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Heading back to Philadelphia, tweaking the agenda.

Hi Hounds,

Heading back to Philly in May for a conference - first visit since August 2010 when I helped arrange a meetup at Amada for the Pig and met some great folks for various meals throughout the city (including one of my very favorite dining friends.) Will be in town for 5 full days (at least lunch and dinner, maybe breakfast some days depending on conference agenda.)

Places I've already been can be seen here: http://endoedibles.com/?cat=362 and include Zahav, Vetri, Le Bec Fin, Supper, Osteria, Amis, Carman's, Tacconellis, Modo Mio, Lacroix, Sam's Morning Glory, Amada, Sabrina's, and multiple stops in the Market.

Have already done some research and narrowed the list, but trying to further reduce.

Places I know I'm going:
Dinners - Koo Zee Do, Bibou, Talula's Garden.
Lunches - Fountain, Kanella, Meme (brunch

)

Places I'm debating for the other meals:
Dinners - Le Virtu, Blackfish, Matyson, Alla Spina, Meritage, Le Bec Fin (if re-opened by then)
Lunches - Monsu, Barbuzzo, Sung Kee Duck, Pizzeria Stella

Other possible eats:
a.kitchen, John's Roast Pork, Dinic's, Paesano's, Honey's Sit n' Eat, Federal Donuts, Cafe Estella.

Would certainly be open to meeting up with locals for some great eats and am open to any/all recommendations.

http://endoedibles.com

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  1. I think that Le Virtu is a must. If you haven't been Paesanos and John's, those are musts as well. I would also add Stateside to your consideration list. Personally, I have been consistently underwhelmed by Honey's and my one experience at Monsu was very mediocre.

    14 Replies
    1. re: barryg

      Thanks, I love pasta and therefore have been told by people I trust that Le Virtu should be tops on the list. As to the sandwich shops, I realize both are musts but the issue is how much capacity a sandwich takes up. My ideal would be to find a crew to do a tasting of a few of them, but that is always tricky when planning on a weekday. I will have a car this time and that should help.

      Honeys could very well miss the cut, but the hours and location are good for the conference. Monsu seems a logical choice to me as I loved Modo Mio, but reviews seem mixed.

      http://endoedibles.com

      1. re: uhockey

        i loved monsu and am sad to hear that barryg had a mediocre experience. the brunch is especially good.

        i also think that kanella brunch is way better than lunch

        also matyson just announced (like 5min ago) that it now will be serving brunch! so that's also an option (as if you needed more choices)

        1. re: InSearchOfTacos

          I thought brunch and lunch menu was the same at Kanella?

          I love Modo Mio too so I was especially disappointed in Monsu (I went for dinner). I would give them a second chance but there are so many places to try these days. Peter McAndrews of Modo Mio just opened another place in Northern Liberties too, called Popolino. I haven't heard any reports yet.

          1. re: barryg

            i thought kanella had different brunch and lunch menus- maybe they changed it somewhat recently- i havent been in a few weeks

            and i havent heard reports of popolino yet either- i went to monsu a few times for dinner and twice for brunch- had lovely experiences both times- id say give it another try if youre in the hood- especially if youre waiting at sabrina's for brunch. go to monsu instead of waiting :)

            1. re: InSearchOfTacos

              I've heard only one report of popolino and it was "chef undecooks the baked items and oversalts everything" from someone I trust.

              Kanella brunch/lunch look the same to me, currently.

              http://endoedibles.com

              1. re: uhockey

                sweet, in that case, ignore my comment that brunch is a lot better than lunch- they used to be different i thought

                and good to know about popolino...although i'll still go there

                1. re: InSearchOfTacos

                  Popolino was pretty but the food wasn't as good as at Modo Mio.

            2. re: barryg

              Kanella's menu is the same for brunch/breakfast/lunch at midday. I always go for the lunch items.
              Whoops, I didn't see the last post. I just wanted to vote for the lunch items on their menu!

          2. re: uhockey

            Sign me up for your weekday sandwich crew. My days are fairly open, so I might be able to help you out there. I also live right around the corner from Le Virtu if you are looking for company there too.

            Thanks.

            1. re: Philly Ray

              E-mail me (or contact me via the blog) as you don't have your info in the profile on CH.

              http://endoedibles.com

              1. re: uhockey

                Just an FYI, if anyone else is interested in the sandwiches, let me know via E-mail. The plan is 5/22 lunch time.

                http://endoedibles.com

                1. re: uhockey

                  Another bump in case anyone else is down for the sandwiches. We'll be starting at 10:30ish and finishing near 2:00.

                  http://endoedibles.com

                  1. re: uhockey

                    Wish I could be there for that. Looking forward to the recap. Philly sandwiches can be divine, especially with all that great bread flying around.

          3. Your "Places I'm Going" list is all good. Talula's is the weakest of them but still worth visiting.

            From your "Debating" list, the only dinner I would move to your "Definitely" list is Le Virtu. Drop Blackfish and Matyson. Both are good (Matyson is better) but not excellent. I like Meritage a lot but you can do better. I haven't been to Alla Spina yet. For lunches, keep Barbuzzo, drop the rest. I also had a mediocre experience at Monsu, definitely a huge step down from Modi Mio.

            I'd drop Honey's and DiNic's from your "Other" list. Paesano's needs to move to the "Definitely" column.

            One place I'd definitely add to your dinner list is Vedge, the successor to Horizons. Probably the best restaurant to open in Philadelphia since your last visit. There's also Jamonera, the new place from the Barbuzzo crew. It's kind of a tossup between Barbuzzo and Jamonera, I wouldn't recommend going to both but check out the menus and pick the one that appeals to you more. Of course, they're right across the street from each other so you could get a few courses at each. Both are very good. Another recent addition that was excellent on my one and only visit is Sbraga, Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga's place.

            I'm not as big a fan of Stateside as barryg. I did like it but not more than Vedge, Sbraga, or (to a lesser extent) Jamonera.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Buckethead

              I looked at Vedge and I really do like the concept of a vegetable-driven restaurant (L'Arpege in Paris truly did wow) but I'm not sure I want to commit to a 100% vegetable menu. I have to admit, the dessert menu and a few of the small plates do look impressive though.

              Need to look at Sbraga and Jamonera. Probably not on Jamonera as it is only open for dinner while Barbuzzo has lunch.

