Townsend on East Passyunk Ave
I don't think it has been discussed yet on the board, but Chef Townsend "Tod" Wentz (ex-Lacroix & Four Seasons, and fresh off having upgraded McCrossen's Tavern to 2-bell gastropub status) is planning to open the eponymously named "Townsend" in the former Sophia's space located smack dab in the middle of EPx (the "EPicenter" as I call it).
Tentatively schedule for an April opening ("when PLCB comes through with a liquor license", according to Tod), Townsend will feature "wine-driven food", which is music too my ears. The rational was nicely explained by his lovely GM, Lauren Harris (ex-Tria & McCrossen's):
But not willing to wait until April, five of us headed to Christopher Kearse's Will byob this past Thursday for a collaborative dinner featuring Chef Wentz's modern Frech-influenced cooking.
Townsend is going to be ~50 seats on two floors, with ~10 at the bar, which is quite a bit larger than Will. But the understated charm of Will was a great match for Tod's cooking, which also shares an understated nature that belies its clear and precise flavors. Our meal went from strength to strength, and from "this is the best dish yet" to "this is even better":
~AMUSE-BOUCHE: Kampachi Crudo
~SEA SCALLOPS: Preserved Citrus, Seaweed Butter--this was beautifully cooked, with a nice sear, but just past sashimi on the inside...clearly fitting in with the theme of foods that pair well with wines, in this case a white Burg
~ESCARGOT+ BLUEFOOT MUSHROOM DAUBE: Soft Scramble Eggs, Caviar--The creaminess of the eggs immediately reminded me of Serpico's Chawanmushi & Caviar, but the escargot and a bit of sweetness made this the favorite dish of the evening for most of the table (my #2)
~RABBIT POT AU FEU: Liver Mousse, Lavender--This being wine-driven food, perhaps I should complement this dish for it's amazing "nose" which surrounded our table...it featured rabbit 3 ways: in a mousse, a roulade, and braised legs. My only slight quibble with this lovely wintertime dish was that it was a bit aggressively salted for my taste
~COAL ROASTED STURGEON: Onion Soubise, Miner’s Lettuce, Red Wine Bouillon--It's a bit hard to describe how good this was (my #1), in fact I give up... After a couple of red burgs with the rabbit, most of the table went back to white, but I thought this worked quite well with the reds
~BANANA POT DE CREME: Not on the menu, but one of our group doesn't like chocolate (Oh, the humanity!)...I don't know if this was Tod's or Chris' creation, but it was mighty tasty and much appreciated.
~GATEAU VICTOIRE: You had me at "This is a Julia Child recipe". Dense, rich chocolate and contrasting textures, but a modernized presentation that I think Julia would still love.
~1996 Bollinger Champagne La Grande Année
~2009 Simon Bize Savigny lès Beaune
~2007 Dom. du Château de Chorey (Germain) Beaune 1er Cru Les Cras
~2011 Alain Hudelot Noellat Chambolle Musigny
~NV Jean Bourdy Côtes du Jura Galant des Abesses--From one of the oldest wineries in the world, an unusual and rare wine, not even really a wine, made from grape must boiled down with 25 secret spices and fortified with old Marc (recipe dates to 1579)
Service, as always at Will, was perfect (thanks Eric & Gustavo), and at the end we made a quick visit to the small kitchen which was packed with 2 or 3 more cooks than usually squeeze in.
I have to say that I was extremely impressed with Tod's cooking, which certainly epitomized the concept of wine-friendly foods. Combined with Lauren Harris wine-pairing expertise, Townsend should be something for Philly wine lovers to look forward too...
[Unnecessary rant: Too often, in Philly's BYOB-centric, sommelier-less restaurant scene, chefs spend little or no thought on how or even if their food can be paired with wine, despite the fact that most of their guests are bringing some with them. I wish more restaurants would follow the lead of Talula's Table in making wine pairing suggestions ahead of time (which means they have actually thought about it when designing their menu).
Food without wine is like sex without... well it's like masturbation!]
NOTE: This was the first in a series of collaborative dinner's that Will is doing with some noted Philly chefs:
March 13: Ben Puchowitz of CHeU Noodle Bar
March 20: Mike Santoro of The Mildred
March 27: Greg Vernick of Vernick Food + Drink
All are five courses for $70 (Vernick is sold out).