Over the last eleven days, I have eaten at three exceptional restaurants in Philadelphia, so I thought I'd post three nano-reviews:
Amada: Jose Garces's Philly flagship, serves high-end Spanish (and Spanish-inspired) tapas. We had the chef's tasting menu paired with wine. Overall it was very good, though I can't help thinking that compared to his other small plates restaurants, Tinto is a bit tastier and Distrito is more creative. The standout dish of the night, in my mind, was some amazing grilled Spanish rock octopus -- perfectly charred yet still marvelously tender. Runner-up were raw oysters with strawberry escabeche.
Zinc: Zinc is a French neighborhood bistro, and walking into the place it certainly felt that way, all the way from the decor and the music playing to the menu itself. It was my dad's birthday, and he loves duck, so I had ordered ahead of time Zinc's signature pressed duck dinner. The stars of this show are the duck, the antique press, and the chef. The chef came out and showed us the duck, which had been roasted for 14 minutes at 500F (260C). He removed the breasts and placed them in a pan tableside, then removed the wings and legs (sending them back to the kitchen for the second course). Then he chopped up the carcass and placed it into the press, while sauteing the breasts. Then the chef pressed the carcass, collecting a steady stream of red liquid in a saucepan. After flambeing the breasts and setting them aside, he reduced the liquid into a sauce, strained it once, and then continued reducing. Finally, the crisp duck breasts are served with the dark, rich sauce (which includes blood, other juices, marrow, and I think some of the organs). The sauce was rich and decadent, and went perfectly with the duck. The second course consisted of the grilled wings and legs. They were a bit chewy, but even more flavorful than the duck breast. If I lived closer to this place, I would probably go once a month.
Adsum: A newer bistro in Queen Village, Adsum has a quirky, sometimes daring, and always decadent menu. The signature is poutine made with foie gras -- I passed this time, saving it for another occasion when I am dining with someone who would actually help me finish it :) Instead, we started with grilled rock octopus in a black pepper caramel sauce (really good, though not quite as perfect as Amada) and fried oysters with a pickle juice remoulade, which my dad adored. For our main courses, my dad had the pork belly and I had the fried chicken, which is apparently cooked sous vide before frying. The fried chicken came with some amazingly buttery cornbread. For dessert, my dad had vanilla sugar doughnuts and I had mint panna cotta with a hard chocolate layer topping it. The panna cotta had an incredible fresh mint flavor that I am still thinking dreamily about.
So those are my most recent excursions in the Philadelphia food scene. I would highly recommend all three -- I know my dad wants to go back to Zinc for the pressed lobster (!) dinner, and Adsum has a few menu items, including the pig tails (which they were out of) and the poutine that I must try.