiNic's at the Reading Terminal do me a favor and have a hot roast pork and green pepper and provolone sandwich for me will you? I lived in Philly for 15 years and that never got toppled as my favorite sandwich.

                        And I will get flayed alive on this board for it but I'm a huge fan of Jim's Steaks on South Street. I know, I know, everyone prefers Gino's or Pat's but I lived in Souf filly and I always preferred Jim's.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: LovinSpoonful

                          Wow...what a schedule. Wednesday sounds like a dream day food-wise for me but that's a whole lot of food to down in one day. If you can do it, my hat's off to you! Do get the mesibah, because it is very much worth it! Also, make sure if you are getting the Mesibah to call ahead and reserve it because they can run out of lamb shoulder on some nights.

                          I'd skip Morimoto too and to be honest with you NanZhou seems to be going downhill these days. Not bad but not tops on my list (especially in the summer).

                          One more thing, Argan has been keeping weird hours these days lunch-wise, as they are sometimes opening around 2 or so. I really like their lamb sandwich, but I call ahead before you head over there and have a back-up plan in mind. To be honest with you, every time I've stooped by for the past innumerable weeks around lunch time (granted this is on a Saturday) they have been closed. But there are a number of good places close by (Tria, Parc, etc.)

                          1. re: LovinSpoonful

                            Hi Lovin' . . . actually I think you would get flayed if you said that Gino's or Pat's HAD your favorite cheesesteak! Between the three, I think Jim's is a more socially acceptable favorite among locals. Sadly, I've hever had any of them. :-(

                          2. I love Morimoto. Excellent service and wonderful food. I can't comment on the quality of the sushi, as I don't eat it. However, I have always enjoyed my trips to Morimoto. I also enjoy Zahav, but agree with the other commenter that the food there can be overly salty, and I am generally a person who likes a bit of salt....I was surprised to find a few dishes too salty each time I've dined there.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: restless

                              Wow...I am really salt sensitive and never noticed a problem at Zahav. But maybe it's me?

                              1. re: bluehensfan

                                I've never had a dish there that tasted overly salty, but I have noticed that I am always really thirsty for water after I've left.

                            2. 1) if you are visiting Seattle or LA (or taipei, singpore, japan, etc) in the near future., skip Dim Sum Garden and make reservations for Din Tai Fung.

                              2) in general chinese restaurants in US: NY=SF>Boston>Seattle>Philadelphia. Forget about nation wide reviews that NORMALIZED by states thereby leading to crazy results. philly chinese eq to ny or sf??!! what a joke!

                              3) Sichuan is pretty good in Philly. Han Dynasty has great dishes. Ermei in chinatown has more authentic appetizers.

                              4) morimoto is good bur expensive. fuji or oh yoko! is better banf for buck. But sagami chirashi is the ultimate.

                              5) hope u have a great time her

                              1. I just want to say that everyone in this thread has been immensely helpful. Thank you very much for your time and suggestions - it has definitely made me change some things around.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: cocobinga

                                  Hopefully the choices you make will work out. I do agree immensely with the comment Philly being good in some areas and lacking in others. For example, I have eaten better sushi at the airport in San Francisco than anywhere in town while the though of having roast pork anywhere else is not all that appealing!

                                2. I didn't think this would warrant a completely new topic, so I hope I can get some perspective on this here.

                                  The only time slots available for Bibou during my trip are at 9:00pm and 9:30pm. I have no issues with dining this late, but I am worried about them running out of certain dishes or items. I really do not want to miss this place - do you think I'll be OK? It would be on a weeknight as well.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: cocobinga

                                    I wouldn't worry about it. It's a great restaurant, even if they are out of one thing (which has never happened to me there). Certainly it's not a big enough concern that I'd recommend going somewhere else instead.

                                    1. re: Buckethead

                                      Do you know the dishes you want? I'm sure if you spoke to Charlotte, she would be willing to make sure that a dish was "set aside" for you or could tell you if they'd be in danger of selling out.

                                      1. re: urbanfabric


                                        They are actually on vacation right now until Sep. 7th, but I did reserve online. It seems like a place too special to miss.