Thursday, January 19, 2017

Scarpetto (Philadelphia) 01/2017

The restaurant area for Scarpetto occupies a ground floor bar and lounge area and the space that used to be the Lacrois restaurant (Smith & Wollensky) on the first floor of The Rittenhouse Hotel, a very upmarket establishment on Rittenhouse Square, directly across from Claridges. 
They now concentrate on Italian based fine dining. The restaurant space looks over the square, which is attractive, night or day, in all seasons. Tables are a good size but fairly close together. Perhaps because of the ethnic nature of most of the clients the place was rather noisy. 
Our Italian server, probably the major domo, was extremely enthusiastic about the food and the chef's ability to prepare it as requested.
Bread came early, always a problem for me because it's so moorish, offered with whipped butter, olive oil or a relish.
For an appetizer I chose Diver Scallop, preserved truffle, pea and allepo, which is a sort of pepper.
I was astonished at how incredible this simple dish was. The truffle was obvious but not overwhelming, the sliced scallop sweet and delicate.

This is not just a go to dish, it's a go to Philadelphia dish
Sandra drooled over her creamy polenta, fricasee of truffled mushrooms. It was creamy, buttery, smooth and just right for taste. Both $19
Unusually they had Sandra's favourite Moscato D'Asti which cost about the same for a 150 ml glass as a bottle of the stuff from Dan Murphy!
For my next course I had their house made paparadelle with rabbit.

It's a rarity to get pasta that is this good. I don't want to rave but the texture was excellent. The taste comes from the ingredients. Flavours were gentle and balanced and there was plenty of rabbit too.
Despite their best efforts Sandra's hake was just a fraction over cooked. Why chefs have so much trouble getting fish right defies me.
Regardless of this minor faultit was thoroughly enjoyable.
Dessert was not over tricked up, Cheese cake, poached pear, a kittle under cooked, vanilla bean ice cream and a stick of merengue.

Score:16 /20

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Nougatine at Jean Georges (Manhattan NY) 01/2017

This is taken from his website and shows that he certainly does not sell himself short. Though Jean-Georges Vongerichten is one of the world’s most famous chefs, his skills extend far beyond the kitchen. A savvy businessman and restaurateur, Jean-Georges is responsible for the operation and success of a constellation of three and four star restaurants worldwide.After all the most stars that foodie bible the Guide Michelin gives any restaurant is three. Others, evidently, think JGV is worth more.
I am becoming very wary about 'stars' A personal recommendation is more reliable. The restaurant business is enormously competitive and a lot depends on reputation so stars are important though it is hard to what they mean when a chef/restaurantuer has 15 or more restaurants in several countries under his wing, and he clearly has to spend a lot of time on the business aspect of his restaurants what sort of a genius must he be to collect so many 'stars' for so many of his restaurants?
Nougatine is a chocolate coated nougat - a very sweet thing indeed.
In this case the restaurant resides on the ground floor of the Trump International building at 1 Central Park W, adjacent to Columbus circle and the Time Warner Building, home of several leading restaurants, including Per Se.
It's an attractive room 


with a great view over Central Park.

For those not wanting too much to eat they have a Prix Fixe three course lunch which, at $38 is about as cheap a meal as you can get for a quality restaurant in New York
The menu includes half a dozen appetizers, nine entrees and a couple of desserts. From the a la carte menu the same meal would cost at least $70.
Fried calamari, Basil salt Citrus chili dip was a very small very tasty dish with an enormous bowl of dip for a very small serve of calamari.
Tuna tartare, avocado, spicy radish, ginger marinade.

a nicely presented dish, about as good as one might expect for a simple dish.
Sesame crusted salmon

not a very photogenic dish. This was a pleasant dish but certainly not a Michelin star creation.
Desserts were also pleasant but far from outstanding. 
Jean-Georges warm chocolate cake, vanilla bean ice cream.
Citrus pavlova, blood orange sorbet, candied kumquats.

One would expect this standard of food at any reasonable restaurant
Score:14 /20

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Prime Grill (Philadelphia) 01/2017

It looks glossier than it used to with shiny black 'plastic' covered seating, white tablecloths, black serviettes. It presents as a sort of sophisticated glitz.
Supposedly among Philadelphia's very best steak restaurants The main change to the menu was nothing to do with the food, which seemed unchanged from what it was when we were here about 6 years ago. It was the prices. A 12 oz rib eye steak, bone on, is currently $62 A Bernaise sauce sir? Add $4. A side of mashed potato $10. Wine from $10 upwards. A jumbo crab cake appetiser, not very jumbo either, $20 or two for $39! With taxes and tips it's hard to have dinner for less than A$100 / person and that's being quite modest.
Never mind the price the food is important.
We started with soup. A lobster bisque ($14) proved very disappointing seriously lacking taste. 

French onion soup was better with a good cheese topping but not especially tasty. It's all about the preparation of the onions which were good without being excellent.

They claim to have the best jumbo crab cake around. Perhaps they do. There was plenty of crab and it was quite a delicate flavour but at $20 a pop it was not over impressive.

