Petruce et al. newly opened on Walnut in Philly
- PhillyBestBYOB Mar 22, 2014 06:58 AM
Philly's on a roll as far as new restaurants, and here is one more promising newcomer...
Last night was the offical opening night of Petruce et al., the independent debut of ex-Mémé brothers Justin & Johnathan Petruce. After several days of a soft opening, they were already firing on all cylinders. I was impressed.
First off, it is a beautiful space. I gather this used to be a women's clothing shop, and it is long and thin, unusually so for a restaurant. A nice windowed bar looking out onto Walnut Street is the first think you encounter upon entering. Metal bar stools, tables, and some comfy-looking 4-top booths along the wall.
This is George Costa's domain (and Paul's), the well-known mixologist formerly of Southwark and Pub & Kitchen. He's full-time here now, and he's created some tasty libations for PetEtAl. There is also a short (for the moment) wine list from som Timothy Kweeder (of a.Kitchen/a.bar fame) focused on natural wines. Not to mention some interesting sounding beers, both by draught (5) and bottled. Apparently the full wine list is a work in progress, but you know it's going to be unusual and interesting.
This is a cool bar, both sexy and cosy at the same time. By the time we left, it was full, but not excessively noisy. Unsurprisingly, George's cocktails were excellent:
~THE PILAR: El Dorado rum, Creme Yvette (violets), lime, pineapple
~PONCHOS' LAMENT: Cazadores reposado, Ramazzotti, agave, cold-brewed coffee, mole bitters, fizzy water...this is what you wish your next iced coffee tastes like!
Moving on to our dinner table, behind the bar it briefly narrows, and proceeding up a short stairs you enter the restaurant proper, with tables in front, cool little 2-top booths along the left, and the pièce de résistance open kitchen along the right. 6 high-tops at the kitchen counter will undoubtedly be the seats to compete for (did our server say they may be saving these for walk-ins???), with an in-your-face view of PetEtAl's most unique feature: the side-by-side wood-fired grill and matching oven.
Awesome pizza-making equipment, but the word has been they are not doing pizza. But I saw some photos online, so I expect we'll see some before long.
The menu is divided into 4 sections: small, medium, large, and "et al.". To try a larger variety of dishes, we decided to skip the latter two categories (although that "32 ounce dry aged ribeye" for two was tempting, despite the $88 price tag).
~RED BEETS: Kimchi, yougurt, sesame--Of course, everyone if Philly seems to want a signature beet dish. I don't know if this is PetEtAl's but it was an interesting medley of large chunks of roasted red beets, and very acidic pickled yellow beets (I think, it's a fairly dark restaurant). Quite a contrast, it is one of this dishes that you have to eat both extremes together or it's just too shocking to your palate.
~ONION SOUP: Rabbit, nettles, Provoleta--This was a highly untraditional ode to French Onion Soup, which tends to bore me, but this was anything but boring. Rich caramelized onions, but a lighter rabbit broth, in which were swimming meatballs, nettles, arugula, and lovely little chunks of smoked cheese. My favorite dish!
~MUSHROOMS: Marrow, potato bread, soubise--Loved the contrast of meaty mushrooms (Black Fungus is one of my favs) and the unctuous bone marrow (roasted in the bone and then removed. One of our favorite dishes.
~TARTARE: Black trumpets, speck, iceburg lettuce, pickle--Iceburg lettuce? Are you kidding me??? LOL, this dish didn't make a lot of sense, until our server explained Speck = Bacon, oh, it was meant to be a deconstructed hamburger! Actually very tasty, but definitely not your standard beef tartare, and maybe a bit too moist I thought.
~SPAGHETTI: Sepia, sea urchin, orange--This came up on the board the other day as an example of Spaghetti ai Ricci, and it was one of our favorite dishes of the evening. The house-made and very al dente noodles look like squid ink, and the silky uni paired well with the slightly chewy but still tender squid. A lovely dish.
