after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Amis: We Mees You Already

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g says: our finer things club skipped the month of may (gasp!)  there was just too much going on between graduations and moving apartments, holidays, and vacations. okay, so maybe kp was just doing all of those things, but we couldn’t have a meeting without him. (kp is worth waiting for – a stupendous dining partner, for sure! hear that, ladies?) anyway, so we held off until june, and made this month really count by trying a new restaurant that all 3 of us have been talking about visiting  since its opening: amis.

this is marc vetri’s newest venture in center city, and all of us had fabulous previous experiences with vetri restos (t and i had a spectacular dinner at vetri for my birthday last year, then kp highly recommended osteria to us, and we confirmed his suspicions of there being some of the best gnocchi in town there). we had been looking for the perfect opportunity to try what promised to be a more rustic, casual version of vetri, but not quite as casual as osteria. the only negative we heard was that although the prices on the menu looked reasonable, the portions were smaller than one would expect, therefore nullifying a seemingly great value. oh, and it’s not byo — which is a negative by our standards, but none of vetri’s restaurants are byo, so we weren’t expecting anything different.

6/2010, 9pm, Party of 3. it was a perfect friday evening — warm, yet comfortable — and kp was not working (hooray!) we cruised in to the restaurant right on time for our reservation to find the nice-sized, yet cozy restaurant completely abuzz with diners. there is a full bar with an interesting selection of cocktails, round tables for groups, and also a large sort of communal table where they seat smaller parties together. although we had a reservation, there was no table ready for our party of 3 — we could either wait for a regular table or sit at the communal. i suggested we sit outside at one of the patio tables instead, which turned out to be a great idea. we were seated immediately, and got to work crafting our wish list of items to order.

it was the moment of truth — we heard that plates are small at amis, yet as we looked around at other people’s food, some dishes looked fairly generous. we decided be cautious and to order 4 dishes and share them all; if we were still hungry, we could always order more. our server was professional and friendly, answering all of our questions with ease. i appreciated her calm much more than the hostess, who seemed frazzled when we showed up for our reservation and did not have an open table for us.

when our server showed up with our drink order, i knew it would be a good night. my prosecco came not in a champagne flute as i would have expected, but in a white wine glass, generously filled at that. there’s that value i was looking for!

our “imported bufala ricotta and black pepper” bruschetta came out first. it was so simple – just a small bowl of fresh ricotta, olive oil, and black pepper served alongside thick slices of grilled italian bread with sesame seeds. holy. crap. i don’t know what they did to that bread, but it was fantastic! it was really flavorful, and a great pairing with the cool ricotta that we smeared on top. AND they would bring us unlimited amounts of this deliciously rustic bread, which enabled us to try it with the rest of our dishes as well.

following the bruschetta, we had 2 pastas (“gnocchi alla romana with oxtail ragu” and  “bucatini alla “matriciana” with pork jowl, chili flake and pecorino”) and a “mixed vegetable grill with seasonal vegetables and balsamic vinegar.” i’ll break it down by dish for you:

oxtail gnocchi – as you know from t’s posts, we have to try anything with oxtail or gnocchi everywhere, to satisfy his need to know who truly makes the best of these items. with both ingredients bring presented in one dish, we thought this would be a home run. the oxtail ragu was tasty, but the gnocchi was texturally challenging. they were shaped unlike any other gnocchi i have tried, and instead reminded me of sliced korean rice cakes called “ddeok” (not sure of that spelling), which i don’t particularly care for. spooning it out of its baking dish reminded me of scooping lasagna that had not properly set — i wasn’t spooning separate gnocchis onto my plate, which was strange. they were a little soft and mushy, and of course, diplomatic as we are, the three of us launched into conversation of how difficult it is to make perfect gnocchi.

bucatini – this was a more generously sized portion of pasta than i was expecting, but we made short work of it. the pork jowl bits were soft, but not too mushy, and had a great flavor. the dish was just spicy enough, and the pasta was a great al dente texture. thumbs up!

grilled veggies – a great call if i do say so myself (this was my pick, as i thought i spied another table with this dish earlier). there was eggplant, zucchini, peppers, fennel, and polenta, sweetened by the balsamic and all grilled to perfection. again, not a fancy preparation, but it was a great foil to the other rich pastas we ordered and lightened our meal considerably.

afterwards, we all split the dessert special tiramisu (how could we pass up tiramisu at a yummy italian restaurant? you gotta test them with the classics, ya know!) the tiramisu was delicious, not unlike other homemade tiramisu that family and friends have made for us. but certainly not a bad rendition, even though there wasn’t anything too different about it. there are a couple other dessert items on their regular menu that we would probably try on a return visit, and there is also an ice cream shop called philly flavors about a block away…

all in all, we had a lovely time. the service was pleasant, we were all quite full after sharing the 4 plates plus dessert, and the tab wasn’t too bad, either. we will definitely be returning, especially on a nice evening, as the outdoor seating did make the night for us, i think. if there are any volunteers to go with us for round two, please do let us know, as i can definitely see amis in our near dining future.

t says: Amis was quite delicious.  I feel that its bucatini was on par with those from Melograno, which says a lot in my book.  I agree that the gnocchi and oxtail dish was not the best I’ve ever had (i.e. at Babbo), but it was also drastically different than gnocchi I was expecting.  I normally expect gnocchi to be soft and pillowy, but still with just a bit of bite.  I think that Babbo and Osteria probably have had the most texturally pleasing gnocchi ever.  Vetri’s gnocchi is far softer than either of these; almost like a stiff mousse (I think they call it a “volatile” gnocchi).  It was still good, but just very different.  I think the gnocchi at Amis was similar i texture to that Vetri, except that unlike large pillows, these were served as very large discs hiding underneath the oxtail and cheese.  As a result, it was kind of like a lasagna, but the “pasta” was a little on the mushy side (overcooked?  too much liquid in the dough?).  We still ate it.  Also, I don’t think it was like “duk” at all, as duk normally has more bite (i.e. stiffer) than any gnocchi should have, but to each their own (I love duk).

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Written by afterdinnersneeze

28 June 2010 at 1:57pm

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