              DiNic's would depend on if I had a group. John's and Paesano's definitely rank more highly.

              http://endoedibles.com

              1. re: uhockey

                Loud and crowded is not an attraction for me. Which is exactaly what BarBuzzo was on our visit. The small plates,good and friendly service obviates those issues. We loved the place, not sure about lunch but our dinner was just great!

                1. re: Bacchus101

                  Good to hear. I don't *mind* loud if it is good, especially is service is solid and the food is better.

                  http://endoedibles.com

                2. re: uhockey

                  I'll just say it once more and then keep my peace: Vedge is in my opinion absolutely in the top tier of Philly restaurants. That, in my mind, consists of Vetri, Osteria, Bibou, Zahav, Kanella, Koo Zee Doo, and now Vedge. I hope I'm not forgetting one.

                  Incidentally, last night after I posted that I'd never been to Alla Spina, I went to Alla Spina. I'd rank it third in the Vetri empire after Vetri and Osteria, with Amis a distant fourth.

              2. I'm going to throw Tashan into the mix. It doesn't get much love on this board, but they are doing great things there. The new Square Peg also has a pretty great looking lunch menu, though I haven't been.

                17 Replies
                1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                  i would throw Ela in there. You are going to get the Blackfish experience, without driving to Conshohocken. Frankly I think their food is a bit more exciting than Blackfish these days.

                  Matyson would be another to consider if their tasting menu is good that week.

                  If you are looking at Pizza, I would consider Nomad over Pizzeria Stella.

                  1. re: cwdonald

                    My visit isn't until May 20th.

                    Will look into Ela, though I do have a car if Blackfish is as good as rumored.

                    http://endoedibles.com

                    1. re: uhockey

                      Blackfish is one of our absolute favorite restaurants.

                    2. re: cwdonald

                      I agree with cwdonald on Pizzeria Stella. Though it is a good pizza, it is not that memorable, and I'm sure you could find a better spot for a visiting meal.

                      With regards to Paesano's and John's, I would put Paesano's in its own tier above all others, but it depends on your priorities. If you really want to try a sandwich in Philly, I think that's the spot, but if you'd rather do a unique BYOB, as you can see, there are plenty of options.

                      1. re: tzanghi

                        I've got time, and so far one other person to share the 'workload' on a few sandwiches. Will hopefully be able to gather a few more to try a few different spots/sandwiches.

                        With 5 days in the city I'll ideally be able to see a lot of food (and, yeah, some of the conference as well.)

                        http://endoedibles.com

                        1. re: uhockey

                          I would add Fond, an excellent byob (up the street from Le Virtu) to your list. Also Fish or Littlefish.

                          1. re: JanR

                            What no more lamb at Zahav this trip?

                            Skip stella and consider Zavino for great pizza in it's place. They have really stepped up things in the past year or so.

                            DiNic's is good (but a wait is involved).

                            I almost made it to Popolino last week...if I get there before your trip I will report back.

                            Maybe others will add their two cents but I think Talulah's Garden seems overrated. Not bad by any stretch of the imagination but nothing earth shattering.

                            One thing you may want to consider is if you will be in town on the weekend of the 19th and 20th is to hit the Italian Market Festival for a smorgasboard of food. Where else can you compare two or three whole roasted pigs being served along with a side of soft shell crabs (and of course other Italian and ethnic specialties)....

                            1. re: bluehensfan

                              Won't get to town until the 22nd.

                              .....and Zahav was good, but I'd sooner go 'back' to modo mio, vetri, or osteria if doing a repeat.

                              Will look into Zavino and Fish/Littlefish - Fond's menu didn't do much for me when I was originally considering it and someone I know/trust was quite underwhelmed.

                              http://endoedibles.com

                              1. re: uhockey

                                I recently ate at Fish for the first time, after having many lovely meals at Little Fish. I was really blown away by Fish. Whereas Little Fish always seemed to be about picking good fish/veggies and doing really straight forward, well made dishes, Fish seems to elevate that with more interesting kitchen work. Soft cooked (sous vide) eggs, smoking buttermilk, etc. I liked Fond, but would pick Fish over Fond.

                                Also, after just scarfing down some Federal Donuts, I would recommend them for a donut and coffee run. I've heard that the fried chicken is good, but maybe the donuts are where its at.

                                1. re: urbanfabric

                                  Federal Donuts will definitely be on the list for a breakfast.

                                  http://endoedibles.com

                                  1. re: uhockey

                                    Then you'll need to plan on going twice as they don't start making chicken until 11:45. It's worth it to go back for chicken...trust and believe...

                                    1. re: doxiemom

                                      I've heard routinely positive comments about the donuts, but a mixed bag on the chicken (undercooked/pink.) We'll see - would need another person to make it worth it as I don't need/want that much of one thing.

                                      http://endoedibles.com

                      2. re: cwdonald

                        nomad over stella? really? my experience with nomad was inferior ingredients and bland-ish pizza

                        1. re: wajima01

                          In a heart beat. I find stella's pizza's inconsistent, sometimes greasy, sometimes soggy. I find nomad refreshingly simple with great fresh ingredients. I have eaten at both the NJ and PA outposts. And their menu changes a lot more than Stella's does reflecting seasonal ingredients. I would say Zavino/Osteria/Nomad top tier gourmet pizzas, Stella/Barbuzzo second tier and Birra distant third.

                          1. re: cwdonald

                            I haven't been to some of the places you list in a while, but I've been to good old Bertucci's on South St a couple times recently and it was good, not in the top tier but as or good a little better than Stella. The menu of pizzas is actually really broad though I don't think you can get a cracked egg or truffles there. I also went to La Fourno recently, the pizza was not very good and the appetizers we got were pretty bad.

                            1. re: barryg

                              Thanks for the heads up barry. I didnt post about my Birra experience here, but I remember you giving it high praise. I was disappointed in the delivery. The garlic pizza was good.. a simple pie with red sauce anchovies and grilled veggies was meh. Crust was too thck, not the char or the chew I was looking for. I am willing to give Birra another shot if I go at happy hour where some pizzas are rediculously inexpensive.

                              1. re: cwdonald

                                Maybe I gave it praise on my first visit but that was only trying a slice or two (mostly drinking)... if I did it was premature. I went back and tried a lot of pies and was unimpressed. I agree with you about the crust, no char and not a good chew. The simple pizzas were the worst; the more complex ones had ok flavor but way too many toppings and too much cheese.

