Restaurant Week Returns

Everyone’s favorite cheap date week is back!  Now is the perfect time to try some of our favorite pricier spots!  get out there and have a dining adventure, until Friday!

For More Info:

Participating Restaurants

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University City Dining Days

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The time is upon us again.  We may be a little bit behind, but FYI: It’s UC Dining days!  So head out and try one of the many fabulous options, right in your ‘hood!

www.ucdiningdays.com

Zahav

 

Zahav is an Israeli restaurant  in the Olde City section of the city. It a great place to go for a drink or for a big meal with family and friends albeit with one of the least efficient chair and table layouts we’ve ever seen.

The Drinks

Israeli Salad Martini: Israeli salad is tiny pieces if cucumber, onion, and tomato–this martini mixed those fresh flavors (minus the onion) with gin.  So tasty.

Marbled Rye: I’ve been on a real rye kick for a while now (there’s a whiskey love triangle forming between me, it, and bourbon). The marbled rye was always going to be the drink that I got because its got a rye that the restaurant infuses with caraway and was mixed with celery soda water in a glass on the rocks. The drink was more complex then I expected and all of the very old-fashioned flavors of these seeds made for a great drink to accompany all the strong flavors in the meal.

Drinks menu

The Food

1st Course

Salatim and Hummus/Pita
As I learned from my Israeli co-worker, many traditional meals from this part of the world begin with a large selection of salads.  Zahav offered 12 varieties of pickled, fresh, and dressed salads at the beginning of the meal.  This was accompanied by a large serving of hummus and brick oven baked pita (which was replenished when we finished the first one)  This course was simply brought: Some places bring bread as a ‘free’ appetizer, Zahav brings almost an entire meal!

Josh –  Holly just said it all, but I really want to emphasize the giant pitas we kept getting and also how these were hands down the best pitas I’ve ever had (warm fresh out of the oven, seasoned, and the perfect texture).

2nd Course

Holly – Crispy Haloumi

Haloumi is a hard cheese that is often found in Mediterranean cooking.  Having wanted to try it for a long time, I braved the pairing of peaches and found that it was delicious (and the peaches didn’t even bother me!)  The richness of the cheese and the sweet of the peach was a perfect pairing.

Holly – Tomato Soup

This was more like a beef and vegetable soup in flavor:  it had tiny lamb meatballs and lots of veggie texture.  Very tasty

Josh – House Smoked Sable

I’m a sucker for smoked fish now (after the smoked trout at MidAtlantic turned me onto smoked fish in general). The sable did not disappoint and was surprisingly buttery for a smoked fish too.

Josh – Kibbe

Kibbe are like the middle east version of a hushpuppy. A dough is made from bulgar and is wrapped around ground meat and deep fried. These were really delicious and the meat was a beef and lamb mixture with some seasonings.

3rd Course

Josh – Hanger Steak

This dish wasn’t big, but then none of the dishes were on their own. The steak was two smaller cuts of beef cooked perfectly with a great mushroom sauce. They had a great char on the outside (but not burned) and there was just so much flavor going on.

Holly – Kofte

Kofte are like Mediterranean meatballs.  They were definitely tasty, but not the most interesting thing I had to eat all night.  It was served over carrots and peppers.  The richness of this dish was actually too much after all of the food I had just eaten, and I couldn’t finish it!

Dessert

Josh – Almond-Apricot Rugelach

We both honestly didn’t have any room for dessert, but I powered through on mine. It’s pretty easy to power through when there’s a desert as tasty as this one. The pastry dough was great and the almond apricot mixture in the filling was a great way to finish a meal.

Holly – Halvah Mousse

I had no idea what this was when I ordered it, but I wanted to get something that Josh didn’t order.  It was a rich mousse of  tahini with blueberry sauce.  It was good, but actually too rich for me after the ridiculous amount of food I had just eaten.

