after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Anne Coll

Meritage: KFC is “Doing Chicken Right” (and a Sampan bonus)

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t says: We’ve been to Meritage a couple times before and liked it.  To summarize those experiences: Chef Coll has some talent brewing in the kitchen, and, while not every dish was a smash hit, I really appreciated the creativity, and g really appreciated good food for a good price.  But what’s happened since then?  Not much, really – at least – not for us.  We’ve just never really found an excuse to return to Meritage.  Its price-point puts it at a similar cost to Melograno, which is BYO … meaning that we’re going to go to Melograno every time.  It’s such a shame.  Well … let me tell you that things are going to change …

7/2010, 8:30pm, Party of 3.  It’s a Thursday.  At Meritage, that means it’s Korean Fried Chicken (KFC) night.  $25 gets you a meal for two: 6 pieces of fried chicken in a spicy/savory/sweet Korean bbq sauce, a few sides, and 20-oz of beer.  It was on like Donkey Kong.

g and cm visited first.  I don’t want to put words in their mouth … but I will.  They reported that the chicken was cooked deliciously (but not really “spicy”) and the sides were also very good, but small.  They suspected that 3 people sharing two orders would be the “ideal” amount of food so that everyone would be “very full”.  Yes, they had other details, too, but if I told you what they were, then you wouldn’t read the rest of this post …

g, kp, and I then made reservations for the very next week.  We were seated promptly and then taken care of by a very friendly, enthusiastic server.  No, he wasn’t so bubbly that it seemed fake or overwhelming, rather, just the right amount of energy to put us in a good mood (not that we were in a bad one, but we were even better after talking to him).  He told us of that night’s special fried chicken dish as well as some other meat dish that we instantly forgot about.  We ordered two orders for the three of us, but asked if they could have a little extra spice to them – I pointed out that although kp and I were new, my wife was there last week and wanted a little more kick on her KFC.  I did this for a few reasons.  The first is that I apparently like dropping the W-bomb.  It makes me feel older, more accomplished, worthy of respect.  I like that.  The second is that I wanted to draw attention to the fact that at a table of two Asian dudes and a small white girl, it was the small white girl who felt that there needs to be more spice – so the chef definitely needed to kick it up a notch if she was going to appeal to the two Asians.  Am I playing stereotypes?  I sure am (actually, g can handle more spice than me … *hangs his head in shame*).

When the chicken arrived, it looked amazing.  Two plates, heaped with 6 pieces of chicken, emanated this beautiful scent.  You could smell the sweetness and spiciness of the bbq sauce, as well as something that reminded me of soy sauce (like if you could “smell” savory) – but not like smelling saltiness.  I don’t know – it was hard to describe; it smelled “great”.  The chicken’s crust was delightfully crispy, and easily gave way to juicy tender meat.  The savory and sweet hits your palate first with heat coming on as you chewed.  The chicken was so moist and tender that it tasted like it was braised and then deep-fried at the last second.  Apparently it had been brined, so maybe that was the trick.  Amazingly, after you swallowed, the spice dissipated, which was nice, because it didn’t overwhelm the palate.  The other amazing/weird thing was the size of the chicken bones – they were quite small.  g asked kp and me, “What kind of chickens are these?  Do they like work them out in a gym or something?  Do you think it’s because they’re super organic?  Or maybe they use super hormones?  I mean, I don’t really care, cuz they’re freakin’ delicious.”  g is funny.

The sides were pretty good, too.  The spinach reminded me of classic Korean spinach (sigumchi) – except for not as much sesame seed as I’m used to.  g said that they had more sesame seeds the previous week, so I’m sure it was spot on, as that was really the only thing that could have taken me way back to eating at Korean restaurants with my mom and grandmom.  The pickled daikon and pickled carrot were also very good – they added the acid that you needed to cut through the chicken’s Korean bbq sauce, so I hope these stay on the menu to give the dish some “lightness”.  The Korean slaw was a bit of a miss for me.  It tasted a little heavy for a slaw – probably because of either sesame oil or sesame seeds.  There was some cilantro to try and pep it up, but there wasn’t enough.  Man, if this was only a little zingier – maybe add a bit of mint in there or something – then this would also be a perfect foil for the chicken.  I don’t know if anyone who knows anyone who knows people who could make this suggestion to Meritage actually reads this blog, but it’d be nice to see if whatever my brain imagined actually was a good idea.  Maybe next time, I’ll bring my own mint and try it out.