                                Then again everyone I was with really enjoyed it... I am more into the simple pies well executed, like a great margherita or priscuitto and arugula. My companions didn't even want to order those (I insisted), instead they enjoyed the pies with crazy loaded toppings like the mac & cheese.. not my style but Birra may appeal more to people that like those kinds of pizzas.

                    3. Does anyone here know of a local philly forum where one might attempt to set up a local chowhound tour - specifically a afternoon sandwich run for some of Philadelphia's best?

                      I guess I could consider a sticky here on the Philadelphia board. Locales to visit would be decided by the group.

                      http://endoedibles.com

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: uhockey

                        philadelphiaspeaks.com is very active, you will definitely get a response.

                          1. re: uhockey

                            Thought I'd include a link to uhockey's thread as it took me a few minutes to find it (as I've not visited philadelphiaspeaks before) and there are currently no responses:
                            http://www.philadelphiaspeaks.com/for...

                            I have to admit I'm disappointed the visit will be when I'm away since I've never tried Paesano's. I know, probably a mortal sin for a native Philadelphian.

                            1. re: gaffk

                              I have received a couple private messages on there and people can always e-mail me since I list my information here on chowhound largely because meeting locals is a cool way to get a feel for the scene. Thanks for the link. :-)

                              http://endoedibles.com

                              1. re: uhockey

                                I'm even more disappointed because I think you can eat more in a day than I can in a week . . . would have loved to see you in action.

                                I can't wait to see your next Philly post-mortem.

                                1. re: gaffk

                                  ...makes me sound like some kind of freak. jeesh. :-)
                                  I promise I'm quite normal.

                                  http://endoedibles.com

                                  1. re: uhockey

                                    Sorry, I'm the freak. I can't even finish an "individual" pizza at Arpeggio; love the occasional cheesesteak but never even finish a half. A lamb shoulder? I'd need 3 or 4 companions. My 5'0" 90-lb sister always out-ate and out-drank me. (I now hang my head in shame :(

                                    1. re: gaffk

                                      Heh. No offense taken.

                                      My 5'1" 100ish-lb sister can nearly keep up with me.

                                      http://endoedibles.com

                                        1. re: gaffk

                                          I think I may have found a possibility. Of course, it is designed for two people:

                                          http://philadelphia.foobooz.com/2012/...

                                          1. re: bluehensfan

                                            I bet you could feed more than two people with that. Plus, Amada is now charging a flat price for their pig ($250 for half, around $400 for whole) with no minimum amount of people required. Based on that, I think Amada comes out cheaper.

                                              1. re: uhockey

                                                I did the pig thing at Amada in the past and loved all of the side dishes but disliked the pig immensely. Strange I know...

                        1. I'd recommend adding Bibou to the list. Fairly easy to get in on a Wed or Thu if you're willing to go early (5 or 5:30) or late (9:30-10:30). Great french byo, chef used to be the executive chef at LBF.

                          2 Replies
                            1. re: uhockey

                              I need remedial reading lessons, apparently...

                              By the way, I'd recommend Matyson, contrary to a previous poster. I enjoyed it more than Le Virtu, which I found rather inconsistent (liked their pastas, didn't like the risotto or paella. Maybe the rule is to stay away from their rice)

                              Barbuzzo's is rather good as well, though.

                          1. I am a fan of Matyson and Meritage and not of Sang Kee.

                            Johns Roast Pork is great, but I often wonder if it so much better than Dinic's to make it worth the greater (for me) inconvenience of hours and location.

                            I think the most interesting thing on your list is Paesano's, where some of the sandwiches are truly unique.

                            1. That's a pretty good list. Here's my $0.02:

                              Definitely do Bibou and Kanella. Talula's Garden... eh. I would probably pass on Alla Spina, Barbuzzo, Sang Kee, and Pizzeria Stella.

                              Le Virtu is good but not great. I'm a little surprised at some of the Amis bashing on the board lately. I'd easily rank Amis ahead of Le Virtu.

                              I agree with the person that suggested Zavino - one of the great pizzas in the city and the rest of their menu is pretty solid as well.

                              I highly suggest checking out The Dandelion. It's probably the best Stephen Starr place (imho, of course). I also suggest Han Dynasty for Sichuan.

                              Also, big thumbs up for Tashan. Probably the best and most interesting new place to open in Philly in 2011.

                              Finally, I would consider adding Sbraga to the list. I went when they first opened, and although they were a little rough around the edges, the food was pretty impressive and a great value.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: deprofundis

                                I've been to Amis. I liked it.

                                I have to say, I really like The Dandelion's menu - and the same for Tashan. I'll add them to the list of possibles (which is growing too large.) Sbraga doesn't really wow me.

                                In terms of brunch - how does meme stack up to Tashan or The Dandelion in terms of service?

                                http://endoedibles.com

                                1. re: uhockey

                                  Have not been to meme. I've had dinner at Tashan, but not brunch. But between those three, I would expect Tashan to have the most refined/formal service.

                                  1. re: uhockey

                                    The service at Tashan is not good. My after-dinner coffee was served with no cream available, I had to ask two different servers for it and it never arrived. The check was dropped off without being asked for, or even the server asking us if we wanted anything else. We were kept waiting much longer than normal for the simplest things (drink order being taken, drinks arriving, check arriving, etc.). And I wasn't crazy about the food either. If you lived in Philly and had already been to the better places I might suggest checking it out but it's not worth a visit if you're just here for a few days.

                                    I'd agree that Dandelion is probably the best Starr place, but I don't think it's the best gastropub in Philly. The South Philly Tap Room and the Khyber Pass are both better, SPTR being my favorite. I do like the Dandelion a lot, it's another place that I might suggest if you lived here and had already been to some of our other, better gastropubs.

                                    1. re: Buckethead

                                      I had amateurish service at Tashan as well, though we were mainly drinking, not eating.

                                2. John's Roast Pork is actually a very quick trip by car from center city as it's off of a major parkway; you may be able to run out there for a quick lunch during your conference. I personally would suggest their cheesesteaks. There's actually a separate line for grilled items, you step up, order your item, wait 5 minutes while they make it from scratch and it's pretty much the platonic ideal of a cheesesteak. Oddly enough, I'm less enthusiatic about their roast pork mostly because I find the seasoning to be a little more herby and floral than I would like but that's a matter of personal preference.

