R2L

R2L Logo

Skyline dining is not something most of us expect to do anytime soon. The Space Needle or a movie set of a lascivious penthouse restaurant come to mind– and instantly the idea is discarded as a luxury expense. R2L dashes these notions  with the force an object would assume were it do be dropped from the 37th floor of the Two Liberty Place tower (which also happens to be R2L’s location).

We chose to visit R2L to celebrate our 1 year anniversary, and we couldn’t have made a better choice of restaurant.  The place was classy, luxurious and incredibly down-to earth (or at least as much as a skyscraper restaurant can be).

The Drinks

R2L-evation

Aviations are a favorite for both of us (especially those mixed by our friend Matt) and it seemed to be the signature drink so while we waited at the bar for out table we both ordered one. Mixed with Amsterdam Gin (spied the bartender pouring it), and subbing Parfait Amour for Creme de Violette (made with rose petals and more citrus) the drink was a hit with both of us.

Perfect Manhattan

I prefer straight up regular manhattans (2:1 ratio) most of the time, but have had perfect manhattans in the past and enjoyed them nonetheless. After gin for the first drink, I knew I wanted to see their skill with rye or boubon and the perfect manhattan just stood out at that point. I’m not sure what the rye was, but the drink was very well mix and fit the bill perfectly to go with my dry aged steak and into desert.

Special Bonus

Because we mentioned in our reservation that we would be celebrating an anniversary, the restaurant provided complimentary champagne.  How sweet of them!  This kind of service is rare at most places, and it was so welcome and pleasing to feel like the restaurant was celebrating with us.

The Food

Appetizer: Lobster Mac and Cheese

I have wanted to try this for some time now, but I am always lured away by other tasty (and usually cheaper) appetizers.  But dammit, this was our anniversary so I felt allowed to splurge– and boy am I glad we did.  This wasn’t a mess of cheese and pasta with bits of lobster hiding within.  Instead, 5 extra-large pieces of macaroni were individually treated to mounds of tasty cheese and a large chunk of meat each.  The morsels were perfectly bite-sized and the flavors were well-balanced and perfectly cooked.  I knew we were in for some great dinner after these bites, which is exactly what an appetizer is for.

Dinner

Josh: Dry Aged NY Strip Steak

Originally we were going to try to hit up one of the big steakhouses in Philly for our anniversary specifically to get some dry aged steaks, but eventually decided on R2L.  Happily R2L has an award-winning a dry aged steak anyway– in my favorite steak cut to boot! I ordered medium rare and this was probably the best steak I’ve ever eaten, but I will qualify that with the fact that I haven’t had any other aged steaks of course. I got the broccoli and wild rice for my side and it was a great combo to the steak and the most perfectly cooked broccoli I’ll ever have.

Holly: Mustard Crusted Pork Chop

You would think that a NY Strip Steak would far and away be the best thing on the menu at a place like this, but I dare you to try to pork chop.  Actually, if you go there and don’t try it I think you will have missed out on one of the best experiences of your life.  This chop had the best texture and the most flavor of any pork I have had anywhere.  Ever.  It was rubbed with mustard and cooked so perfectly that I was almost fooled into thinking I was eating beef.  No lie–I have never had a “foodgasm” before, but ladies and gentleman, that pork chop was the end-all of food experiences for me so far.  It was served with fingerling potatoes, but really who cares?  Damn that chop was tasty.

Dessert

Holly: Variations on Chocolate

Variations on Chocolate is a very fancy way to say you get a crap ton of tasty desserts on one pretty plate (and it’s definitely meant to hold the attention of the ladies).  The plate had 5 tasty little bites, each with its own flavor and texture.  The first was a teeny little macaroon ( maybe?) with an overall taste of caramel, topped with a little chocolate wafer.  Next, a chocolate lollipop filled with peanut butter (my favorite), followed by a dollop of creamy chocolate ice cream.  Finally, a chocolate breakfast is presented with a doughnut and little mug of “hot” chocolate (really a cold milk shake with hot pepper in it–it’s not a new concept, but this is definitely the best execution I have had).  Everything was delicious and it was super fun to have a lot of different presentations on one plate.  In a restaurant that could swing toward the all-too-serious side, this dessert was playful and a great way to end the meal.

