Epic Food Binge (Ela, Blackfish, Mica)
Long story as to how this got started, but we decided to try all 3 of Chip Roman's restaurants in one weekend.
Friday, night #1, we sat at the bar at Jason Cichonski's & Chip's ELA in Queen's Village. Been here a couple of times before and love the scallop "noodles", but have never tried the bar food (can also order off the regular menu).
Excellent cocktails (great service by a very personable bartender, unfortunately I've forgotten her name):
~"bought a bride" (spiced rum, ginger, aperol, disaronno, lime)--I had two
~"noro" (bourbon whiskey, luxardo bitter, amaro meletti, orange)--strong!
~Cheese burger, med rare--very good, and this really was as rare as a med rare can go without breaking the law, and very coarsely cut so it had a lot of interesting texture (might not appeal to some), cheddar and kale on brioche roll, came with "tots" (cubed potatoes with a bit of spice and a spicy-creamy dipping sauce)
We also had some short-rib "fries" (meat cut into sticks, breaded and deep fried, with a horseradish sauce), a delicious kale and carrot salad (mustard dressing), and some chicken tenders (with 2 dipping sauces).
All-in-all, some very good bar food, creative cocktails, and a pleasant atmosphere. Arrived at 7PM on a Friday and it was very quiet, but a couple of hours later it was pretty full.
The bill ran to $74/2 not counting a tip. Easy parking at a open-air lot a 1/2 block away.
A great place to spend a Friday evening...1 down, 2 to go...
@PhillyBestBYOB on Twitter
Wow I had no idea Ela even had a bar menu. It's not on their website. I just moved farther away from the neighborhood, wish I would have known that as I would have frequented the place a lot more, as an alternate for Southwark.
Saturday, night #2, was a birthday dinner for 4 of us at Blackfish.
This is probably still my favorite restaurant in the Philly area, which may explain why I've already been here 4 times so far this year (counting New Year's Eve).
We started with an amuse- bouche mushroom soup shooter, which was intensely mushroomy. I'm starting to hate these soup shooters, since they just make me pang for a whole bowl! Then we ordered a la carte for a change, starting with a few of Chip's signature appetizers.
~Kusshi oysters, carbonated lemon, fennel, pink peppercorn
~Spanish mackerel "crudo", breakfast radish, navel orange, yuzu kosho--the various variations on this are probably my favorite dish at Blackfish (and now that I know how to make it, thanks to a class at Cook, I can have it all the time!)
~Smoked scottish salmon, deep fried egg, potato, sour cream, mizuna (photo)--Amusingly, one of us has a pathological hatred of eggs and ordered it by mistake, but literally gobbled this down!
~Veal sweetbreads, McIntosh apple, hedgehog mushroom, red onion--I had this, and it was luscious as always, but I was a bit disappointed to find it unexpectedly difficult to chew due to the connective tissue between the lobes
~Shellbark Hollow cavatelli, coddled egg, butternut squash, romanesco (photo)
~Grilled longfin tuna, pumpkin seed, eggplant puree, sunchoke, cauliflower--the tuna had a great charred flavor on the outside, rare on the inside
~Slow roasted hanger steak, creamed quinoa, broccoli, gremolata (photo)--A very simple dish, but a great cut of beef
~Roast chicken, salsify, royal trumpet mushroom, sweet onion puree, madeira--No one does chicken like Chip (another dish I learned the secret of at Cook, it is so perfectly formed it doesn't look like it was made by human hands)
~White chocolate 'cremeux,' pineapple, toasted almond, kaffir lime--I'm not normally a white chocolate person, but ordered this on a whim...one of the best desserts I've had in a long time, but I can't really describe it adequately, it was just lip-smacking delicious
~Beignets, allspice, brown sugar, butterscotch and raspberry (photo)--With a lit candle for the birthday girl, this was pretty much a must have for someone going to Blackfish for the first time; overheard: "these are better than any I've ever had in New Orleans"
~2003 Cédric Bouchard Champagne Inflorescence Blanc de Noirs La Parcelle
One more in a long line of excellent meals at Blackfish.
Sunday, night #3, we finished our Chip Roman-trifecta at with a business dinner for 6 at MICA. This seems to be where Chip spends most of his time these days (leaving Steven Howells in charge of the kitchen at Blackfish, but you'd never know it is so consistent), although Chip was cooking at Blackfish when we were there on Saturday.
Mica's menu is very similar to Blackfish's, at least in a stylistic sense. Although there are few dishes identical between the two menus, you will occasionally recognize dishes that are clearly inspired by favorites from Blackfish. For example, the longfin tuna we had at Mica is a variation on the Spanish Mackerel crudo we had the night before at Blackfish, with some other differences in ingredients.
As similar as the two restaurant's menus are in cooking styles, Mica is definitely kicked up a notch as far as the decor, and being smaller, it is also a bit quieter. If I wanted to impress a date (or a business partner!), I'd take them to Mica. If I just wanted a relaxing BYOB dinner, I'd head to Blackfish and sit in Harold's (my favorite server in Philly) or Jaclyn's sections. Maybe it's because I've eaten at Blackfish so many times and know most of the staff by name, but the service always feels a bit friendlier there.
We went with the 5-course tasting menu (a la carte and the 3-course Restaurant Month menu were also available), and ordered a delicious Loire Chenin Blanc ($40) and a red Bordeaux ($70) off the generally quite affordable and interesting wine list (another big difference from BYOB Blackfish). The Somm, Carissa, was charming to chat with about the wines. Also, one of our group had some diet restrictions, but they kindly let us order 5 tastings and a la carte for her.
It being a business dinner, I didn't take notes (so I'm having trouble remembering all the ingredients), but some of the dishes we enjoyed were:
~Longfin tuna crudo with ginger, blood orange, and radish (photo)--again, a variation on my all-time favorite Chip Roman dish
~Foie gras terrine with brioche--You know this was sinfully delicious!
~Seared salmon, compressed melon (photo)--seared on one side, perfectly rare the rest of the way through
~Lamb loin and belly, rutabaga, fruit compote (photo)--You don't see lamb belly as often, and it's not pork belly by any means, but very good in its own right
~Chocolate & caramel pudding, banana, cookie, with a hot caramel sauce poured through a sliver of chocolate laid over the glass--this was a good as it sounds, and a beautiful, dramatic presentation with the caramel poured table-side so it would melt through the chocolate on top
~Chocolate truffle--This was the most densely chocolately truffle I've ever had...Chip could make a mint if he would sell these!
So that was our "(Chip) Roman holiday" this past weekend. Perhaps a bit over the top, doing it 3 nights in a row, but I'm not complaining since I didn't have to pay for all of it, and the food was of course fantastic.
We're so lucky to have 3 such great restaurants in Philly.
Great reviews! We go to Blackfish more often than any other restaurant. We also dine with Harold. We have been to Mica, but need to get to Ela soon!