                                  FYI: Izumi in south philadelphia on the same Birra/Fond/Stateside strip often has live uni as a special. Their sushi is pretty good; I think their chef was from morimoto. The cooked dishes are meh and the live uni is amazing. I think they actually keep a fishtank of sea urchin in the back.

                                  Also FYI: if you like hockey, there's an ongoing street hockey game Sunday mornings in one of the public rink areas in South Philly, feel free to message me if you're interestested.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: musugu

                                    I like hockey but I haven't played in ~10 years. :-) I'm also heading out of town Sunday morning.

                                    John's will likely be visited on a Tuesday as part of a growing group-tour. If you're interested, we're happy for more people.

                                    http://endoedibles.com

                                  2. As far as new and very worthy places are concerned, I would say Sbraga, Farm and the Fisherman and Fond.

                                    22 Replies
                                    1. re: RocketJSquirrel

                                      Farm and Fisherman was recommended by someone else, as well - seems to be from the same group as Blackfish. Execution on the same level?

                                      Having been to all Vetri's other spots I'd really like to check out Alla Spina, but the menu seems much more apt for sharring and I'm unfortunately traveling solo.

                                      http://endoedibles.com

                                      1. re: uhockey

                                        Farm and FIsherman is not from the same group as Blackfish. It is run by a husband and wife team. He was at one time at Blue Hill at Stone Barn. It is BYO, so if you are looking to be able to bring your own wine, or meet folks that like to do that, it is a good destination. Menu is small, but changes frequently with the seasons. Preparations are simple and flavorful.

                                        The venue is small (a dozen tables?) and feels a bit crowded. I personally love the place but it is not for everyone. Take a look at their menu. The Beet steak is one of their signature dishes. I have had pasta there, wonderful lamb and some very nice fish. http://www.thefarmandfisherman.com/ou...

                                        1. re: uhockey

                                          Too early for me to tell if the execution is consisitently at the same level, but the chef at FatF did a truly excellent meal for us a month or so ago. The chefs at both places went to shcool together, btw. (No, Mr. moderator, I am still not the brother or personal friend of either chef, but I sure as heck know good food and am glad to reccomend same, regardless of the venue or chef.) Not only was the signature beetsteak great, believe it or not, the mackerel greatly transcended what one might expect and, if still on the menu, deserves a try. I and others thought it the equal of the signature dish.

                                          1. re: RocketJSquirrel

                                            NY Chowhound heading to Philly this weekend, based on what I've read here, have res Rare for lunch on Friday (going to see the Van Gogh exhibit), The Dandelion Fri night. Sat, as it's just the two of us, thought we'd try, Zahav, at the bar after wandering the streets and eating our way through the markets. Any other suggestions?

                                            Uhockey, I'll write up a report next week, even though I don't write as eloquently as you, I'll try my best.

                                            1. re: owlwoman

                                              Call Zahav and reserve the lamb shoulder.

                                              1. re: deprofundis

                                                Yeah...order the lamb at Zahav. If uhockey can down it by himself you will have no problem with two of you!

                                                I'm stumped what Rare is too...

                                              2. re: owlwoman

                                                What is "Rare"?

                                                And I don't know if I'm eloquent, or just wordy. :-)

                                                http://endoedibles.com

                                                1. re: uhockey

                                                  Sorry, it's Fare....

                                                  Uhockey, you're a little of both, but always a really good read! Enjoy all the descriptions, almost feel like I'm enjoying the meal with you.

                                                  I'll keep the lamb in mind, I'm hoping we can get a couple of seats at the bar...you think two women can finish it? It's a girls weekend away.....

                                                  1. re: owlwoman

                                                    Be warned you MUST order the lamb ahead of time. Walk ins cannot get it. I do not know if they take reservations for the bar .... The high tops there are very nice.

                                                    1. re: owlwoman

                                                      Last time I was there (a few weeks ago), Zahav also had a ribeye for two that looked fantastic. The people at the next table had it. The lamb is great, but even if you don't get it, you will enjoy yourself with the other dishes.

                                                      1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                                                        Great, thanks for all the tips.....I just hope we can get in, we'll probably go early Sat. evening (6-7ish).

                                                      2. re: owlwoman

                                                        I guess it depends on the women. :-)

                                                        All in all, it is just a whole lot of lamb. If I were to do it again I'd have ordered otherwise to try more things.

                                                        Unless you've already been I think you're missing out by not doing a Vetri spot during your stay.

                                                        http://endoedibles.com

                                                        1. re: uhockey

                                                          Im in town Monday Night and Tuesday till Mid Day.. Not to hijack the thread,, Anyone want a quickie food crawl??

                                                          1. re: uhockey

                                                            We were thinking of a Vetri spot....just don't know how to squeeze that in, but have the addresses for Sat., just in case....

                                                            1. re: owlwoman

                                                              Osteria is, imo, far better than Zahav - albeit perhaps less unique.

                                                              http://endoedibles.com

                                                              1. re: uhockey

                                                                +1. I agree with every word of this. Which is why I can't understand how the local food critic gave Zahav 4 bells and passed over Osteria.

                                                                1. re: deprofundis

                                                                  Maybe we'll end up at Osteria instead then.....just really want good food and a fun place to eat at the bar....We'll have been wandering Philly all day, so it will also depend where we end up at dinnertime. In NY, there are so many choices......

                                                                  1. re: owlwoman

                                                                    I love eating at the bar at Osteria. I have a much better time there than in the dinning room. You get just as good service, and it is a very nice space. You can definitely eat at the bar wtihout reservations at Osteria. My recommendation is you still with the primi, the pasta and the pizza. Skip the mains. The polenta budino is their best dessert and it is much better than Barbuzzo's.

                                                                    1. re: cwdonald

                                                                      Thank you all....looking forward to a great eating adventure in Philly. And, uhockey, the budino does look great, I just made polenta the other night for dinner, big fan of this.

                                                                    2. re: owlwoman

                                                                      ...I'm not sure Philly lacks choices. Perhaps less than New York, but for me it is just as hard to narrow the list.

                                                                      As cwdonald mentions below, the pizza and pasta is where it is at, and the polenta budino is ridiculously good. They sent me the recipe and I've made it at home with great success, as well.

                                                                      http://endoedibles.com

                                                              2. re: uhockey

                                                                Uhockey, we will probably skip the lamb and just do small plates, more to our liking. I also enjoyed reading about your dining experiences in NY and your blog is fun to read. You really do have a good apetite!