OCTOPUS: Rice grits, field peas, hot sauce--Frankly, for all the hype that the wood-fired grill has been getting, I was surprised that this was the first dish that really featured it (although we were probably just choosing the wrong dishes). Tender and charred, with a little spicy kick to the grits, and weird little chewy grilled (?) peas, it wasn't exactly one of my favorites, but then again, I would have no trouble ordering it again.
And for dessert...
~ROASTED PINEAPPLE: Mochi, chcolate coconut ganache--I didn't really see anything I would call real mochi in this, but it was a simple yet balanced and delicious end to the meal.
Obviously we enjoyed every dish. In some ways this reminds me a bit of Vernick, with the grill added on top (although we obviously didn't get the full effect of the latter). If that is the case, it should be quite popular, although I think the dishes may not be quite as universally appealing. We shall see...
As far as the much anticipated wine list, we tried by the glass:
~2012 Terres Dorees Beaujolais Blanc--Jean-Paul Brun is one of my favorite Beaujolais producers, and the somewhat hard to find Blanc is always in my fridge. Not a great or complex wine, but a nice one to have around. This was $7/11/58 for 3oz/5oz/bottle. We'll call this a $15 a bottle wine retail, so the mark up was in the 3.9X range.
~2012 Flavio Roddolo Dolcetto d'Alba--$8/14/56, not a wine I'm familiar with, but it was well balanced and went well with our food. The only place I can find this wine on the web is in CA for $23, so that is a 2.4X markup.
The 11 wines on the list (counting a sherry and a cider) ranged from $38-60 a bottle, and all were available by the glass. So an affordable wine selection. 5 ounce pours for $11 and $14 were not particularly liberal. Good Schott Zwiesel restaurant series stems.
Noise level was at a moderately energetic volume on a sold-out night, but I suspect the separation between the bar and restaurant proper probably helps some.
All told, $123 (not counting the two $11 cocktails, tax and tip). Service was timely and excellent thanks to our knowledgeable server Ben.
No visit from the brothers, but the place was sold out, so they were hopping in the kitchen. As I said, they already seem to be firing on all cylinders.
A promising start for what I think will be a successful restaurant for Justin & Jonathan. It has a good location, sexy feel, and the cooking is creative and interesting. A killer wine list will hopefully put it over the top in my book. Best of luck guys!
I posted photos on Facebook:
We went last night as well for opening night - thought all in all, it was really promising.
Loved the CHICKEN with Charred Cabbage, Scallions and Egg Yolk sauce on the "et al" portion of the menu. Lamb Breast was nice on the large plates as well, but didn't think the scallops, despite good, were anything special or different from the thousands of iterations around the city.
For the small to medium plates....
We didn't have the onion soup, but shared the beets (perfectly fine, but plays on pretty typical flavor combinations we've had many times before); carrots with bagna caudal and pistachios (great flavor combinations but a few carrots seemed to be cooked unevenly - chalk it up to opening night :-) ) ; chicken liver parfait with rhubarb and sourdough (absolutely delicious and visually stunning - a must order); the mushrooms with soubise and marrow (which I loved and counted as one of our favorite dishes); the octopus with rice grits, field peas and hot sauce (thoroughly enjoyed); lasagna (somewhat out of place on the menu but still tasty, if a little too crispy on outside for our liking); cannelloni with cauliflower and taleggio (our least favorite on the menu- outside too crispy, and plating a little jumbled);
Desserts were tasty (tried the Roasted Pineapple and Lemon Meringue from above) but the Soft Serve Vanilla Ice Cream with Cocoa Nibs and Malt Syrup was unreal. I know, soft serve ice cream? But it was the best soft serve I have had (as I have never been a fan) and was a perfect ending to the meal, and proof that simplicity sometimes just works.
Wine list well priced but very limited (hoping this will expand as time goes on).
Looking forward to seeing the restaurant evolve and definitely a great new addition to the dining scene.