Josh:French Toast

There wasn’t as much food to my desert as Holly’s but boy was it tasty and right up my alley. 2 small perfectly made french toast sticks were surrounded by a bevy of accoutrements. There were puffs of bourbon maple whipped cream, a house-made ice cream dollop, caramel drizzle and slices of the most perfectly fried banana sliced with a hard glaze on top of them.  They all were delicious and went great together and after a large meal I didn’t really need a big dessert anyway.

The Design

R2L is a classy establishment.  You kind of know that going in. From the moment you approach their private elevator the “magic” happens.  Everything is perfectly balanced to feel sumptuous and extravagant, but nothing is really intimidating or unwelcoming in its fashionable approach.  The design is inspired by art deco interiors from the 1930s and as such all of the forms are curved, colorful, and tactile, but nothing is flashy or obnoxious.  Even the prevailing use of zebra fabric in the custom seating is tasteful (and very theme appropriate).  The design was obviously meant to highlight the beautiful view, and the space planning was done so that you can see the gorgeous view from almost anywhere you sit in the restaurant (pro tip guys: if you go here on a hot date, make sure you give the better seat to your lady friend).  I felt like my design sensibilities were taken care of almost as well as my tastebuds were.

The Overall Experience

Daniel Stern obviously knows how to train his staff: our waitress was personable, kind, and knew everything about the food she was serving.  She had just the right amount of friendliness and professionalism, as one would expect from a restaurant such as this.  Our food was also served in a timely (but not hurried) fashion and each dish was plated with perfect attention to visual detail.  Our desserts even came with a scripted “Happy Anniversary” written in chocolate on the plate.  As we mentioned before, we also receive champagne and many congratulations from those serving us.  It was appreciated, and the perfect touches that make a night at R2L special.  We would highly recommend it for your next special celebration.

The Receipt

For all this luxury, service, and deliciousness you would expect R2L to break the bank.  It was of course pretty pricey, but it was completely worth it (and not nearly as expensive as one might think).  Pro tip:  If you want the R2L experience but can’t hang the price-tag, spend a happy hour at the bar.  the bartenders are also great, there is a bar food menu, and you don’t need a reservation.  It’s a great way to experience the place without emptying your wallet.

Our Ratings

Drinks: 5/5

Food: 5/5

Design: 5/5

Service: 5/5

Budget: 3/5

Overall Experience: 5/5

Will We Visit Again:

If we could we would be frequent patrons of R2L  but budget will not allow.  We would love to visit again for a bar seat and a casual snack (and we feel completely welcomed to do so but the great bar staff and the view that even the bar allows).


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Midatlantic

Midtatlantic takes University City to the next level in regards to cuisine.  Chef Daniel Stern (of R2L) has fun with the foods of the Midatlantic states and creates a restaurant the encourages exploration.  With items like crab or vegetable scrapple, Tastycake bread pudding, and a multitude of local craft beers, this restaurant has an original and delicious menu that gives a West Philadelphia foodie a chance to come up for air from all the pizza and freezer burgers in the area.

The Drinks

Josh: The Stovepipe

Basically an adult root beer float, but way classier than those words sound. Made with Bourbon, Navan, Drambuie & Root Beer, The Stovepipe was designed by head chef Daniel Stern.  The drink definitely had bold root beer flavors and was a great way to start the meal while we waited for our food.

Rumspringa 2.0

I had the Rumspringa in its first version around when Midatlantic had recently opened. I enjoyed the drink at the time, but it was hard to find the bite of the rye in the cider it was mixed in (really great cider though). RumSpringa 2.0 is made with Rye, Aita Snap, Bitters, Maple & Burnt Orange and was a much more potent and enjoyable drink. All of the flavors complemented one another and it was nice to have a cocktail with Snap in it (vs. the much more proliferated Root by Art in the Age).

Holly: Shrub

I always have the shrub when I got to Midatlantic.  It has gone through a few evolutions.  it has always included fresh fruit, vinegar, and a little sugar with a spirit.  Originally you could choose the spirit, but they learned that the best of us order gin drinks.  The newest variation has gin with fresh muddled berries and tarragon in the mix, and the sweet and sour profile of the drink is very refreshing.  It is a unique drink that I have not seen made in other bars, so when at Midatlantic I jump at the chance to have it.

