Saturday, June 15, 2013

Le Bec Fin (Closed)

Le Bec Fin! Sadly, these pictures were taken many moons ago but they deserve to be posted because it was a fantastic meal. RIP to a Philadelphia original.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wajoe - 20th and Chestnut St (Closed)

Center City has never been the place to go for good Korean food. If you want to experience Korean cuisine you have to head up north and plant yourself in Cheltenham, which is the closest thing to a Koreatown in the area.
Now opens Wajoe, in the ashes of the former Korean place whose name escapes me.  Forgive me if I was a little apprehensive when this new place opened its doors for the first time.  A new awning and some paint was not going to fix what was here before.  

The tables are fitted with new BBQ pits and ventilation systems.  Some money was definitely spent here. I ask the server if this was under new ownership to which he said it was.  Hope rises.

First out, of course, is the 반찬(banchan) or the side dishes.  For lunch, I think this amount works fine.  Included are bean sprouts, potato strips in a light mayo sauce, fish cake and the omnipresent kimchi.  A Korean restaurant is only as good as its kimchi and pleasantly this kimchi is good. 

1) Kalbi Box - $12.99
The kalbi, although pre prepared, tasted exactly as it should despite not sizzling hot off the grill. Was not disappointing.  The dumping was another highlight. Next time the dumpling appetizer will definitely be ordered.  Lots of food, all good, thumbs up.  

2) Soft Tofu Chigae(순두부 찌개) - $8.99
This is the real stuff, not watered down to make it any less spicy or modified to tone down the flavors.  Piled high with tofu this pot of authentic Korean fare gave me renewed hope for the state of Korean food in the area.

Overall LTE score [8/10] I cannot put into words how nice it is to have a Korean place that's a 5 minute walk away from the office that serves Korean food that I actually want to eat.  Maybe all this is a little premature considering they opened their doors just yesterday and I've only eaten here once but what I had today made me want to go back. Thumbs up.

Wajoe Korean Restaurant
2034 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 496-9021

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Little Thai Market - Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market is a little far from home base on 20th and Market so it's a spot I rarely get out to for lunch...but owing a friend, who works on 8th and Market, a lunch I decided it would be a good opportunity to try Little Thai Market, a very highly recommended spot.

As appetizing as everything on this menu sounds the Salmon Curry was the one dish I was told I had to get.   I obliged and so did my friend.  

1) Salmon Curry - $6.50
When we opened up our containers we both marveled at how much salmon they managed to jam in here. If I were to go to the store and pick up a salmon filet this size it would probably be close to the cost of this entire dish so I really don't know how they make money off this.  Now, this would all be for naught, if it were a lifeless dried out piece of fish but the salmon was moist and flaky and the Thai red curry sauce was delicious. This meal goes straight on my list of one of the best lunches you can get in the city for the price.

Overall LTE score[8.5/10]  Reading Terminal Market during lunch time is like the liquor store right before a major hurricane.  Painfully shared with what seems like every other person in the city.  But having said this, I think if there was one thing I would be willing to endure the crowds and also the long trip over for it would be this meal.  It's cheap and its delicious.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tyson Bees, Magic Carpet - University City

A double dose of food truck/cart reviews today as I hopped onto the 36 trolley towards University City and UPenn campus to see what the kids are eating these days.  My first stop is at Tyson Bees on 33rd and Spruce St.  A Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican fusion food truck. There has been some recent concern over the food quality since a split between chef Tyson Wong and his partner.  Wong moved on and the partner now runs the truck.  Did losing the man behind the food change things for the worse?

1) Korean Short Rib Taco, Pork Bun, Thai Tea - $8
Concerns over the quality taking a nose dive are overblown.  I found these to be the pretty much the same as what I remember when Tyson was still involved.  The pork wasn't as fall apart tender as I recall but I would still face 5 of these no problem.  The taco was excellent and really the only reason I didn't get another serving was to save room for my second cart meal.  

First time trying the Thai tea... despite the vibrant coloring the taste was weak.  They put too much ice in and what little tea was included was watered down.

Magic Carpet is a well reviewed, Vegetarian, Middle Eastern, cuisine cart located in the food truck block of 36th and Spruce St.  If you're walking towards the direction from 36th to 37th street this would be the first cart in the long line of food carts here.

Two windows help keep the line moving which is nice because the lines here queue up quick.  The menu is pretty impressive so it took me a minute to get my bearings on what I wanted. They have platters and sandwiches that include a diverse array of vegetarian foods such as tofu, veggie chilli, eggplant.

