Claire is convinced that quail look like “little naked people”.
That didn’t stop her from enjoying them with me for our pre-Valentine’s day dinner.
We decided a few weeks ago to simplify Valentine gift giving; instead of getting each other a present, we’d go out for a nice dinner and pay each others tab. That still left us with our usual Monday night cooking date, so we decided to have a little fun and make a batch of roasted quail.

I grew up eating quail; Robert (my brother) and I used to hunt them on the P5 farm in Plant City. He usually did the dirty work with a shotgun and I handled plucking. As fun as you’d think picking birdshot AND feathers out of a tiny game bird is, I assure you that buying six packs at the supermarket is much, much easier.

I seasoned all six of the little naked gents (after removing any stray feathers) with sea salt and pepper, and browned them with prosciutto. While they were browning, Claire started working on a porcini & shiitake mushroom risotto. For greens we sauteed a small batch of broccolini.

Everything came out perfectly. We tore the little guys apart (saving all of the wishbones!) while watching Superbad. The porcini was wonderfully woody; I haven’t used porcini before but I think it’s going to be my go-to fungus for future mushroom risotto.

As for Valentine’s dinner?
We went to Morimoto.
It’s been a while since I had gone and was Claire’s first time. Our dishes were spectacular. Pork Belly, Kobe carpaccio, seared duck breast with duck confit fried rice and overeasy duck egg and buckwheat soba with truffle oil, bacon and scallops. An orgy of awesome.

Two days of good food and amazing company!
Happy Valentine’s day, everyone.


Sakura Mandarin

Duck Tongue

Claire and I have been trying our best to accommodate her chaotic schedule; booking time with a graduate student who also works several days a week can be a difficult task, but we do our best to find little holes in her schedule and usually end up spending the found time at one of Philadelphia’s many amazing restaurants.

We’ve passed Sakura a few times with the intention of trying it out, but when we realize how close we are to one of our standards, we pass it by with a “next time” promise which we never seemed to keep. So when we found a few hours together this past Saturday, we went for broke and headed in for a quick dinner. The location itself used to be one of my favorite Chinatown noodle houses and has changed hands and concepts several time since my last visit.

I was initially leery about Sakura because it seemed to be a hodge-podge concept; Mandarin specialties, Sushi, Noodle Soup are all offered on their menu and I worried that they’d be a little too homogenized for our taste. Turns out I was totally wrong.

The menu offered quite a few “adventurous” appetizer options including tripe, jellyfish and my appetizer this visit, cooked duck tongues. Unlike the wait staff at Chinatown’s PENANG, our waitress didn’t react when I ordered the plate of tongues; I expected a “you know that the duck tongues are duck tongues, yes?” warning. But she just took the order with a smile.

They came out in no time at all, and there I was sitting in front of a plate full of them. I dove right in, popping the tongue into my mouth and biting down. Bad call. Turns out they have either a bone or a lump of cartilage at the base of the tongue, which you have to eat around. I found the best technique was to bite off the tip of the tongue and pull the meat from the bone with your teeth. Strips the meat off fairly well though it’s a bit disconcerting at first. My only complaint was a lack of a dipping sauce. The wine they were cooked in was good, but something a little salty would have been good for dipping.

For our entrees, Claire went with a Mapo Tofu and I had the Salt Baked Squid. The tofu dish was good; very spicy and well balanced. I’m not a fan of tofu that soft, but Claire loved it. My squid was good. Salty, not overcooked and plated on shrimp puffs. Claire finished her meal off with an avocado roll. The price was decent for the amount of food we got; the service was good (she forgot Claire’s diet coke, but remembered to charge us for it) and the menu had enough interesting offerings to tempt us back for a second visit.

Sakura Mandarin.
1038 Race Street

Appetizer: 9/10
Entrees: 8/10
Price: $

Adsum Philadelphia

Foie Gras Poutine at Adsum

Adsum opened on July 14th just off South Street in Philadelphia.
A friend messaged me about their foie gras poutine appetizer yesterday morning; 20 minutes later I was showered and headed that way to sample a combination of two of my favorite foods. My little Chef Claire joined me, and we walked in a little after 1pm.

We were, for the entirety of our meal, the only customers in the restaurant. That said, the staff was extremely pleasant, our waitress helpful and very attentive and the overall ambience nice. I can imagine that dinner there will get a lot more crowded, particularly with a kitchen that stays open until 1am.

