after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Koo Zee Doo: Wonderful Anti-Tapas

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t says: Koo Zee Doo is a Portuguese BYOB in Northern Liberties.  LaBan gave them three bells.  It received four James Beard nominations (and was a semifinalist for “best new restaurant” – although I guess was eliminated as now Bibou is the only remaining Philadelphia restaurant in the category). When  I read it was family style – a concept that I had not heard in Philadelphia outside of Chinatown and Italian restuarants – we had to go.  Because maybe our own families would not appreciate Portuguese food (but they’d probably like family style), we decided to invite the third member of our own “Finer Things Club”: kp.  Having just returned from his world travels, kp was totally down for this March FTC meeting.

3/2010, Friday 8:45pm, Party of 3.  Our cab pulled up right on time.  While there was a little crowd of people waiting to be seated, we walked right in and were seated very-nearly-immediately (they just had to put settings down on our table).  Our server was very enthusiastic and explained that everything was served family style and that their entrees were the equivalent of 1.5 “normal” entrees.  He then recommended getting three appetizers and 2 entrees for the three of us; my math is a little fuzzy, but that sounded like a lot of food.  He also recommended the piri piri shrimp, but, after kp exclaimed how excited he was to see piri piri on the menu (kp makes a mean piri piri), the waiter said “well, this is our version.”  As a result, we ignored all of his recommendations and ordered the following: Goat’s Cheese, Salt Cod and Chickpea Salad, Baked Duck Rice, and Pork & Clams.  We were going to order more if necessary – I forget what the backups were, but they definitely weren’t necessary …

Before we start, I do want to say that we haven’t included kp’s thoughts on the food, yet – but if he wants, we’ll be happy to added this review at any time.

The bread came out with a dish of interesting yellow things.  That’s right – “yellow things”.  I have no idea what they were because I zoned out when the waiter was talking (a bean of some sort?), but you eat them in a manner similar to edamame (eat the insides, discard the skin).  As other reviewers have said, the bread was quite tasty and worked well with the bean-like-things – but the bread didn’t really show off its true colors until the goat cheese and salad appetizers came to the table.

First, let me say that the apps were quite large!   I don’t know how we’d fit a third app on the table had we wanted!  The cheese was crumbly and light, kind of like ricotta in both texture and taste. Well, it didn’t taste like ricotta, as it was a richer cheese, but it definitely was not as nearly as goat-y as we expected.  It was accompanied by some oil (with salt) that was very nice with the cheese (kp actually said out loud, “this cheese could use some salt” right before he stumbled upon the salted olive oil) as well as some honey and what looked like cubes of ?honeyed pears?. At first, the  cheese was “ok” – but between the bread and the cheese, there was still something missing … but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  Well, whatever the missing element was, it was hiding in our chickpea and cod salad.  That salad was phenomenal.  It was both simple and complicated.  The chickpeas were accompanied by olives, pieces of tender cod, hardboiled egg, and what I think was broccoli rabe.  It had the salt and sour that worked well the egg and chickpeas as well as the goat cheese from the other app.  Put this together with the bread and to be honest, Actually, I was afraid that I’d be full after eating just that!  And there were three of us!

Then came the entrees.  As soon as they hit the table, my nose smelled delicious delicious pork – it was like the scent of good bacon – and bam! I was hungry again …  The duck rice was closest to me, so I dove in.   Holycrapitwasgood. The duck was so tenderly cooked (and we ordered it medium instead of medium rare!).  It had a beautiful crust on the skin.  In your mouth, you get the salt and fat followed by duck and the mild taste of the rice.   I’ve never had a duck so good – although perhaps that’s not saying a lot because I haven’t sampled a ton of duck in my time.  Perhaps it’s more impressive if I say that I’ve never had a bird so good [at a restaurant – it’s hard to compete with a brilliantly cooked Thanksgiving turkey] .  This dish made me vow to order more duck.  It was so good that the next morning, I got up and wished I had some more of that duck rice.

The Pork & Clams were served in an upside down roof tile and were mixed with what looked like “country potatoes” you’d get as a breakfast side.  This dish was also excellent.  A few of the first clams I had were a little over-cooked – but the rest were spot-on (I think the first few I had were tiny, so maybe that’s why they were a little over).  Then the pieces of pork … the lovely pork.  Each piece had a good crust on the outside but fell apart in your mouth to reveal tender meat on the inside.  I will admit that the potatoes seemed a little out of place … until I looked at the shallow puddle of juices in the bottom of the tile.  The potatoes were miniature sponges for the juices – duh!  In any case, the main flavor of this dish was “pork”.  Yes, the clams were good, but pork was the clear star.

We were kind of full (g had started sneezing), but we just had to try dessert, too.  One item intrigued me especially: chocolate salami.  A complete dish of chocolate – how could I go wrong?  Well, when it hit the table and it looked very … brown.  There were some slices of chocolate salami (slices of chocolate ganache with crushed cookies) set in a rich chocolate ?mousse?, a chocolate-dipped chestnut-filled fig, and a cinnamon creme with a chocolate cracker with almonds.  I was totally digging the quantity of chocolate … but you know what … it was disappointing!  The salami was crumbly (I wish it were softer, like actual salami) and the cookie bits didn’t really have much taste that my unrefined palate could discern (and didn’t really add much texture, either).  The rich chocolate sauce was good, but it really didn’t have anything to shine against b/c the whole dish was chocolate!  I desperately wanted some salt or some citrus or some nuts – give me a kumquat like at Zahav!  The cinnamon creme was only “good”.  The almond-chocolate crisp and the fig were the best items in the dish, but only because they were able to bring in some flavors that could stand up to the chocolate monotony.

We were amazed when the bill arrived. Each person paid less than restaurant week prices ($35), and that’s with tax and tip!!  Couple this with it being BYO and you have a great combination of ample, delicious food for a reasonable price!  We’ll definitely go back – there are so many things on the menu!  And because the portions are so big, it’s going to take some time to get through them.  But you should consider avoiding the chocolate salami … unless you actually want to reach a point in your life when you say: “You know … that’s just too much chocolate …”.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

14 April 2010 at 7:40am

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