Saturday, January 22, 2011

Meritage (Philadelphia) 01/2011

Meritage has a special meaning in America. It is a combination term, merit and heritage, applied to small productions of blended wines in which no grape dominates to the degree that it can appear in the name. It also has to be the best wine that the vineyard can produce. I cannot see the connection to this restaurant except that they are both excellent.
This is restaurant week in Philadelphia. About 85 of their best restaurants are offering a $35 three course dinner, or $20 three course lunch, daily, except Saturday. (Taxes and gratuities not included). On the recommendation of the maitre de at Prime Grill we booked at Meritage without any great expectations. Oh boy were we surprised. Chef Anne Coll cut her teeth at Le Bec Fin and then worked for some years at Sussana Foo where she learned to subtly combine Asian flavours with French cuisine. The menu was interesting although a couple of dishes were no longer available when we were seated at 8.45 pm. For the record here it is:

Red Wine Braised Esgargot with Garlic Potato Puree

and crispy brussel sprouts

Eberly farms chicken liver pate with fig chutney and pickled vegetables

Heirloom butternut squash soup

Pan fried Hudson valley foie gras dumplings

Pickled beets, herbed goat cheese mousse, toast, petite salad

Pei mussels with kaffir lime curry sauce

Second Course

Pan Seared Skate curried cauliflower and apple purée, wilted spinach

and Meyer lemon emulsion

Tea Smoked Pork Tenderloin with sweet potato pudding and confit cabbage, apple chutney

Seafood fricassee with coconut curry sauce and rice vermicelli

Grilled hangar steak with parsnip purée and roasted Brussels sprouts

Steamed lentil sticky rice, truffle espuma, smoked tomato chutney, and maitake mushrooms

Third Course

Coconut panna cotta with tropical fruits

Chocolate torte with raspberry sorbet and Swiss meringue

Chocolate peanut butter bombe, currant jelly sauce

Mango sorbet

They had some extras on the regular menu which Sandra elected to have. An appetizer, a quite substantial bowl of paparadelles
in a slightly sweet cream with lots of mushrooms and some beef was very unusual. The pasta was a perfect texture and strangely,the whole dish blended well with the sweetness. She also chose a grilled wild barramundi
which was served on a potato pancake and spinach. No skimping here on another very good dish.
My appetizer of Escargo
were very much more interesting than than rather mundane garlic butter sauce in which they are normally served. They were on a bed of creamy garlic pureed potato with oyster mushrooms and crisp brussel sprout leaves. The high standard was maintained with the stuffed pork tenderloinwith oyster mushrooms and a superb apple and cabbage chutney and a few crisp Brussel sprout leaves.
I had to have the chocolate peanut butter bombe
which was very very rich and had all expected tastes with a perfect soft meringue as well as the currant jelly sauce. You would not get a finer panacotta in Italy than Sandra had.It sat on a creamy sago and was accompanied by a mango ice cream and small pieces of fruit, including pomegranite seeds which modified the sweet tastes.
The restaurant is pleasantly furnished, occupying three rooms with bar seating for about a dozen in the first room. Tables are a good size.
It was very busy and a bit noisy until about 9.30 but the food was worth a lot more noise than that!
Score: 16.5/20

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