                                                                1. re: owlwoman

                                                                  Trust in the hounds and get the lamb. I'm not that big of a Zahav fan, and even I have to admit that their lamb shoulder is probably the best thing being served in Philly right now. It's part of their $45 "mesibah" tasting, so you'll get a few small plates too. It's also the chef's signature dish.

                                                  2. Re: sandwich tour. The only one must for me is Nick's at 20th and Jackson, beef combo overboard.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                      You could delay your trip overseas to join us. :-) I mean, I wouldn't, but you *could*.

                                                      http://endoedibles.com

                                                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                        +1. Nick's roast beef is one of the best sandwiches in town.

                                                        Also, if you can get to Camden, Donkey's makes a cheesesteak that surpasses most of what you'll find in Philly. It's my personal favorite.

                                                      2. Alright, have made a lot of choices, trying to narrow down one last dinner:

                                                        Ela, Ulivo, Mica, or Matyson is the question. Obviously all a little different, but all with menus that really strike my fancy. It seems Mica is the most 'upscale' while Matyson could pull out an amazing tasting a week in advance and change my opinion. The Pastas at Ulivo look impressive and Ela - pretty much everything on the second, third, and final bites menu looks great.

                                                        Thoughts on which is the most "can't miss" currently?

                                                        http://endoedibles.com

                                                        11 Replies
                                                        1. re: uhockey

                                                          I haven't been to the first two and wouldn't recommend either of the second two. Between those two though, I'd pick Matyson by a mile. Mica was amateurish in both food and service.

                                                          1. re: Buckethead

                                                            If you are going to Blackfish, I would not go to Mica. I am a huge fan of Ela, as their chef is pushing the envelope more than the other three. Matyson is very nice, though it really depends on the tasting menu. Some weeks are great, others are ho hum. I have not been to Ulivo.

                                                            1. re: cwdonald

                                                              Not going to Blackfish. The menu does not interest me enough to justify the trek.

                                                              http://endoedibles.com

                                                              1. re: uhockey

                                                                If the menu at Blackfish doesn't interest you, I would definitely skip Mica, it's like Blackfish but not as well-executed.

                                                          2. re: uhockey

                                                            I have been to Ulivo twice. It is very good. I agree that you shouldn't go to Mica if you are going to Blackfish.

                                                            1. re: uhockey

                                                              Have not been but three friends l respect thoroughly enjoyed Ela. l am at Farm and Fisherman tonight, another worthy candidate.

                                                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                Appreciate the comments - the menu definitely seems the most 'interesting' of the group. Of course all of this hinges on whether Le Bec Fin is opened by the time I come, as I'd probably land there if it were reopened by the time of my visit.

                                                                http://endoedibles.com

                                                                1. re: uhockey

                                                                  I don't recall you having visited The Fountain in The Four Seasons hotel. If you want a top shelf dining experience like LBF used to deliver, definitely go there.

                                                                  1. re: Philly Ray

                                                                    Going there for lunch with friends on Saturday during my stay.

                                                                    http://endoedibles.com

                                                                2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                  How was Farm & Fisherman? I've been wanting to get there for a while now and just haven't gotten around to it yet.

                                                              2. I realize you've already been to Lacroix, but have you given the Sunday brunch there any thought?

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: cocobinga

                                                                  Have to back this question up. You really shouldn't miss Lacroix Brunch this time...prejudices against brunch aside, it is really lovely in every possible way that brunch can be. And though I know it will be no problem for you and your athletic epicurean ability, I don't eat for three days following...

                                                                  1. re: doxiemom

                                                                    I'll not be staying for brunch Sunday. Travel plans dictate otherwise. I enjoyed my first visit to Lacroix plenty and am not a buffet guy due to the above mentioned abiliity to eat - I always overdo it.

                                                                    http://endoedibles.com

                                                                2. I could just turn my blog into a flickr stream and post about every meal where I was known to the chef and often comped.....it'd save me money for a better camera and I could spend more time editing my photos. ;-)

                                                                  Of course, I don't think that would be as helpful to the folks here looking for real recommendations from people likely to have a meal similar to what they might expect dining at the same place.

                                                                  So....where should I eat in Philly?

                                                                  http://endoedibles.com

                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                    1. re: kukubura

                                                                      Paesano's and Kanella (below) are already booked. Trying to find a co-diner or two for Barbuzzo in order to sample more.

                                                                      Hadn't looked into Sampan, but don't particularly favor the menu.

                                                                      http://endoedibles.com

                                                                      1. re: uhockey

                                                                        I've been to Sampan. It's good, but as someone from out of town with limited time/stomach space I would pass. I'm not as crazy about Barbuzzo as a lot of folks here, but it's not bad. Have you checked out a.kitchen?

                                                                          1. re: Buckethead

                                                                            +1 Everything was over salted for my taste.

                                                                    2. re: uhockey

                                                                      I have a great name for your new blog: Ulterior Epicure. ZING!

                                                                      But seriously, check out Kanella. ;-)

                                                                      1. re: deprofundis

                                                                        Don't get me wrong, I enjoy photo-blogs and totally admire the beauty of those shots, but it is not (and never has been) what my blog is about. My blog is about me and my own random thoughts. I particularly using it in conjunction with chowhound to meet other likeminded folks, get great recommendations, and give back to the board.

                                                                        http://endoedibles.com

                                                                    3. Have you thought about going back to Vetri and asking for an extended tasting? That's what I did back in September (inspired by your reports no doubt!). It was way more food than I could handle, but I know you'd be up for the challenge. They literally told me just to let them know when to stop, otherwise they would keep bringing dishes - I wish I had your capacity. I'll also note that they did not charge more than the standard tasting menu price.

                                                                      14 Replies
                                                                      1. re: cocobinga

                                                                        I also did an extended tasting at Vetri recently. It was great, but I don't know if I would do it again. It was a LOT of food. I finished it though. :)

                                                                        1. re: deprofundis

                                                                          Did you get up charged? I have a hard time believing both would be the same price?!?!

                                                                          1. re: gregb

                                                                            Send me an email. My username @comcast.net.

                                                                          2. re: deprofundis

                                                                            Interesting. How many courses (question to both cocobinga and deprofundis)? Price doesn't matter (within reason) provided it was worth it.

                                                                            http://endoedibles.com

                                                                            1. re: uhockey

                                                                              The normal meal is an assortment of small bites + crudite, 2 appetizers, 2 pastas, 1 main, 1 intermezzo, piccola pasticceria, 1 dessert. $10 for an optional cheese course, or you can swap it with dessert. In my case they added 1 appetizer + 3 pastas.