I ordered the foie poutine appetizer; the portion was small compared to what I’m used to with poutine and easily triple the price. But the foie gras that topped it probably had a lot to do with that. The fries were seasoned perfectly, the duck liver melted in my mouth and the gravy was excellent. The cheese curds could have been better; when I bite into a cheese curd I want a little resistance and these were a bit too soft. But they’re a rare commodity in Philadelphia, so I’ll cut them some slack.

Claire ordered the Pierogi. Tasty, fried just right with a smoked bacon foam on top. The caramelized onions really stood out and it was finished with a nice herb garnish. The dinner size plate comes with four plump pierogi (which Wikipedia just informed me is the plural usage).

The menu has a few offerings that I’ll be back to try; the bone marrow plate, fresh salt & vinegar Chicharr√≥ns, PBR BBQ pork belly and the KFC style sweetbreads, and fried oysters with a pickle juice remoulade all sound like they’ll be worth the visit.

Adsum’s concept seems to be hipster/haute; classic ingredients like sweetbreads, foie gras and pork belly made new with the indie generation in mind. The PBR BBQ sauce being the prime suspect for my theory. That said, the menu looks great and despite somewhat eyebrow raising pricing, I’ll certainly be back for more.

Appetizer: 9/10
Entree: 7/10
Price: $$

700 South 5th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267) 888-7002

El Vez Philadelphia

I’ve had mixed experiences at Steven Starr’s El Vez. Located on the edges of Philadelphia’s gayborhood (a word my iPhone auto-finishes apparently) it dangerously teeters on the verge of style over substance, with a decor of honkey-ized kitschy Mexicana and generally small portion sizes.

Yesterday my little Chef and I were wandering around looking for a spot to grab lunch after she finished work at the bar and before I came on and we decided to give It another chance.

It was as stylish as I remembered; with Starr’s usual mix of tattooed or preppie waitstaff and it’s clever round, center of the restaurant bar decorated with a shiny spinning lowrider bicycle. But would the food provide the substance as well as sustenance?

We started with a made to order tomato free truffle’d guacamole that for it’s price was a very ample appetizer; so much so that we were able to bring more than half of it back to the bar in a to-go box. The truffle flavor was probably truffle salt or oil for the most part, but there was a fair amount of black truffles in a tapenade on top that added a nice pungent/vinegar taste to the dish.

For our entree we picked the taco sampler platter. The choices included fried tilapia, rare beef, marinated chicken, sea bass and a shredded pork, each with their own unique sauces and garnishes. As far as samplers go it was worth the cost ($22) but some of the flavors didn’t really go well with each other; on their own they would have been fine, but the sweetness of the pureed sauce on the sea bass mixed with the spicy/tanginess of the tilapia clashed a bit. It lived up to it’s function, which is to expose you to the various menu items and for once I found that the portions matched the price tag.

Overall, I still think that El Vez is style over substance, but I had a much better experience than previous visits.

El Vez:
Appetizer: 9/10
Entree: 7/10
Price: $$

Tod Mun Pla

Philadelphia has an amazingly diverse restaurant scene, little pockets of regional and international cuisine can be found all over the city if you know where to look, ranging in price from $1.75 for an amazing lamb kabob snack to skies the limit dinners. Why is it then that it’s so dang hard to find decent Thai in the city?

I’ve been craving it for the last few days, so Claire and I went on a little adventure today stopping off at Siam in Chinatown for a late lunch.¬† More than anything I was craving my favorite appetizer: Tod Mun Pla. Fish cakes seasoned with red curry and kaffir lime leaves that are usually served with a Thai sweet chili sauce and sliced fresh cucumber. $9 for five decent sized fish cakes was a bargain.

Our entree was a garlic and Thai basil fried duck plate. Good. Not great but tasty enough to justify my “let’s get Tod Mun Pla” excursion.

Siam Thai Cuisine-
Appetizer: 10/10
Entree: 6/10
Price: $

I did a bit of digging and found a recipe for the fish cakes; I’ll be attempting my own soon!

8 oz. fish paste
1/2 egg (beaten)
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
5 snake beans/long beans (thinly sliced)
5 kaffir lime leaves (cut into fine thin strips)