1) Fallafel Sandwich - $5
I thought I would go basic and try their regular fallafel sandwich.  Unfortunately, it just was not very good.  The pita was weak, falaffel balls were bland and the whole of this sandwich was disappointing.  I had no desire to finish it so half of it went into the trash. After hearing the high praise bestowed upon Magic Carpet it was disappointing.  I would try this cart again but not the falaffel sandwich.

Overall LTE scores [7/10] Tyson Bees, [4/10] Magic Carpet 
A mixed lunch today, first course was good but second course failed to deliver.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 18th and Walnut St opened up around the same time as Serafina did just across the street but with decidedly a lot less fanfare.  Bryan Sikora, who is the man behind, is an accomplished chef but his pedigree was no match for the hype and crowds that greeted the NYC import on the other side.  So opening week, I of course, fell in line, and lunched, and wrote my review of Serafina, putting off for another day.  Well that day finally arrived as I continue my week of wallet busting lunches.  

The view from the entrance.  Bar to the right, seats to the left and an open kitchen surrounded by bar seating in the back.  

In case you want to get an up close and personal with the kitchen staff you have the option to be seated right in front with a full view of the work kitchen.  

The styling is clean and modern.  Wood tables with wood benching and black plastic seats.  The interior space is not very large but outdoor seating is available.  18th street can become very busy during this time, especially with this nice weather, so I opted to eat indoors.  

1) Spicy Fried Potatoes with saffron aïoli - $8
Heavily seasoned old bay potato wedges is what we have here.  The saffron aioli was nice and definitely added kick to these potatoes but overall this was just ok. Also, $8..seriously?

2) Chorizo Stuffed Calamari with tomato fondue - $14
There was definitely something missing from this dish.  The chorizo was good, the calamari was tender and the tomato fondue was nice and light but there was nothing here to mesh them all together.  An added starch component and this would've been a much more enjoyable dish.  Also, portions are on the smaller side. This was like 5 bites.

3) Cheese Steak cheddar sauce, mushrooms and sweet onions - $15
Really, this is what drew me to, the epicurean idea of a $15 cheesesteak.  I know, I'm a total lush, but curiosity got the best of me and being a Philadelphian I had to see what this was about.  What arrived was surprisingly decently portioned.  I kept hearing about how small the plates were here, as with the previous dish but I guess you can't really shrink a hoagie roll.  On my first bite I got a the a full blast of that cheddar sauce.  It was sharp and oozing and made me want to order wit cheddar sauce on all my future cheesesteaks.  But really, the decadence ended with the cheese and I can't say I would prefer this sandwich over one from an established cheeseteak purveyors.  In reality, the cheesesteak is a blue collar sandwich and making it fancy almost doesn't make sense. Skip this.

4) Six Point Righteous Rye, Brooklyn 6.4% - $5
Resembled a beer I enjoy often, Dog Fish Head 60 minute IPA.  

Overall LTE score [6.5/10] I left a little underwhelmed by  It was certainly Rittenhouse priced but in the case of the Chorizo Stuffed Calamari, the portion was small and the dish was lacking something.  The cheesesteak was pretty good but it made me appreciate what I could get for much cheaper around the city.  I hate to compare it to my experience at Serafina but they both left me with a similar impression, overpriced.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Parc - 18th and Locust St

A Parisian bistro dropped right into the heart of Rittenhouse Square is the idea behind Stephen Starr's Parc restaurant.  Now I've never been to Paris so I can't compare the experiences but with menu items like steak tartare, trout amandine and escargot, surrounded by some of the best scenery in Philadelphia, this has to be pretty close to that idyllic scene I imagine a Parisian bistro to be. 

View of the interior from my seat.  Nothing flashy here, rustic would be a good word to describe it.  I remember hearing that it was styled after a train station and with the speakers on the columns, the mosaic tiled floor and faux weathered furniture you can definitely see it.  But honestly, I only took a quick look around the inside because the real draw of eating at Parc was not to my right.  

The view of the outside from my seat.  This wasn't the best seat for enjoying the scenery of Rittenhouse Square but I'd say it's still better than any of the other restaurants in the area and I think this side is a little quieter.  On a perfect day like today they could have served me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I would've been blissfully happy here.

We're offered a basket of bread to which we happily accept.  Included are sour dough bread, cranberry walnut bread, and a baguette with a side of butter.  The bread was awesome and combined with what was to come we left this basket mostly empty.

