in search of a wonderful meal x2
gonna be in town for a weekend. looking for a great meal each night. We need to be around center city, as our transportation will be taxi. No Bibou or vetri like places. Don't need the fine linens, white glove, $400 experience. We have been to:
Amada. Loved the tasting menu
Alma de Cuba - not our favorite
Estia - Great meal
Fountain - loved it
La Croix - mémorable
Koo Zee Doo - very nice
Zahav - great.
Distrito - Good meal, fun time.
Looking for 2 great meals other than those above. THanks in advance
Luckily for you there aren't many $400, fine linen, white glove experiences in Philly.
I'd do Bibou and Vedge.
Ralph-- It seems that we have sort of similar tastes, so here are my recommendations:
1) Vernick Food & Drink. Chef was opening chef de cuisine and several Jean-Georges restos, appreciates subtle spice, and sweet/sour in the same way, but in a much more rustic setting.
2) If you really loved Amada (which I don't), I think you will also love Tinto. I find Garces' restaurants fantastic the first time I go, and then somewhat boring. That said, I think you'll really enjoy it.
3) If it's been a while since you've been to Zahav, I highly recommend going back. If you can get it, they've started doing a chefs counter menu on fri/sat nights...one seating, 2 or 4 people. Solomonov does all of the cooking himself. They take reservations for the following month starting at 12 noon on the 1st of the previous months. (So you'd email firstname.lastname@example.org at exactly 12:00:00 on November 1st for a weekend in December.) If you can't get that, the menu has changed a lot not just in terms of ingredients, but in terms of ambitiousness in the last couple years.
4) I'll echo the above and say that Bibou is extremely reasonable, very laid back, and only a $10 cab ride.
5) Lastly, you might enjoy Sbraga.
You have received excellent suggestions from everyone. The only restaurant that is missing from the list in my opinion is Vedge. The creativity and elegance of this restaurant is incredible. It certainly is one of the gems in the city at the moment.
If you are considering Tinto or Bar Ferdinand, I would consider Jamonera as well. All variations on tapas.
For special tasting menu during the week, keep an eye on Matyson. Depending on the theme, this continues to produce excellent food at a great value. The weekday prix fixe special menu is 45 dollars and its BYO.
I'll add 2 places to an already good list of recommendations: Ela - which gets mixed reviews here but which I really enjoyed recently and didn't break the bank and Bar Ferdinand - David Ansil recently (4 months?) took over in their kitchen and is reworking the menu.
Oh - and I'll third the "don't cross Bibou off the list" cry.
There are a few more places not-yet-mentioned but worthy of your consideration:
Studio Kitchen - for truly unique preparations and outstanding flavors, not to mention warm and friendly conversations, this should not be missed. Chef Shola is listing multiple events on his website now for folks to sign up. Here is a thread that provides more details: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/872157
On Barnes Foundations - event though I only ate there during a private sit-down dinner event once, I liked what I ate and was told their kitchen does turn out similar-quality food during regular visiting hours. It's just such a treat to satisfy one's taste buds at the same time giving the visual sense a treat at this beloved Philadelphia institution.
As mentioned above Bibou is very doable. I especially appreciate the honesty of the owner/chef couple who tracked me down to give me a refund of $60 once when I overpaid.
If you like Amada, you probably will love Tinto even more; If you did Distrito away from center city, you may want to check out Black Fish one of these days.