September 30, 2012

Oyster House

Doc Magrogan's Oyster House recently opened a new spot right on Penn's campus.  I wasn't particularly excited to try it out as I'm always dubious of seafood restaurants that aren't located right next to the ocean and even more dubious of the ones that are chains. After hearing quite a few rather good reviews about the new location, I decided to scout over and give it a try. 

Oyster imperial with crab
Fresh oysters 

This was probably the first time I've ever eaten raw oysters, but now I finally understand what all of the excitement is about. Fresh oysters are delicious. We tried two kinds - one that was very light and creamy and another one which had a little more brine to it and tasted like the ocean. Both were great but we definitely liked the one with less brine. The oyster imperial is served warm with crab and a mixture of cocktail sauce on top. The fresh ones were much much better.

Clam chowder
Big bowl of clam chowder which we both agreed would be absolutely perfect on a cold day. I also really liked how the soup was not the usual white creaminess you find in a Campbell's can.

Hurricane cocktail
Lobster roll with old bay fries

The lobster roll was also fantastic. I think V. proclaimed that this was his favorite sandwich of all time - a bold statement considering he doesn't really like seafood. I appreciated the brioche roll as opposed to the typical hot dog bun you usually get with your lobster. Although the fries aren't sweet potato fries - they were perfectly crispy and we gobbled all of them up. The cocktails we ordered were decent tasting. Nothing amazing but served in big portions which made me happy. 
I definitely plan on coming back for the $1 oysters during happy hour!

September 29, 2012


Consistently ranked one of the best restaurants (if not the best restaurant) in Philadelphia and easily hands down, the best Italian restaurant in the entire city, Vetri is actually not a prominently know restaurant among many people.  Although not in the limelight as much as Stephen Starr, the Marc Vetri's portfolio of impressive Italian restaurants have heralded him just as much fame. Vetri, is easily the star in the entire portfolio - once an a la carte restaurant, Vetri now only serves a 7-course tasting menu that changes monthly.

The interior of the restaurant is well-furnished yet homey. Everything from the stone walls to the quaint wooden tables and chairs says rustic Italian.  However, you would never know from just looking at the dining room that this is one of the highest standard restaurants in Philadelphia on par with the likes of Le Bec Fin.

So here goes my attempt at digesting this intimidating restaurant.

apples with parmesan
fish sandwich
foie gras with apricot jam on toast
chilled farm vegetables
balsamic vinaigrette
homemade bread with olives

The meal started with an ensemble of amuse bouche including the most delicious bowl of raw vegetables I have ever eaten. They were served on ice and chilled to a delectable temperature. A perfect bowl of crispy baby carrots, radishes, squash, cucumber, and artichoke hearts. Despite the last time we had foie gras which was a little overwhelming, we were quite happy with the small portion we were given this time around.

axis venison tartare with parmesan grissini
 corn flan with quail egg
 crispy sweetbreads with plum gastrique
 sweet onion crepe with white truffle
First round of appetizers included vension tartare and corn flan. The vension came all the way from Texas (I'm guessing from some sort of grass-fed farm). The dish was seasoned lightly and the meat itself was very lean. The corn flan was creamy and cooked perfectly with an oozy quail egg on the inside - how they managed to do that, I have no idea.

The second round of appetizers consisted of sweetbreads and onion crepe. As soon as I saw on the sweetbread on the menu, I knew I just had to try it. It always amuses me to see super provincial ingredients become a part of "high" cuisine. For those unfamiliar with sweetbread, wikipedia has a mechanical description that's pretty informative. Anyways, the sweetbread was delicious, just a tad less crispy then I was expecting but the inside was creamy and tender. The sweet onion crepe is one of the signature dishes of the restaurant with the onions being cooked for over 10 hours before the dish itself is assembled.
spinach gnocchi with brown butter
stuffed pasta
almond tortellini with white truffle
chestnut fettuccine with wild boar ragu
squid ink linguini with dungeness crab and uni
48 day dry aged beef ribeye with heirloom bean trifolati
Next came the handmade pastas, after the initial 2 or so - we were pretty much stuffed already. The spinach gnocchi was chewy and tasted of spinach as opposed to the usual starchiness of pasta you taste in vegetable pasta. A great thing if you love spinach - which I do. I love love loved the stuffed pasta which had what I'm guessing was minced pork or beef on the inside. The wild boar ragu and beef trifolati tasted very similar. There were generous portions of meat which were cooked tenderly and heaping portions of parmesan to accompany it.We got most of it packed up and it tasted just as good the next day :) My favorite dish was hands down the squid ink linguini. Ever since my trip to Venice, I get super excited whenever I see squid ink on a menu. This dish was amazing, the squid ink was in the pasta itself and it was served with big chunk of crab and creamy uni. It also tasted a lot lighter (which I prefer) compared to the other pasta dishes.

stuffed guinea hen breast with chanterelles
The main course was stuffed hen with chanterelles mushrooms. There was also a foie gras stuffed quail with summer melon which I forgot to take a picture of! At first the dishes looked so similar, I thought they were the same. The hen had a very thick layer of fat which was rendered down to a nice crispy texture.

peach sorbet
petit fours
apple dessert with cinnamon ice cream

We asked to stay away from the chocolate dessert options given the heaviness of the meal itself and got a beautiful looking apple pastry instead. The bottom was cooked crispy and golden brown and the apples on top were cooked until they were soft but still firm. What we also really loved was the peach sorbet which came before the main dessert dish itself.

Overall, a spectacular and very memorable meal for a lovely celebration. Will be a very long time before I get to come here again but hopefully not that long!

September 22, 2012

Carrot Cake & Birthday Weekend

First blog post in weeks and weeks and weeks. Naturally, it was a celebration (and a new camera!) that finally prompted me to start blogging again! My parents and I have always been a fan of carrot cake - a big deal considering my parents don't even really like cake. The problem I have with most carrot cakes is there's either too much stuff in the cake or its wayyy to sweet. So instead of driving all the way to the store to buy a cake no one really wants to eat, I decided to bake one instead. Recipe is a combination of what is provided by Smitten Kitchen's maple cream cheese frosting carrot cup cakes, a can of canned pineapple and various googling of carrot cake recipes online (recipe shown below).

Carrot grating, nut meg grating & grounding of spices.

One of the reasons why I love carrot cake is the richness and depth of flavor you get from all of the different layers of ingredients. There's also a reason why carrot cake is a pain in the butt to make - grating cups and cups of carrots. At first, I tried to find a way to use the electric mixer...which failed miserably, and opted for the old-fashion method of hand grating instead. Since this was a birthday cake after all, I also went for some freshly grounded nutmeg, all spice, and cloves.

Mixing in the carrots to the cake batter & making cream cheese frosting (with a generous portion of maple syrup)
Feeling particularly ambitious, I also decided to pipet the frosting onto the two layer cake...which didn't go all that well. Apparently, its really not as easy as it looks! And homemade piping bags made from ziplog bags also don't work all that well. Nevertheless, after a few hours of chilling in the fridge, the cake came out respectable enough for me to take some pictures :) Only thing that matters is that it taste good right?

Some guesswork in the baking time but still managed to  produce a rather tasty cake :)

And that's not all! I can't skip the celebratory dinner can I?

1/2 a bushel of crabs, growler of beer and some Irish car bombs.
Happy Birthday dad :)