1) Escargots - $14 
Started with this playfully miniaturized pot of escargot and mushrooms in a hazelnut butter sauce. French cuisine in all its buttery drenched glory was on display here.  The snails came already extracted from their shells and soaking in this uber rich sauce waiting to be devoured.  And devour we did. Only the prospect of suffering a coronary did I not indulge in sopping up all every last drop of hazelnut butter from this crucible of delightfulness. 

2) Warm Shrimp Salad - $16.50
Shrimp seasoned with truffle oil, avocado, and a slice of Parmesan cheese with a lemon beurre blanc dressing.  The shrimp were huge, were talking U10's, and they had an ever so slight hint of the truffle oil.  The rest of the plate was fresh, as to be expected, and the lemon beurre blanc completed the french in this salad...heavy cream and butter!  It was lightly dressed so it didn't feel heavy. 

3) Moules Frites - $17.50
Massachusetts mussels in a white wine, shallots, garlic and of course butter sauce.  Fries with an aioli dip.  What can I say other then I'm eating freaking mussels for lunch.  Everything here was as it should be, simple yet delicious.  The remaining sauce was sopped up by the aforementioned bread and 25 mussels and a handful of fries later I had reached nirvana.

Had one mussel that didn't open and maybe 3 with some sand in them.  Overall a good bowl of mussels.

4) Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier - $6
Hefeweizen, Brauerie Weihenstephaner, Germany, 5.4%
A beer I had to point to on the menu to order. I wanted something different and light so this wheat beer fit the bill. $6 for about a beer and a half is a good deal.

Overall LTE score [9/10] Parc has to be one of the most frequented nice weather spots in all of Philly.  It's packed every time I walk by here and when you sit down to eat it becomes apparent it's not only because of the view.  The food here is top notch and despite the cost I feel it's absolutely worth it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Village Whiskey - 20th and Sansom St

Village Whiskey is Jose Garces' whiskey/cocktail concept bar, planted right next to Tinto, his Spanish inspired wine bar.  This is an interesting departure from his previous Latin inspired restaurants so my curiosity was peaked.  Let's see how it turned out.

1) Pickled Green Beans and Shallots - $8
This was served with Black Olive Tapenade, Whipped Ricotta & Toasted Sour Dough.  Big fan of the ricotta and the tapenade but the picked green beans and shallots could have used some more time in the pickling jar. I like my picked veggies to be potent.

2) Cobb Salad - $12.50
Romaine, avocado, blackened chicken, bacon, bleu cheese.  This was ordered because of a review on Yelp singing it's praises but even though it wasn't as mind blowing as that reviewer suggested it was still pretty good.  Chicken was nicely seasoned, the bleu cheese had a good bite to it with that distinctive apple taste of fine bleu cheese. Everything was fresh as to be expected.

3) Jamie's Lobster Mac - $18
Fontina, Mascarpone, bread crumbs and obviously lobster. Very creamy and the coverage was good. The lobster was cooked perfectly and there were enough chunks of it in my bowl for me not to feel silly for paying $18 for a bowl of mac and cheese.

4) Whiskey King - $26
Flashback review.. I went here opening week and had the Whiskey King - Maple bourbon glazed cipollini, rogue blue cheese, applewood bacon, foie gras.
My first experience with foie gras was on this burger.  I was reluctant to order it at first. There is a growing awareness of the questionable ethics behind foie gras production but it's not something I see on a menu everyday so I decided to ignore my moral objections and enjoy some force fed duck liver.  The burger that arrived, was thankfully not one of those pretentious(ignoring the foie gras), borderline slidder burgers you might expect from a high end restaurant.  This was a serious patty of beef.  The foie gras was perched right on the burger with the blue cheese topped with a perfectly formed sesame seed bun.  I decided I should first try the fois gras by itself.  It was rich and creamy, almost buttery but a distinctive flavor it did not have.  I wondered how it would stand up to the strong flavors of the burger and blue cheese.  Combined, the fois gras disappeared into the background.  The burger itself was excellent but I think the fois gras was overkill and really only served to enrich an already rich burger.

Overall LTE score [8/10]  Again, Village Whiskey is of those spots where if I could afford it I would lunch often.  The burgers are top notch and some of their side items are excellent as well.  Do yourself a favor and try the duck fat fries, they are very good.  Even without enjoying a sip of whiskey or bourbon or any of the other fine liquors stacking the bar, Village Whiskey is a great dining establishment.  The only issue I have is the limited seating, get here early because this place fills up fast and they don't take reservations.