Annual Meeting
Savor This Tasting Menu of Top Dining Choices
Psychiatric News
Volume 47 Number 6 page 28a-28a

May is a wonderful time to appreciate all the City of Brotherly Love has to offer, including a great restaurant scene. Not words often associated with Philly, but in recent years we’ve seen a plethora of new, hip, casual, and, most importantly, good eateries open. Here are suggestions about where you can digest some of what you’ve learned during the annual meeting’s many scientific sessions.

Of the new restaurants my current fave is a.kitchen where Bryan Sikora of Django fame has reintroduced himself to the Philadelphia dining scene. The plates are small, the tastes are exciting, the wine and cocktail lists are terrific. Space seems to be the only limiting factor, for the restaurant is truly small.

My next best bet is the nouvelle Indian Tashan on South Broad. Not your traditional buffet and curry house, the small-plates menu will impress you with how wonderful the cuisine can be. The space is sleek and hip, the dishes don’t push the high end of the spice meter, the cocktails are good, and the iPad wine list has multiple goodies that pair well with the food.

My third pick among the newbies is Talula’s Garden, which is a gorgeous space. The cooking has been a little uneven, and that cheese bar thing is a bit precious, but if you’re into cheese, this is the place. Certainly it’ll be a great spot for a springtime meal with the doors open to the garden.

Does anyone actually do high-end fine dining anymore? Well, yes, in Philadelphia we still do. Here it’s a choice between Lacroix at the Rittenhouse and the Fountain Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel. They’re very similar—both provide elegant spaces with outstanding service and food. And also for fine dining, don’t forget the long-running Le Bec-Fin. Still excellent with those fabulous desserts, and still very expensive, but somehow it seems oddly out of place in today’s restaurant world.

Vetri is unquestionably Philadelphia’s top Italian restaurant, but I’m ambivalent about it. Though I had one of the great meals of my life there, I’ve had several so-so meals that certainly weren’t worth the price, and, of course, that’s the risk with taking the fine-dining route.

For me the best of the rest is Amada—José Garces’ fabulous take on Spanish food. Close your eyes, point your finger at the menu, and plan to be blown away. He could vary the menu a bit, but why mess with success? The problem with Amada is you can’t get in until a year from tomorrow at 10:30. So, if you can’t secure a reservation, head out to West Philly to Garces’ Mexican outpost, Distrito. It’s fun and low key, and the food is excellent. Don’t miss the mushroom flatbread and the tongue tacos. Speaking of rarely served animal parts, don’t miss the smoked duck hearts at Zahav—the outstanding spot specializing in small plates of Israeli cuisine. You’ll never look at ducklings in quite the same way after chewing those fabulously smoky hearts. Try the hummus (yes, hummus!), and rediscover how good that chickpea concoction can be.

Buddakan has stayed near the top of Philadelphia’s culinary popularity list for years, but that Asian fusion thing doesn’t do it for me. I’d rather do Marc Vetri’s Osteria, with its great Italian food and those fabulous pizzas. You could also try Vetri’s Amis, which is more casual, but still very good. Its sweetbreads are sublime. The go-to Italian for me, though, is Barbuzzo from Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran. Its food is outstanding. The only thing I’m not wild about is its pizza, which is a little soft and doughy for my taste.

For French cuisine, I urge you to sample Parc, where your meal will be accompanied by a great setting and interesting people watching, along with the terrific food. Bistro La Minette is also good.

These ideas ought to provide enough ingredients for several days’ worth of culinary adventures to complement your time in the City of Brotherly Love.  inline-graphic-1.gif

James Gilfoil, M.D., is a psychiatrist in private practice in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He loves to eat.

James Gilfoil, M.D., is a psychiatrist in private practice in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He loves to eat.

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