The Food

Appetizer: Meat and Cheese Board

Now THIS is what charcuterie should always be like. 3 different kinds of meat (plus a terreine), 4 kinds of cheese, condiments, and a pickle jar!  Plus they serve it with a varied assortment of breads in an amount appropriate to the size of the plate.This enormous appetizer is recommended for 2-4 people, and it could easily feed more.  The actual items will change out frequently, but this time we had the pleasure of sampling a house cured summer sausage that was pleasant (if not a little bland) and a chorizo with a great kick. The cheeses, much to Josh’s chagrin, included a soft goat cheese (which actually was quite clean tasting rather than the usual funk of a goat cheese) and the local “Tommenator“, a Tomme style that is brined with Troegs Troegenator double bock.

Main Courses

Josh: The Midatlantic (Burger)

I’ve had this burger before, but there’s about the flavor combinations that keep me coming back. The burger is always cooked exactly how I order (medium rare for me, thank you) and comes with their house made summer sausage sliced on top with horseradish cheddar and pickles.  The Ma Chips are a must. These house made kettle crunch chips are perfectly cooked and fresh and really help the burger to standout from the crowd.

Holly: Corned beef and Cabbage

Rich and delicious!  Corned beef and cabbage is one of my favorite meals (thanks to my father) and this variation was perfect.  The meat was incredibly tender and rich, the cabbage was well cooked but not soggy, and the cute assortment of multicolor potatoes, baby beets, and long slices of carrot were not only delicious but really beautiful to look at. It was topped with a horseradish cream and a couple of croutons (which I could have done without, truthfully).  The whole thing was buttery, savory, and incredibly satisfying.

Dessert:Simmons Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie

Okay, so this specific time we didn’t get dessert (that meat and cheese board is a beast) but you MUST try this peanut butter pie.  Each little pie is made in an individual (sharable) portion, which is filled with a rich chocolatey -peanutty mouse, and topped with pretzels!  Sweet and salty–feeding our stereotypical foodie nature to its very core.

The Design

Midatlantic has a great interior.  It takes the industrial vibe that is ever so popular in this city and makes it just refined enough that it is appropriate to the level of cuisine it accompanies.  The floors are of polished concrete, which always looks great in my opinion (and it’s really easy to keep clean).  The lights are custom pieces made from bundles of fluorescent tubes with wild looking red wires escaping from the tops into the ceiling, which was left uncovered.  Along the back wall, sheets of wood in various shades of yellow, red, and green create an interesting texture that also draws attention to the open kitchen area and bar, which also had the keg room exposed to draw attention to the plethora of craft brews available.  There is also a private room that is separated from the main dining floor by a sheet metal wall with tiny windows punched through, giving a small peak of any parties that me be planned.  Besides  the fact that the now-ubiquitous Emeco Navy chair was used, this interior is highly original and very successful.

The Overall Experience

This visit the place was actually pretty busy (which is not usual during dinner time as Midatlantic seems to do its biggest business at lunch) so the service was just a tad slow.  But our waitress was polite, very knowledgeable, and eager to help us make good choices in both food and drink.  We also sat outside this time, which was very pleasant due to the glass division protecting us from people on the street and the swanky firepit in the middle of the outside patio.

The Receipt

Midatlantic is definitely not the cheapest place around (especially not in the proximity of its University City neighbors).  This trip we go three cocktails, an appetizer, and two entrees for around $100 before tip.  The great thing about this price range, however, is that the restaurant wont become overrun with rowdy college students during game time, and the quality of food and portion sizes are really worth the slightly higher price tag.  It’s not a place to go every couple of days after work, but it’s great for impressing a date or a quiet evening with a friend or two.

Our Ratings

Drinks: 5/5

Food: 5/5

Design: 5/5

Service: 4/5

Budget: 3/5

Overall Experience: 4/5

Will We Visit Again

Yes, and we already have a few times.  This is one of our favorite places due to its proximity to our home, the fact that it is usually quiet, and the great selection of interesting food and drink.