                                                                              1. re: deprofundis

                                                                                I've looked over my photos just to verify. Keep in mind that I had to tell them when I was ready for the entree. Otherwise, I assume that they would have kept bringing dishes.

                                                                                My meal consisted of: small bites and salumi plate; crudite; breads and olives; artichoke salad with arugula; quail stuffed with foie gras; sweetbreads with plums and rosemary; mare caldo; spinach gnocchi; almond tortellini; rigatoni alla bolognese; casoncelli with sage and pancetta; baby goat with polenta; strawberry sorbetto intermezzo; chocolate polenta souffle; and petit fours.

                                                                                I appear to be drooling now.

                                                                                1. re: cocobinga

                                                                                  That's it? ;-) At Per Se they did 21.

                                                                                  In all seriousness though, I'm thinking this may be a good plan.

                                                                                  http://endoedibles.com

                                                                                  1. re: uhockey

                                                                                    Haha! Yes, that's all I was able to eat. :(

                                                                                    Looking forward to your reports, as always.

                                                                                    1. re: cocobinga

                                                                                      Well, thanks to you and deprofundis one of those reports will in fact be Vetri.

                                                                                      http://endoedibles.com

                                                                                      1. re: uhockey

                                                                                        I'm just glad to have helped in any small way. Your Philadelphia trip reports were an invaluable resource when planning my own trip.

                                                                                        1. re: cocobinga

                                                                                          Well thanks. :-)

                                                                                          Still need to find a pizza/snacks buddy for barbuzzo while in town, but otherwise the agenda looks quite excellent and ideally my feedback will be helpful again.

                                                                                          http://endoedibles.com

                                                                                          1. re: uhockey

                                                                                            When are you planning on doing Barbuzzo? I might be down.

                                                                                            1. re: deprofundis

                                                                                              Check my profile and shoot me an e-mail - or send via blog. Days/times are negotiable for that one.

                                                                                              http://endoedibles.com

                                                                          3. I'm so glad that you're considering Matyson; I wasn't sure if you saw or when your trip is but (drumroll) this week's tasting menu is all fois gras which just thrills my saturated fat loving heart. It's some sort of anti-protesting protest menu. You can see the details at their website.

                                                                            Have you considered stopping by one of the Tria locations for a quick bite? It has a full menu of cheeses and is my personal happy place.

                                                                            1. Cheers to all you excellent Philly hounds who provided suggestions and a big thanks to those who made it out for great eating in your fine city. Though my blog is quite backlogged at this point, eventually all my thoughts will see equal facetime and I'll be sure to crosslink posts here at Chowhound to provide feedback to future hounds looking to eat well in the City of Brotherly Love.

                                                                              All told I managed to fit in breakfast on all but one day of the trip and lunch plus dinner all five days and a 4th meal or snack on *most* days. Below is the total list of places I visited:

                                                                              Federal Donuts
                                                                              Green Eggs Café
                                                                              Paesano’s
                                                                              John’s Water Ice
                                                                              Frangelli’s Bakery
                                                                              Blackfish
                                                                              Swann Lounge
                                                                              Stock’s Bakery
                                                                              Café Lift
                                                                              Pitruco
                                                                              La Colombe
                                                                              Monsu
                                                                              Isgro
                                                                              Le Virtu
                                                                              Tommy DiNic’s
                                                                              Fountain
                                                                              Barbuzzo
                                                                              Bibou
                                                                              Café Estelle
                                                                              Kanella
                                                                              Alla Spina (twice)
                                                                              Koo Zee Doo
                                                                              a kitchen
                                                                              The Dandelion
                                                                              Vetri

                                                                              Thanks again to you all. I'm sure I'll be back sometime relatively soon.

                                                                              http://endoedibles.com

                                                                              15 Replies
                                                                                1. re: uhockey

                                                                                  That is an impressive list. What places were your favorites?

                                                                                  1. re: deprofundis

                                                                                    Federal Donuts - Some great, most good, but not on par with some of the better spots in Chicago or NYC.

                                                                                    Green Eggs Café - Great service, good coffee, outlandishly good stuffed French Toast, free-wifi!

                                                                                    Paesano’s - rumors are true. Superb sandwiches. All very well balanced with, imo, no 'unnecessary' stuff. All the ingredients 'fit' and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

                                                                                    John’s Water Ice - not my style, but the pineapple and chocolate were definitely good and you can't argue the price.

                                                                                    Frangelli’s Bakery - Regular donut = good. Blackberry donut - amazing.

                                                                                    Blackfish - service needs work, but the food is top notch and that $45 Tuesday tasting is the steal of the century. I've paid $35 for portions of foie gras smaller than the one on that tasting. The focaccia also is delectable. Worth the 1:15 to get there? Maybe not.....but maybe so.

                                                                                    Swann Lounge - rich people have fun the same way poor people do - they just do it on MUCH pricier drinks. Very friendly and professional staff. Ordered one drink and one dessert from Fountain and they even allowed me to stay after closing because the Kings/Yotes game went to OT.

                                                                                    Stock’s Bakery - Get in your car and go. Donut was really good. Pound cake actually does live up to the hype. Buttercake should be banned for being so decadent. Don't like that they only sell full (LARGE) portions, but they kept well and I gave them to Philly Ray for he and his family to enjoy.

                                                                                    Café Lift - Canoli French Toast. Unlimited refills of La Colombe. Free Wi-Fi. They had me at hello and are an all time favorite breakfast.

                                                                                    Pitruco - so damned cool. Efficient, friendly, great price, and surpirisingly very very good pizza. Smoky blitered crust, great toppings, and all for $9.

                                                                                    La Colombe - My thoughts on these guys are well known. My kitchen kinda smells like their shops.

                                                                                    Monsu - I don't know if they are doing good business, but at the price point they should be. Not quite as good as ModoMio, imo, but the bread and eggplant caponata on the table are tremendous, the gnocchi were perfect, and the rabbit was great. Dessert was weak, but in general I don't expect too much from Italian desserts outside a few places.

                                                                                    Isgro - Canoli, sfogliatella, Baba - win, win, win.

                                                                                    Le Virtu - was quite under the weather from being up till 1:30am the previous morning when I went here, but the service was very nice, the food quite good (bread service needs some work,) and although the pastas weren't as good as Vetri imo, they were very good rustic style pastas. Desserts were excellent for an Italian spot.