The beer … it was beer.  Neither g nor I drink beer, so kp had to take one for the team.  Actually, he had to take 2.  That’s right, he downed 40 ounces of beer on a Thursday night.  Hooray for livers.

Upon the conclusion of the chicken, we ordered desserts, too!  Actually, we ordered only one, but, for reasons I cannot reveal here, more than one came out (we’re mysterious like that).  To be honest – these desserts were better than our latest outing at Zahav – although that probably isn’t saying much.  Passionfruit creamsicles dipped in chocolate – surprisingly fantastic – especially on a warm summer evening.  The chocolate-mint pot-de-creme was luscious – and the pistachio biscotti was among the best biscotti I’ve had in a long time (I’m a sucker for pistachio).  We also had the chocolate-peanut-butter bomb …  That is one helluva-rich dessert.  It was so rich, I kind of wished there was more of the berry jam to cut down the richness.  Actually, even more chocolate would have cut down on the richness, as the peanut butter creme was insane – it was like peanut butter and super-extra-creamy-cool-whip had a baby.  Don’t get me wrong, though, it was “too rich” not in a “I’m-going-to-be-sick” way, rather a “I-wish-I-could-eat-it-faster-but-I-can’t” way … don’t worry – I did get around to eating every last bit.

In the end, we each paid approximately the amount one would pay when going out for restaurant week, and I, for one, was uncomfortably full.  So, go to Meritage.  Go with 3 people and pony up $17 each, and enjoy the deliciousness.

SAMPAN BONUS:

We also went to Sampan the day after Meritage.  We wanted to eat deliciously on the “cheap”, so we went for a 6pm 1000-pt opentable reservation with the intent of going after the beloved pork bahn mi, the crispy Brussels sprouts, and the Korean rice cake dish.  It was … disappointing …  Our favorite pork bahn mi maker wasn’t there, so the ratio of meat and toppings and sauce was all wrong – AND they didn’t even wrap the sandwich in the kraft paper – they just left it open!  The crispy Brussels sprouts could have used a bit more time on the heat, as they were quite hard.  And the Korean rice cakes didn’t have as many rice cakes as I remember (but at least it tasted good!).  We suspect that maybe their “starting lineup” in the kitchen was on vacation, and they were letting the “B-team” take over or something.  Well – either that or Meritage was so good the night before that their KFC has displaced Sampan’s pork bahn mi in crave-ability?  Shazam!  There it is … I went there … it’s over … done.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

2 August 2010 at 5:47pm

Meritage goes cheap[er], Supper goes BYO (kinda)

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t says: g and I enjoy Meritage – we can walk to it and the entrees are reasonably priced and have some novelty (see review here).  Also, Chef Anne Coll’s really cool.  Well, Philadelphia magazine reports that they are having a new fixed price deal on Tuesdays.  It’s a dinner for two featuring a whole roasted chicken, parsnip puree, Brussels sprouts, and Chinese sausage for $30 per couple.  I think that’s a pretty good deal (I suppose it depends on the size of the chicken)!  I’d try it.

Another weeknight special: While this is old news (and maybe I already mentioned it), but g and I have still not had the chance to go to Supper for their new BYO nights (Sundays and Wednesdays).  I wonder what wine would go well with  their awesome burger? (see review here)

Written by afterdinnersneeze

9 March 2010 at 11:28pm

Posted in Happenings

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Meritage: Solid Food for the Price

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t says: My dad and I took a “Sushi Basics” class at the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College.  It was a ton of fun!  What was particularly interesting was that our instructor, Chef Anne Coll, was obviously not Japanese – not Asian at all (from what I could tell).  That said, she wowed us with her extensive knowledge of and experience with preparing Asian foods – she used to be at Susanna Foo in its hay-day).  She was very pleasant and an excellent teacher, explaining to us the finer points of making sushi rice (super-important), slicing fish, and cutting cucumbers.  We thanked her for a great time and bid her farewell.

