after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

vetri. wow.

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t says: g and I went to Vetri this past Friday.  Holy.  Crap.

This was our second time going to Vetri, but the first time with their required fixed price tasting menu.  I’ll lead off and say that sure, the price is steep ($135pp), but the food is absolutely phenomenal.

So when you first get there, they show you a menu of dishes that they are preparing for the evening, and you tell them things that you really would like to see or really really would not like to see. Check out the copy they let you take home:

the menu from far away

top half close-up

bottom half close-up

As you can see, there is a major problem with the menu.  Well – maybe two problems with the menu …  Problem number 1 is that of the things we recongized, there are so many that we want to try!  The second problem is that there were also so many things where we had no basis on which to judge whether or not we would like them (i.e. ingredients we didn’t recognize) …  So we made it as simple as possible when talking to the server and put our fate in chef’s hands: no brain for me, and no brain and no organ meats for g.  Done deal.

There were a total of 6 courses for the each of us: 2 appetizers, 2 pastas, 1 meat, and 1 dessert.  Every course was different for g and me except for the meat (we both had beef).  There was also some freebie courses, like cured meats and veggies in the beginning and a cookie platter towards the end.

There were also wine-pairing options ranging from $90 to $135 for the “Grand” tasting.  The problem is that that is a lot of EtOH for two little people like g and me.  I wish they would offer mini-sized pairings, because I was looking around at others who ordered the tasting, and I swear they were getting 3/4 a glass with each course!!  g and I would have been hammered by the third course had we done the wine pairing.  Additionally, the pairing is a bit too spendy for us – affording the meal was a stretch by itself.  In the end, we  each ordered a glass of white and a glass of red to be served throughout the meal (and we get a complimentary glass of prosecco to start as we perused the menu).

We didn’t take pictures of every course because we wanted to dine unfettered.  I did sneak a pic of the dining room, though:

the perfect mix of upscale and intimate/cozy

Rather than give you a blow-by-blow (which would be pointless because I assure you that everything is delicious), let’s talk about the highlights …

The dish that sounded and looked plain … but was awesome [and not on the menu]:
Persimmon and pecorino salad.  Yea, it was just sliced cheese and persimmon with some olive oil and [I think] black pepper.  But there’s gotta be something else because it was delicious!  g and I are going to try it at home.  It sounds and looks easy, but we’ll just have to see about that …  Maybe it was the olive oil?  We might have to sweet-talk v out of a drop or two of her fancy olive oil

t’s best dish:  Pappardelle and braised heart.  So good.  Perfectly tender pasta, just enough sauce, and wonderfully textured bits of meat.  The menu says duck, but I swear the server said “venison”.  I guess I’ll have to go with the menu because it’d be weird for Vetri to have a last-minute change of heart, right?  (buzinga!)  And to be honest – I don’t think I could distinguish one heart from another.  The more I thought about it, I think that the pappardelle-heart dish was kind of like something you might be able to get from Melograno on their absolute best day.  But the difference, however, is that Vetri then backs this up their ethereal spinach gnocchi, and [apparently] famous almond tortellini.  I don’t know how pasta can be this good with every pasta dish that comes out of the kitchen.

g’s history lesson:  Testarolo with pistachio pesto.  This was the oldest form of Italian pasta which is kind of like a crepe made in a cast iron pan then cut into strips.  g enjoyed it! (I liked it, too – but not as much as the above three).

the biggest surprise of the evening: So yes, the appetizers were delicious, the pastas were delicious, the steak entree was incredible … but that’s to be expected – this is Vetri after all …  But lo and behold, they unleashed dessert.  First, there was my dessert: “pistachio flan”.  They lied.  This was no “flan”.  This was like a molten lava cake … of pistachio.  Holy.  Shnitzel.  And the cake was swirled with some chocolate and served with white chocolate gelato.  Wwhhyy haven’t I seen this before?  It was easily the best dessert I’ve ever had.  It houses all of the following: any Zahav dessert, any Talula’s Garden dessert (even the dark chocolate cremeaux with bacon, graham, and marshmallow), and even my precious Godiva molten lava cake of the 90’s at Morton’s.  I repeat: Holy.  Shnitzel.  And then the cheese plate: g was in heaven.  Just when we thought that no one could hold a candle to Talula Garden’s cheeses – yikes – Vetri was on fire.  We even sought out the pecorino truffle cheese from the plate at DiBruno’s the next day because it was so good (but you know what – it was better at Vetri – maybe they had just the right accompaniments?).

I know we’re light on the details here, but I think the takehome is that Vetri does fine dining like very little can (and surely better than anyone in Philly – although we haven’t tried the Fountain or that restaurant in the Union League).  It has this odd mix of being fancy, but not stuffy.  There’s this mix of novelty with the familiarity of something so comfortable as “pasta”.

I think the big question is: Vetri vs. Talula’s Table … who would win?  I.  Don’t.  Know.  The two experiences are very different, so perhaps that’s not a fair comparison.  Different atmosphere.  Different feels of their services.  One is BYO, the other isn’t.  But what if it came down to just the food?  Well – to be honest – I still don’t know because g and I haven’t gone back since the chef change.  I guess we’ll just have to sneak our way into the kitchen table and try it out!

n.b. There was one disappointment with Vetri.  It was the “icebox cookies” they sent us home with: they were pretty boring.  I mean, I guess they couldn’t send me home with more pistachio flan, but I’m sure they’ve got to have some other Italian cookies to send us home with … (g likes pignoli cookies … just saying … in case you’re reading, Marc … ).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

5 March 2012 at 9:48pm

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