                                                                                    Tommy DiNic’s - half a sandwich for me, half a sandwich for the bum standing by the convention center wearing a Kings hat, and that was still a lot of sandwich. Got it with sharp and rabe and must say it was good, but not on par with Paesanos or Roli Roti (SF) in the grand scheme of 'pork sandwiches' in general.

                                                                                    Fountain - Disappointing. Went at lunch. Service was okay at best, disinterested at worst. Food was fine, but considerably overpriced. The souffle is worth the $14, but not much else on the lunch menu is.

                                                                                    Barbuzzo - So so glad I went here. The duck/chicken liver pate is delicious, the gnocchi dainty and well balanced with the lamb/mint, and both the caramel budnio and bread pudding are 'best of the best' desserts for the whole trip.

                                                                                    Bibou - Lovely space, amazing food, great meal. Desserts aren't going to win any awards, but the lamb rack, the trotter, the foie, the escargot, and most of all the bone marrow dish will all be remembered very fondly and service could not be better.

                                                                                    Café Estelle - Brunch. Strawberry Rhubarb French Toast. Unlimited refills of three types of coffee. Not as good as lift or green eggs, but a nice spot.

                                                                                    Kanella - best deal in the city, and solid from appetizer platter through dessert. Lovely service, portions adequate for sharing but not too much for a solo.

                                                                                    Alla Spina (twice) - The service is better than it needs to be. The food is better than it needs to be. The room is nicely laid out and although loud it is never deafening. I cannot comment towards the controversies on the beer list, but on the whole the pig tails, the mushrooms, the stuffed polenta, the sunchokes, and the poutine should not be missed.

                                                                                    Koo Zee Doo - Just go. Get the tasting menu. Sit back and wonder how the hell this place makes a profit giving such good large quantities of quality food at such a low price. I love the feel of the room, as well.

                                                                                    a kitchen - bait and switch menu, bland and boring food, servers that seem to not care if you are there. Would not recommend to anyone, ever.

                                                                                    The Dandelion - Most unexpectedly excellent meal of the trip (not the best, just the one I figured would be 'okay' that turned out 'really good.') Service is good, food is really good, the layout of the house/restaurant is fantastic, and although prices might be a touch high for what you get the chicken/duck liver terrine is ENORMOUS for the price, the scones are ~$2.00/ea, and the sticky toffee pudding is a steal at $7.

                                                                                    Vetri - Really not much I can say that I did not say the first time around. It is the best Italian food I've ever had, twice now, and the service is superlative. 18 dishes served and only one, a dessert, was 'meh' while the rest ranged between good (duck ravioli) and transcendent (spinach gnocchi, pork, quail.)

                                                                                    Those are my 'initial' thoughts, and since my blog is tremendously backed up they'll have to suffice for a bit. :-) I can expound, where necessary, until then.

                                                                                    http://endoedibles.com

                                                                                    http://endoedibles.com

                                                                                    1. re: uhockey

                                                                                      Thanks for the reviews as always. What do you mean by a "bait and switch" menu at a. kitchen?

                                                                                      1. re: barryg

                                                                                        Brunch.
                                                                                        No Bread Pudding French Toast (listed online menu and main reason I went)
                                                                                        Pancakes looked like Bisquick so I skipped 'em.
                                                                                        No Duck Scrapple.
                                                                                        Went with the Gruyere Buns which were almost impossibly bland for something containing ham AND Gruyere.
                                                                                        No sticky/cinnamon buns (listed on online menu AND restaurant menu) so instead went with an almond croissant that may as well have been baked the prior morning.

                                                                                        http://endoedibles.com

                                                                                      2. re: uhockey

                                                                                        Great post-mortem, I agree with most of it. What desserts did you try at Bibou? I had the floating island. I thought it was pretty awesome. Also, what was the "meh" dessert at Vetri?

                                                                                        I'm surprised you're so harsh on a.kitchen, although opinions on that place seem to be mixed. I'm in the "like it" camp, but I haven't been there in a while. Why was the menu bait & switch?

                                                                                        1. re: deprofundis

                                                                                          I was surprised about the a.kitchen review as well. I suspect, though of course I do not know for certain that he had lunch or a snack there.I have heard many disparaging remarks about the place for lunch. I almost think there are two restaurants.. a.kitchen is a "hotel" restaurant at lunch and a fabulous restaurant at dinner. But I could be proven wrong....

                                                                                          1. re: cwdonald

                                                                                            I had lunch at a.kitchen earlier this year and had no issues with food or service.

                                                                                            1. re: Philly Ray

                                                                                              That is great to hear. I haven't had issues either, but have heard of folks that have had problems at lunch. I think Brian does a great job, and really do believe it is one of the better places to eat

                                                                                            2. re: cwdonald

                                                                                              You may be right. I've done brunch there a couple times. It wasn't bad, but dinner service is a cut above imho.

                                                                                            3. re: deprofundis

                                                                                              Ile Flotante was okay, not earth shattering.
                                                                                              Ice Creams were not house made (from Italian Market) and okay.
                                                                                              Apricote Meringue Pie was nice, but not wowing for $9 compared to cheaper options at Barbuzzo.

                                                                                              Vetri's was a seasonal bluberry pannacotta. It was just sort of boring. Not bad. Just 'meh'. Sort of a parfait, not really 'panna cotta.'

                                                                                              http://endoedibles.com

                                                                                              1. re: deprofundis

                                                                                                I have to agree with uhockey. I was there for dinner last week, and the service was significantly below what I was expecting. Extremely slow and very indifferent service. I sat with my entree in front of me for 15 minutes waiting for a glass of wine I had ordered well before the plate arrived. And the wait on my cocktail before that was significantly longer (full disclosure: the cocktail was so could it was worth the wait). I also understand his criticism about the 'bland' food. I found most dishes to be under-seasoned, so if your pallete goes in that direction I could certainly understand saying that the flavors were lacking something.

                                                                                                Thanks for the report, as well. I'm lucky to cover that many spots in a year!

                                                                                              2. re: uhockey

                                                                                                Thanks for review, you went to places l have never heard of. Next time you will stay at my place and have Cafe Lift across the street.

                                                                                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                                                                  I dropped my car damned close to your place - left it there for the better part of 4 days and no one messed with it, no tickets, etc.