Food Menu

The Design

I wasn’t overly impressed with the design of Zahav.  It was (I’m sure) meant to look like an outdoor area in Israel, but it was a little cliché.  The floors were travertine, the walls were clad in a limestone in a textured brick finish.  The side dining area featured a working fountain and large semi-circular booths with flowing fabric “tents” above.  It was a pretty literal take on what (at least the stereotypes of) Israel is like. The problem was not that it was ‘theme-y” (although I am not usually a fan of theme restaurants), but it was just planned poorly!  There were very few seats in a restaurant that easily could have fit 10-20 more seats.  Stock-looking booths of all things were used in the center of the main dining area.  The fabrics used all looked cheap.  This was a place that I am sure is usually pretty pricey, but everything about it felt too cheap and too Disney for Philadelphia.  I was disappointed from the second I walked in–I was expecting a new modern Israel (that I know exists from the accounts of my coworkers) but I was given a played-out stereotype that wasn’t even executed well.

The Overall Experience

Service-wise,  Zahav did just about everything right. Our waiter was attentive, there was great food and drinks and it is just a cool place.

I do feel I have to mention that the whole time we were there we had stuffy/runny noses or were sneezing. Invariably I think that the quality of the pitas was directly related to this. There was a lot of flour and seasonings in the air from the fire oven they cook the pita in that just got to me and Holly. It’s a testament to the place that despite the onslaught of allergies we really enjoyed our food and our experience.

The Receipt

We had the pleasure of Restaurant week prices, so food was 35 dollars each for all courses and both of our drinks came in under 10 dollars. I can’t stress enough just how much food and how great a value that food was that we got for this price. We’ve enjoyed restaurant week prices at a lot of places, but this was hands down the best bang for your buck value I’ve ever seen or experienced.  I’d imagine things are more expensive usually, but I’d go back in a heartbeat to sit at the bar and a drink a marbled rye while munching on some pitas and other appetizers. 

Our Ratings

Drinks: 4/5

Food: 5/5

Design: 3/5

Service: 5/5

Budget: 5/5

Overall Experience: 5/5

Will We Visit Again:

Yes, if only to sit at the bar drinking marbled rye cocktails and eating pita after pita dipped in their delicious hummus.

Restaurant Website

 

Tinto

Tapas is  a style of restaurant, one where you eat various small dishes and share them with friends over drinks, originating in Spain. Much like Bar Ferdinand, Tinto takes the Spanish origin of Tapas to heart in both its decor and in its menu offerings.

The Drinks

Tinto, like many tapas restaurants,  puts a heavy emphasis on their wine selection (see logo above).  If you discount sangria as a cocktail (which I do) there were only 4 cocktails on the menu and a meager selection of beers.  This was to be  expected, however. Wine List, Beer & Cocktail Menu

Seasonal Sangria

This summery beverage was a sweet mix of rosé wine, melon liqueur, and fresh fruit and was a perfect accompaniment to my meal.  It was incredibly girly, but delicious.  So delicious, in fact, that I had two.

Iraty
I wasn’t particularly wowed by the cocktail and beer selection. They seemed like good safe choices, but no stand outs in a restaurant which is obviously all about the wine. The Iraty consisted of Bourbon, campari, muddled lemon, and soda water (fizz on the menu) and basically ended up tasting like an old fashioned with more citrus. It could have been really watered down like the cocktails from Barbuzzo (review perhaps to come later), but it thankfully wasn’t. I felt no inclination to have a second drink when the server asked, however.

The Food

1st Course

Mahon

I like cheese a lot, but will often steer clear of cheese plates at restaurants as they usually feature blue cheeses and goat cheeses (goat cheese is way too funky for me), but I am quite often willing and ready to try almost any firm cheese that is not from goats. This was a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese that was a firm, buttery, and salty cheese that reminded me of a manchego and went great with the honey, apple slices, and quince paste they provided with it.

Jamon Serrano

I really like Serrano hams and this andalusian mountain cured ham did not fail.  It had a great chew and flavor, and a fairly lean cut. The Serrano came with an egg yolk salad that was really rich but went great with it. Both my cheese and my charcuterie came with a decent amount of bread. Not as much bread as we got at Bar Ferdinand, but an adequate amount which is more than you get at most restaurants when you order charcuterie.

Figs
These tasty little bites were serrano ham-wrapped–the perfect combination of sweet and salty.

