Thursday, January 28, 2010

Restaurant Week at La Scala's

My parents enjoyed a 5pm dinner last night at La Scala's on Chestnut St.  They had nothing but glowingly positive remarks afterwards. The restaurant week menu ($35 for 3 courses) utilized everything on the regular menu, allowing for a bounty of dinner options. 

The grilled salmon with roasted potatoes was fantastic, as were the grilled lamb chops with eggplant capanata.  The portions of both entrees was more than generous.  The same goes for the normally $18 seafood cocktail.  My dad doesn't like polenta, but he left nary a fork full of the mushroom polenta served with his lam chops. 

They were amazing by the food, but also by the service and the free (validated) parking (available after 3pm and all day on weekends).

My parents both said, emphatically, "we will return to La Scala's" whether during a future restaurant week or not - La Scala's was that good.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fire Creek Restaurant - Downingtown


Fire Creek had teased Chester County foodies for months but is now finally open for business.

We've been driving past the elegant old stone paper mill building along the Brandywine River eagerly awaiting a glimpse of the inside. It was set to open in January but zoning issues kept pushing the date back, eventually opening it's doors in early April. We were hoping Fire Creek would became the area's finest new restaurant, as the Philly suburbs are way too crowded with crappy chains like Ruby Tuesdays, Bonefish, etc and can definetly use a great non-chain dining option.

The Mrs. and I went for a late dinner, 8:30pm on Friday night 4/10/09. There was a 30 minute wait for a table, however we did find a high top bar table and remained there, as the menu is shared between the bar and the restaurant proper. I order Steak Frites and was able to swap out the Peppercorn Sauce for the Sauce Bearnaise. While the Bearnaise wasn't homemade, it didn't seem, the steak and the garlic/parsley fries were fantastic. Cooked perfectly with a juicy pink center and served very hot, it was one of the best steak frites plates I've ever had, including those I enjoyed in Parisian bistros. The Mrs. had the Left Coast Chicken sandwich and it was only okay. The chicken was littered with black pepper and the promised Avocado amounted to a smidgen of avocado spread. The delightful server brought additional spread and the Mrs. was able to remove much of the peppery outer layer, so the sandwich was able to be enjoyed.

For dessert we shared the Apple Cider Donut Bread Pudding, with donuts from a local farm, which was absolutely delicious but was more of a Donut Cake than bread pudding.

Go try Fire Creek in Downingtown, while they've only been open a couple weeks, it seems many of the kinks have already been worked out. I have a feeling Fire Creek may end up being the western suburbs finest restaurant.

Free valet parking on weekends! The outdoor patio along the Brandywine River is gorgeous and will be a popular space come the warm evenings of summertime.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

TOWN - New York City

My parents enjoyed a delicious dinner a couple nights ago at TOWN in midtown Manhattan. It was their wedding anniversary and I made note of that fact in the Opentable reservation. Like a sophisticated restaurant should, TOWN lavished my parents with special attention for their special occasion. Glasses of champagne on the house...'Happy Anniversary' written in chocolate along side the bread pudding on the dessert plate. Simple touches that will initiate waves of positive word of mouth for months on end. TOWN even managed to do what numerous others restaurants couldn't in the past - I called during their meal and asked to have a cheese plate sent over to their table. I picked the three cheeses from the website, supplied my credit card info...and voila! it happened in a timely fashion with the correct fromage selections! They even made note of my name to forward my best wishes to my parents in conjunction with the presentation of the cheeses. Perfection.

A truly first class experience. I recommend TOWN to anyone and everyone looking for a special, romantic evening of
inventive fare in a simply elegant setting in midtown.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sotto Varalli - Unaccommodating

One shouldn't expect any different. After all, the Birthday email coupon did clearly state that the holder of said certificate will receive one entree free when another is purchased, up to $25. Why then should a couple think the restaurant would discount their bill in some form or fashion when no entree was purchased? For starters, because the couple enjoyed multiple appetizers, each priced in the low-to-mid teens, a bottle of wine and a couple salads. The pre-tip bill topped $100 even without a proper entree. Secondly, and more importantly, the last thing a business should be trying to do right now, in this economy, is turn off customers. Yes, the bill was going to be paid regardless, with or without discount, but the likelihood of a return visit was greatly diminished after the hard line stance taken by Sotto Varalli last week.