                                                                                                  Too bad you weren't in town, but there is always next time.

                                                                                                  http://endoedibles.com

                                                                                            4. This is a great thread, and thanks to UHockey for his related blog posts also - used them shamelessly to plan my current trip. About to head out to Bibou this evening, but I stopped off earlier at Osteria for the polenta budino - I ate there Friday (my first evening in Philly) and they were apparently out of it (although I think that must have been a communication glitch, possibly on my part).

                                                                                              The reason for posting is to note the *stellar* service at Osteria. It seems very overstaffed when there, but it clearly pays off: the servers (Mario and Stephen) were knowledgeable, had opinions when asked but didn't push them, friendly but not effusive, really aware of the room; just great. When I went back today the staff recognised that I was a returnee, sent out an extra dessert even though I only *ordered* dessert (!! No worries, still ready for Bibou this evening...), offered a tour and so on; I regret that I didn't catch the name of the lady who showed me around but she again was *exactly* what I would hope for - intelligent, interested, knowledgeable.

                                                                                              There's a great Keller quote on the wall in the prep kitchen: "Treat it as your own and one day it will be." Shows.

                                                                                              [The polenta budino was great although I wouldn't rave quite as much as uhockey; the roasted seasonal veg appetiser was fabulous. The 'special' split-roast pig was not great, but they whisked it away and replaced w/ chicken liver pasta which WAS great. And the beer was world-class, as was the 'orange' wine. I thought that their wine list in general was *very* pricy, which would be the only significant flaw; very glad I went there.

                                                                                              [Bibou this evening, Vetri tomorrow. Saturday was a Jonathan Coulton concert with VIP seats; it's been and I think will continue to be a great visit :)]

                                                                                              10 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: ewanm

                                                                                                ALSO: if there's somewhere I should eat breakfast (ideally between 7th St and the convention center) over the next couple of days, let me know :). The challah french toast at the Reading market this morning *was* pretty good!

                                                                                                1. re: ewanm

                                                                                                  Where was the challah french toast? You're best off at the DEP at the market for the pancakes (but you will need to wait until Tuesday...they are closed today).

                                                                                                  1. re: bluehensfan

                                                                                                    I had the french toast completely randomly at Herschel's; no maple syrup (yeah, I'm spoiled living adjacent to VT) but excellent texture (crisp exterior, dense/soft interior), generous fresh strawberries, all good.

                                                                                                    Bibou last night is a happy place! I really enjoyed speaking French with the hostess(es - the very pregnant co-owner was around but not working), and the food was excellent (especially in terms of value). The one 'miss' was the main course, to some extent: a dense white fish (coria? cobia?) that was matched with a delightful, very fresh and bright pea-corn beurre blanc sauce: the fish itself was just there, uninteresting and almost tasteless.

                                                                                                    Prior to that I ate an excellent terrine with apricot and pistachio (taking the place of the normal shellfish soup to which I'm allergic); a foie gras-peach combination with both sauteed foie and a foie creme 'brulee' pot-du-creme thing; two very good cheeses with house tomato chutney; and then a 'floating island' meringue almond dessert. In a less congenial place, I might have griped and criticised more, but it was a joyful 2 hours. Oh - I missed a real highlight: the butter! Imported from France and gloriously rich; paired with simple but excellent brown bread. I ate three baskets :). Recommended with possible caveat for the food; recommended whole-heartedly for the atmosphere.

                                                                                                    I do note that I am apparently a harsher critic than most - OK, this is not a surprise to me, but note that I am not as blown away by either Bibou or Osteria as others, so calibrate accordingly. I'll report back on vetri..

                                                                                                    1. re: ewanm

                                                                                                      The butter Bibou uses is Echire, it should be available in larger markets. When l was with D&D it was sold there in Manhattan. If you like a 'French' butter and have difficulty in finding a good one, your fall back might be Plugra unsalted. Made to French standards and has 82% fat as do the French ones. Imagine Charlotte when she is full term in 7 weeks, she is such a sweetheart.

                                                                                                      1. re: ewanm

                                                                                                        The bread, in every picture I've seen and on my visit, was a crusty baguette - certainly not a "brown bread." Additionally - you've never had Cobia before? I'm not sure how to judge your review if that is the case...

                                                                                                        http://endoedibles.com

                                                                                                        1. re: uhockey

                                                                                                          I think that I have a pic and will dig it out at some stage if you like; yes, baguette in shape, but whole-wheat in taste, colour and texture.

                                                                                                          Feel free to make whatever adjustment you need to review interpretation :P - indeed, cobia was a new fish to me.

                                                                                                        2. re: ewanm

                                                                                                          Sorry - overloaded at work. Short vetri: service (especially - friendly, intelligent, interactive, knowledgeable, flawless) and atmosphere world-class, wine-pairings good (not great, even at $150+ for the top-flight) and rather high in quantity. Food had high spots (the almond tortellini are ethereal; but that was the only dish that would make my highlight reel for the year, probably - the sweet onion crepe might join it and was fabulously rich, dense, concentrated) but also lows (the spinach gnocci too watery; the fried pig ear accompanying snails jarred rather than complementing). The shock was butter - in contrast to Bibou, this was a scoop of low-quality supermarket butter somewhat past peak. A tiny detail, maybe; but it stood out for me, and was a pity. So yeah, not blown away again. For the money, I'd definitely go to Osteria, Bibou, or any of what seem to be a large number of chow-y places in Philly.

                                                                                                          1. re: ewanm

                                                                                                            How did you get butter at Vetri? Did you ask for it with the bread? They normally give you oil and gaeta olives.

                                                                                                            I disagree about the pig ear with the fregola, but to each his own. I've never found the gnocchi to be "watery", but the bottoms can get a little soggy after sitting in the butter sauce.

                                                                                                            1. re: deprofundis

                                                                                                              Yeah, I like butter (although the olives were fine as olives) and requested some.

                                                                                                              The pig ear is definitely an example where I think the desired goal was achieved, I just didn't like the goal; a taste difference rather than a flaw, perhaps. The gnocci may be a similar case: to me it seemed as though the spinach needed to be more compressed/concentrated before forming into the gnocci, but the chef might say that he was aiming for subtlety and I'm just uncouth :).

                                                                                                  2. Wow! Thanks to uhockey and all you Philly chowhounds for an excellent discussion. I'll be in your burg for a conference later this week and will definitely try Vedge and a few others.