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: $$

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

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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)

-Shawn

Dinner at Garces Trading Company

Claire and I joined Robert, Carmela and B4 tonight at Garces Trading Company (corner of Quince & Locust streets) to celebrate Claire’s recent graduation from SUNY Purchase. I’ve been apprehensive about going to Garces since it opened; the Chef/Owner seems very “man of the hour” since his (some would argue overexposed) turns on Food Tv’s IRON CHEF and THE NEXT IRON CHEF broadcasts. His properties in Philadelphia are multiplying at a rate that would make Steven Starr blush and his deal with Pennsylvania’s LCBO to have a “Wine and Spirits” package store inside of the Locust street location has caused more than a few raised eyebrows amongst Philadelphia restaurateurs and foodies.

But the question was: Do business practices have anything to do with enjoying a good meal? At what point does our contempt with “celebrity Chefs” make us sound as bitter as (our beloved) Anthony Bourdain? With that in mind, we showed up shortly after 5pm to take advantage of the dinner menu. We were seated right away; our table was easily two times bigger than our party needed but gave us room to situate ourselves with no pressure of “what if a bigger party comes in”. Our server greeted us right away and was pleasant and helpful as we settled ourselves and started going over a relatively small menu. As a consumer I’m someone who hates a big menu; too many choices mean too much decision making. Too many choices mean too many ingredients behind the velvet rope; when you offer six pages of options you have to supply for six pages of dishes. Garces menu was impressive right off the bat. A few charcuterie and cheese choices with ample explanation of flavor profiles, a few pasta dishes, a few pizzas, salads, soups and grill choices.

Charcuterie:
We started with “chef’s choice” of charcuterie and cheese. The house chorizo was spectacular; the spices came through strongly (instead of just “hot”) and the portions bigger than expected. Two cured hams accompanied it. This was my first of two complaints for the meal; each of the hams has a light drizzle of a very distinctive olive oil on them. As thinly as the meats were sliced and as subtle the flavor of the prosciutto was the olive oil was overkill and overpowered the taste of the second two meats. The cheeses were standard fair; a nice pungent blue paired with honeyed fruit (I didn’t ask what fruit) dip. A cows milk with fig and an otherwise mild cheese paired with roasted garlic dulce de leche. That’s right. GARLIC CARAMEL. It played well off of the cheese. And the bread we dipped in it. And off of our fingers. Truly the highlight of the charcuterie course.

I moved on to a soup- the Vichyssoise Chaude. Potato, leek, bay scallop, chive and bacon with a little black truffle. Holy christ. I’ve never had a warm vichyssoise before but this played out perfectly. The carmelized scallops (two smaller portions, but just the right flavor) were strongly evident in the potato leek broth; the truffle mainly added garnish but I thought I noticed a truffle aftertaste that could have come from oil or essence of truffle. The bacon was thick cut and pleasantly fatty. A perfect soup and the price was very moderate.

Entrees:
I went with the Funghi pizza; maitakes, royal trumpets, taleggio, & black truffles. I added duck confit to it for a little gamey kick. Great portion size for the price (w/o the duck it was $13) and really flavorful. The duck added a lot to my enjoyment but if you’re a mushroom fan on a budget it would be just as good without it.

Claire had the Pappardelle With Lamb Ragu. Again, the dinner portion size was admirable and the dish had enough lamb to satisfy. She could have went with the smaller size as half of it is sitting in a to-go box waiting for her to get hungry again.

Carmela got the lamb chops. I’m always wary of ordering lambchops at nicer restaurants. Portion size is usually very small; even if they’re good cuts of meat you end up wishing you had more food. This wasn’t the case. The chops were gigantic; just enough fat-for-flavor and the rest perfectly rare chunks of lamb right to the bone.

B4 had the Margherita pizza which he devoured (a healthy six year old appetite loves pizza) and Robert… I think he got the daily special filet.

Dessert:
I was the only one who opted for dessert; house baked cookies. This was the second disappointment of the meal. The “cookies” weren’t cookies. They also weren’t that good. You can’t win them all.

Overall:
Appetizer/Charcuterie: 7/10.
Entrees: 9/10
Desert: 2/10
Waitstaff: 10/10.
Price: $$$

-Shawn