Fast forward several months.  g and I found out that Meritage (a restaurant which co-workers of mine bashed as “the worst restaurant in Rittenhouse”) was getting a new chef: Chef Coll!  g and I were super-enthused, so we added it to our list of restaurants to visit (we wanted to wait until after it had been open for a bit to work out its “opening pains”).  But of course, by the time we wanted to go, LaBan had given them 3 bells.  For those unfamiliar with LaBan, 3 bells is quite a good score, especially given the price point of this restaurant – no entree was over $21 (at the time – I spotted a $23 entree on their website recently)!  So, while every restaurant in the city that gets 3 bells (or more) becomes instantly booked for the ensuing 2 months, Meritage was super-booked!  Fortunately, we managed to go twice, once in November (on a weekday) and once in December (during the first snowstorm that gave us >20″ of snow).

12/2009, Tuesday Dinner, Party of 3.  Service was top-notch throughout the entire meal – our waiter was both friendly and informative about the dishes that were offered and his “favorites”.  We opted for the dumpling appetizer and found that while they tasted good, they were not revolutionary – g and I have made better dumplings, ourselves.

Our friend went for the tuna tartare and the pork cheek.  Having spent some time in Japan, I half-expected him to be very critical of the tartare, but he actually seemed very happy with the dish.  The pork cheek blew him away – it was tasty and so tender that exclaimed, “well, guess I don’t need this!” as he put down his knife and used just his fork.  I went for the “duo of pork” which featured a tea-smoked tenderloin and pork belly.  The tea flavor was very subtle in the tenderloin, which was well-cooked.  Having had Cochon’s tenderloin, with its rich, deep flavor, I felt a little let down – but don’t get me wrong – it was still a very nice slab of meat.  Fortunately, I felt that the pork belly was on another world, a definite high note in the meal – it was flavorful, cooked superbly, and made me want to go home and cook it myself (I have, and it wasn’t very good – I’ll get it eventually).

g had a good-but-not-mind-blowing hanger steak with chickpea “fries”.  Personally, I loved the chickpea fries – I felt they were novel (although perhaps borderline gimicky) and tasted great with my pork.  g liked them, but only ever admitted they were “good”.

The desserts were solid dishes, too, as I remember eating them all, but it’s been so long that I can’t remember exactly what we had.  I want to say that we had the chocolate bombe, some sort of pot-de-creme, and some sort of apple fruit tart.  It was a pleasant finish to a very solid meal.

12/2009, Saturday Dinner, Party of 3.  Meritage was so good (and reasonably priced) the first time that we planned a second visit with our other friend.  To start, we sampled the BBQ pork sliders as our appetizer – the meat, bread, and sauce made for a delightful sandwich which was NOT too sweet (I dislike super-sweet BBQ sauce).  That said, our friend, who’s from Alabama, reminded us that it wasn’t the most “authentic” BBQ ever (nevertheless, he said he’d eat it again).

g went for the chicken and I had the Jersey monkfish.  Both were superbly cooked.  g’s chicken was great (and we’ve tasted a lot of bland chicken in our time).  g felt that my dish was a little too salty, so perhaps the sauce contained too much ?soy sauce? – but I liked it a lot (I preferred mine to hers, and she preferred hers to mine).  Our friend, at our recommendation, went for the pork cheeks, which were once again dynamite (I think he’s started searching for pork cheeks in markets to try and cook them at home).  However, his lamb chops, judging by his reaction were satisfactory but unremarkable (at least there were no complaints).  Sadly, we were all too stuffed for dessert.

All in all Meritage provided for us two solid meals.  The portions were a nice size for the price, especially because within walking distance from our apartment, there really aren’t a whole lot of New American restaurants that fit this bill (e.g. Audrey Claire, which has yet to impress us and Matyson, which, while tasty, gives far too little food for the dollar).  No dish we had was “bad”, and the few pork highlights were absolutely inspiring.  I especially appreciate some of the creativity in Chef Coll’s dishes and I feel that, over time, Meritage could be huge!

What keeps us from going back?  Well, Meritage is NOT a BYOB.  That said, their wine list is less expensive than it used to be, with wines by the glass coming in at $8 each.  Nevertheless, for $16, g and I could have had a whole bottle of wine at a BYOB, not just two glasses.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

21 February 2010 at 1:43pm