Would it have been better, in the long run, for Sotto Varalli to knock, say, $10 off the bill as a sign of goodwill and a thank you for dropping $100 in the restaurant that night. The coupon brought them in, for a birthday dinner, but several of the appetizers sounded more, well, appetizing to the couple that night.

I say Sotto could have extended an olive branch to the couple. Instead, they probably lost a couple of loyal patrons, not because the pair feel as though they deserved the $25 off but because the "no" was so curt and unaccommodating.

No doubt this couple will be selecting Bliss, across the street, or Osteria a few blocks north for future Broad Street-area dinners.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Avalon Restaurant - West Chester PA

Avalon Restaurant is a neighborhood gem that continues to be one of the best restaurants, not only in Chester County but also within the entire Delaware Valley. The food is inventive, delicious and reasonably priced (probably because it's a BYOB). The space manages to be both warm and inviting AND sleek and modern at the same time. The outdoor patio is secluded and can be extremely romantic, especially if seated near the little fountain as my wife and I were during lunch a month ago. At dinner, the place really comes to life with a blazing fire and intimate lighting. The staff is top notch, paying attention to the small details (like the old fashion touch of folding your napkin while you visit the restroom). During our last visit for dinner, last Friday, the kitchen whipped up a brand new appetizer, had the wait staff sample it and then 5 minutes later we were being offered it. 'Twas creative and fantastic!

On Jan 9th, I had the Braised Beef Agnoloti in a Cabernet Demi Sauce over top Broccoli Rabe Holy cow, it was incredible. The beef was so tender and succulent. I look forward to every visit, knowing I'm going to be treated to a great meal and taken care of with precision. As a bonus, you can often get a street parking spot right out front, but worst case there is a nice big lot a mere 3 blocks away on High street.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

All the little things | Davio's - A Philadelphia Gem, along with two other couples, took in Philadelphia's restaurant week festivities at Davio's a few Sundays-ago. The evening served as launching point for the Philly50 idea itself and as a warm up for the criteria and writing style for the forthcoming reviews of the 50 best restaurants in Philadelphia. The project officially launches next month, with a dinner at the joint ranked #1 by Philadelphia Magazine - Osteria.

Davio's is a special place and while it fell short of being considered top 50, it surely would be in the next 50 if the list would ever be expanded to 100. Davio's is classy with smooth service and consistent cuisine in a gorgeous space above the bustling city streets. Dinner was described as "terrific". While the six lucky diners were not working from the regular menu, the selections chosen for the restaurant week menu were fantastic and varied (options of lamb, chicken, steak and fish).

The couches and the bar area that one is tempted by on the way in and out (almost no way to pass without wanting to sink into a couch for an after dinner drink or a beverage while you wait for a table) should certainly be utilized as either the starting point to a great meal or the appropriate destination for that final adult beverage before hugs are exchanged and goodbyes granted. The area is comfortable, well-attended by the waitstaff and features a pair of flat screen televisions that allow for a peek at the score or the climactic conclusion of the game yet at the same time manage to not distract from the mood the living room-themed area conjures up.

Use to make a reservation and don't hesitate to use the comment box to let Davio's know if your dinner there is a celebration of any sort. The Mrs. and I did just that a couple years back and were surprised with a free dessert to share with the words "Happy Anniversary" in chocolate on the rim of the plate. A nice touch that has stuck with me for years and has caused me to recommend and speak highly of the place ever since.

In short, Davio's is a solid Philadelphia classic. They even validate parking (which can be hard to find in that part of the city - call ahead for the applicable lots that qualify).
Don't hesitate to consider Davio's for your next special occasion.
Stop back in March for the next restaurant review and the start of this year long challenge.