The ultimate test for a steakhouse has to be the steak. Sandra ordered the Filet Mignon ($39 I think) cooked blue. It was perfect. Tender, a decent size, totally beyond criticism.

Served with a little chard and horse radish we added a side of mashed potato ($10) which was smooth and creamy.
Score:13.75 /20

Oyster House (Philadelphia) 01/2017

This is a barn of a place 
which is extremely popular, especially at their happy hour when they offer oysters at a dollar each, but only one sort, which is clearly not one of the expensive variety. They call it a 'Shuck a Buck' and obviously make up for any lack of profit by the sale of alcohol. Also, I think you can only get your oysters one at a time.
The decor is very simple with a large bar and quite a lot of seating at small basic tables. 
Reservations are only possible for large groups.
Walls are decorated with oyster or fish plates.

The menu, which fits easily on one page, is actually quite extensive. Apart from oysters they have a shrimp cocktail, half a chilled lobster and a selection of cold plates including shrimps, octopus, calamari, mussels, clams and soups, snapper turtle or chowder, as well as sides. Mains include sauteed flounder, grilled Bluefish, Maryland crab cakes, striped bass, Oh Burger and more. Wines at about $9 - 10 / glass are reasonable but unexceptional.
We started with a Manhattan clam chowder 
which proved to be much tastier than an indifferent lobster bisque we had, at nearly twice the price,
the previous night.
The menu offers 9 different oysters and two clams with prices from $1.5 to $3, most being $2.50.
We tried the lot and noted significant variation in taste but enjoyed them all. Starting at 6.00 o'clock the were: Chintoteague, Cape May Salt (and they were salty) Ross Cove, Wild Fire Island, Salt Pond, Plymouth Rock, Well FleetLittle Shemogue and Kushi whilst the clams were from Littleneck and Cherrystone.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal here and would not hesitate to recommend it as a place to eat oysters. Their other dishes looked pretty good too and I would be happy to come for another meal.
Another happy customer!
Score: 13.75/20

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Zipfer Bierhaus (Salzburg) 12/2016

Salzburg is a sophisticated city with elegant fashionable shops abounding. When we were visiting X'mas markets occupied many of the town squares offering fruit and vegetables,

food especially sausages, cheese

 and chocolates - Mozart balls especially. 
and sausages!

Around University square shop windows display A$30K necklaces. 
Despite this he expectation when entering an historic beer house/restaurant 

is not to get an haute cuisine Austrian dinner but rather a decent beer and a local meal. Zipfer does just that.
It's a big place with smoking and non smoking areas. It is full of a warm  'atmosphere' 
with locals, German and Austrian tourists as well as many from further afield.

Waiters are efficient and offer seating at shared tables where you may find yourself sitting with people speaking any of a myriad of languages. Menus are in German and English so if you order hearts and lungs it should not be by accident. (We didn't)
We had a Viennese soup which is a boullion with beef, vegetables and noodles,

which was warm and satisfyibg. A main of Eisbein, (roast pork) with knodel and sauerkraut.
This was also warm and more satisfying, and a dessert, apple strudel.

which was cold and most satisfying.
Prices are very reasonable. The menu indicates that service is included but I forgot this and asked our waiter who said it was not so he got a double tip.
Comments: A very decent Austrian meal in a local venue.
Score:13.5 /20

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The AmaVenita (Budapest to Amsterdam) 12/2016

The first thing that struck me when it came to eating on the APT river cruise ship AmaVenita was the concentration on hygiene. Hand sanitisers are in front of the lounges and dining room. Tongues are every where and every one is encouraged to use them constantly. 
There are two restaurants, a small, perhaps 32 seat, chef's restaurant endeavouring to serve a higher quality degustation menu and the main restaurant which seats about 160 patrons. All tables, set with white linen, seat a minimum of four.

Breakfast is a choice from the buffet or/and a selection of cooked dishes such as eggs Benedict waffles, minute steak, or whatever. The bread and pastry stand is impressive.
A chef prepares omelettes to your taste.
Lunch and dinner are also a buffet affairs 

with an extensive menu with choices of appetisers, soups, mains and desserts. French fries are always available too.

Dinners are a little more elaborate with more choices.
House white and red wines are freely available as are some basic spirits and a house cocktail. Some better quality drinks are available at very reasonable prices.
Presentation is a strong point.

This soup 

with a strawberry topping looked interesting and tasted excellent. Most tasted good.
Main courses varied in quality but always looked great.
Cheese and biscuits were also always available.

Desserts were also varied and attractively presented with ice cream available if desired.
Occasionally a selection of petit fours appeared

Wait staff were exceptionally keen to please and always seemed pleased to see us! 
Daniel looked after us for most of our meals.
Comments: The food did not always meet the expectations of the presentation and it was extremely difficult to get food cooked anything less than medium rare. Baked fish was almost always dry. Not with standing that dishes displayed considerable imagination, combinations of flavours were varied and consistently matched well.
They do maintain a pretty good standard.
Score: 14.25/20