Gazpacho
I have developed a taste for gazpacho recently, and although this combination of heirloom tomato and avocado was tasty, it wasn’t as delicious as the watermelon gazpacho at Distrito (that’s probably the only good thing we had at Distrito, however).

2nd Course

Pulpo
I am a huge fan of octopus, and I pretty much order it wherever it is available on the menu.  This beautifully composed plate also contained confit potato and stripe of piquillo pepper paint, and a delicious but slightly strange lemon “powder.”  The textures, colors, and flavors were all beautiful and very fun to look at and eat.

Merluza en Salsa Verde
I have been itching to try sea bass for a while.  This was perfect–the crispy outside was a great textural contrast to the perfectly soft fish.  The plate also had  cockles with salsa verde, which were an interesting counterpoint to the very simply prepared fish.

Butifarra

This combination of house-made garlic sausage, lentils, and pedro ximenez was probably the most interesting thing I ordered (though most interesting thing I ate was holly’s octopus), the sausage and lentils went great together and I slurped (quietly) down the broth when I was finished.

Moules Basquaise

These were really great mussels. They came with chorizo and sauce basquaise, which was delicious, although the chorizo was really in it more for flavor than for eating. This dish also came with bread for which I was pleasantly surprised and this time it was toasted to better stand up under the sauce.

Dessert

Chocolate
A simple, but delicious, flourless chocolate cake with  chocolate mousse and passionfruit sorbet.  As always, I picked up the chocolate dessert on the restaurant week menu, and although this wasn’t exactly memorable, it was tasty and a nice way to finish a meal.

Torrijas

This was dulce de leche, caramel mousse, and orange supremes–A great dish combining fresh citrus with lots of caramel flavor. It seemed that every restaurant week menu had a chocolate dessert and then some other kind of dessert and these options eventually helped us decide where to go based off of would I like desert or no as the 2nd factor. This one stood out and helped us pick Tinto and it lived up to being interesting.

Food Menu

The Design

Tinto feels moody and actually kind of “sexy” due to an interior lavished with warm woods, charcoal greys, and custom candle-lit accent walls.  We ended up being sat downstairs in what is probably usually their private dining area, which felt cozy and private (even though we were technically in the same booth as another couple).  The booths actually felt more like couches–they were soft and you actually sink into them (which may or may not be a good feature.  I have yet to decide).  The design makes you feel as if you’ve been whisked away to some exotic and somewhat undiscovered foreign locale without feeling like some Disneyland theme restaurant.  It is a very successful mood for a tapas restaurant, and I enjoyed the interior for this reason.  I will only give it a 4/5 however, because the basement area really could have been more fully realized in the concept, but hey, no one’s perfect, right?

The Overall Experience

The service was great: fast, and the tapas plates came out at all the right moments during the course of the meal.  As the hostess led us to the basement stairs I had some real trepidation about our seating arrangements, but the basement was cooler than the rest of the restaurant. It was a great date night with lots to talk about just from the food and would be a great place to take a first or second date.

The Receipt

With it being a restaurant week night, the food was only 70 dollars. the Receipt total was around 100 since I had a cocktail, Holly 2 sangrias, and we each had coffee with our dessert.  It was definitely affordable and I’m glad we went, but I know the prices are higher normally and I’m not a big enough fan of Spanish cuisine to make a return until the next restaurant week.

Our Ratings

Drinks: 4/5

Food: 5/5

Design: 4/5

Service: 5/5

Budget: 5/5 (due to restaurant week)

Overall Experience: 4/5

Will We Visit Again

Hard to say. The service and food were great, but it’s probably too expensive to not go during restaurant week (and we really like to use restaurant week to try new places).

Center City Restaurant Week

Every Philadelphia foodie’s favorite time of year: Center City Restaurant Week is back!  September 12-16 & 18-23 restaurants will be featuring three-course dinners for $35 and three-course lunches for $20.  This time around many of the restaurants will also be featuring locally sourced products in the recipes: look for the tractor symbol on the menu!

We will probably be checking out Zahav–an Israeli restaurant in Washington Square.  Their restaurant week menu looks pretty great, and has the added bonus of more bang for your buck with 4 courses instead of the usual 3!

List of Participating Restaurants

Happy Eating!