One night in Philly: Matyson / Franklin Mortgage Co. / Dim Sum Garden
- linguafood Jan 15, 2014 12:22 PM
I was back in your fair city last week and went to Matyson for dinner, based on all the love it's been getting on this board. I thought it was a very good experience overall, and will likely return. I liked it more than Zahav (both in terms of the atmosphere and the food), although the cooks at Matyson certainly aren't shy with salt, either.
The room could be described as either cramped or cozy -- depending on one's personal disposition. It's definitely not a place to discuss your latest bout of shingles or other things you don't want the tables *very* nearby to hear.
We'd brought a bottle each of white & red, and the white was taken away promptly for a brief chill and returned to our table in a cooler. I'd say the service was overall friendly and attentive, with only a couple times when our server had disappeared.
Then came the bread. Oh. My. Goodness. I don't indulge in bread at restaurants much, as I don't want to fill up with what I consider superfluous… but this was a special occasion, so what the hey. There was a wonderfully fluffy yet moist multi-grain bread with discernible grains, great flavor and a good crust as well as a potato-onion bread that was really fantastic. I had to ask whether they bake it in-house -- they don't: it's from Balthazar Bakery in NYC, a must-stop for me next time I'm there. The bread is served with a whipped butter that is just a tad bit on the salty side.
I had trouble deciding between à la carte and the tasting menu, as both had several things I really wanted. I was mostly interested in the smoked sweetbreads from the dinner menu and it unfortunately never crossed my mind to just order those and *then* have the tasting menu. There was actually a couple next to us who started off with the goat cheese gnocchi from the dinner menu and then did just that. I don't know how that small lady was able to put away all that food, but she did. I was quite impressed.
But then we both wanted to try a number of different things, so perhaps we made the right decision after all.
For appetizers we chose the escargot with chicken liver ravioli, which were excellent. The ravioli were slightly toasted, the liver not too rich, the escargot tender. The cranberry gastrique was a nice complement for both.
The oysters with cornmeal, farro risotto, cauliflower, mint and raisin were nice, but confirmed for me that I prefer my oysters raw. The breading simply overpowered their delicate flavor and texture. The farro risotto and cauli were *really* delicious, however.
I loved the steak tartare, which was dressed with soy & yuzu and came with kumquat and pickled chili. My man found it too tart, but I thought it was a refreshing take on a tired standard that can be overly heavy (I actually wonder if there was any egg in it). The meat was tender and flavorful.
The smoked sweetbreads that I had been fantasizing about for a week were, ironically, a letdown. Similar to the sweetbreads at Zahav, the breading was too heavy & too much. I prefer sweetbreads to be just lightly dusted with flour and letting their unique flavor shine.
My main dish was Barnegat Light scallops on top of braised short rib, creamy corn, tuscan kale and celery root. This was fabulous. Roughly 5 or 6 small, perfectly seared scallops over rich and tender short rib. And what's not to like about creamy corn?
My man's lamb loin had to be sent back, as it was arrived med-well instead of the requested med-rare, and was inedibly chewy. The second time around it was cooked right, but was still the weakest dish of the evening. The rabe was incredibly bitter, and the truffled sunchoke overpowering.
After dinner we went back to our favorite cocktail bar these days: Franklin Mortgage Co. I love that it is never packed, heavy on adult clientele, and makes absolutely fab drinks. The staff is also very knowledgeable and always happy to make good recommendations. My current favorite is the Paloma of which I ordered 2, and then we each had a Mexican Maid.
The next morning came around way too quickly, and after stomping around the city through freezing rain, not to mention with a sizable hangover, we needed something to warm our bones and tummies: Dim Sum Garden.
Oh, how I wish we could've ordered the entire menu, but there's only so much one can eat. We had the pork & crab soup dumplings, steamed shrimp dumplings & bean curd sheets with pickled cabbage and edamame. I wanted to eat everything I saw coming out of the kitchen….
Yet another successful culinary visit. Can't wait to be back late March :-)