after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Fond

forgetting Townsend

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t says:  It had been a while since the four of us (g, t, a, v) went out to eat for dinner, so we were super-psyched when v’s new resolution – “New Restaurant Fridays” – took us to Townsend on East Passyunk.  You see, we’ve been so strapped for time lately that g and I just kept on going back to our favorites: Serpico, Sotto, Mercato, etc.  Not only that, we couldn’t even make it to all of our favorites (it’s been ages since we’ve been back to Talula’s Garden!)  So the real question was going to be this one: could Townsend put on a strong enough show to be added to the rotation?  Let’s find out …

September 2014, Friday Dinner, Party of 4.  To get things started on this very special occasion, I called up the restaurant and asked them if they did corkage.  Nope.  That’s a big fat negative.  They played it as, “we have a wine list that pairs excellently with our food – we don’t allow outside wine”.  Now, I’m ok if a place just doesn’t want us to bring wine – that’s fine – just say: “we have a full bar and we don’t allow outside wine” – and I’d give you more props for saying: “bringing your wine eats into our profits” (because really, that’s what restaurants really mean).  But if you’re going to have the audacity to promote your excellent wines, you better back it up with … some excellent wines.  When we arrived, we were greeted with a wine list … and no actual suggestions on what they recommended to pair with each dish.  That was weird: what happened to the excellent pairings?  That’s ok – this wasn’t a’s and my first rodeo.  Next we were surprised by the markups.  Like “holy crap” markups.  Spending over $40 for a bottle of Gruet is insane.  Absolutely insane. Finally, the wines kinda sorta sucked.  I had a rose that tasted like water-downed grenache (a felt it was more like rubbing alcohol), a mediocre red (and a steal at $8/glass!), and a pretty run-of-the-mill French chardonnay.  Basically, not a single “oh I can’t believe they have that” or “whoa – where is that from?” … just “meh” after “meh”.  Ok – time to step down from my wine soapbox and get on with the food:

The escargots were "ok", but the real winner was the surrounding broth, full of usual bait.

The escargots in the foreground were “ok”, but the real winner was the surrounding broth it was in, full of a creamy delicious savory broth that we just couldn’t get enough of (it was full of bait: mushrooms, bacon, etc).  The ramekin in the back held a foie mousse which was fine, but not really at all that special.

hamachi was ok

hamachi was crudo hit the usual notes one would expect for a crudo, while the tartare had some nice mustard accents.


my skate was tasty but a little overcooked.  That bed of corn was delectable, however, allowing me to believe that I won dinner.


v’s chicken was nice – solid, but nothing that extraordinary.


g’s fish was also nicely done, on a bed of smokey paprika-fied accompaniments.

As you can see, our descriptions here are a little on the light side.  Normally we gush or put forth some real criticism.  And you know what, we did have some things to say about their food as we were leaving that night – we had some real strong opinions … but we forgot them all … because we immediately had our brains melted … by this:


after dinner at Townsend, the gang went to Fond for some drinks and dessert.  and that’s where a and I saw it: the pork belly was on the menu.  Would it be ridiculous to eat pork belly for dessert?  Not if you’ve ever had this pork belly.  You see, Lee Styer is such a stud; his pork belly is the softest, most flavorful pork product we’ve had this year, and that’s even before taking into account that thick crispy crust that mocks the “braised pork belly” on any other menu in the city.  It’s just not even fair.  Bibou had once stolen the adsz award for “best pork belly” from Lee a while back (with a special that was on for only one night), but with this show, Lee has reclaimed the belt.  And, as we sat there at the bar, a and I greedily eating this belly, ignoring for a moment the incredulous smirks from our life-mates g and v, we realized that we had forgotten all the nitpicky details about Townsend’s food, as they melted away into a single problem: they had no Fond Pork Belly.  There was not one bite that would haunt us like this one.  Even now as I write this, I find myself ever so slightly on the verge of drooling.

So I guess that’s it.  Townsend was fine for food, but not better than another’s in the immediate area.  Then consider their wine list which got 8 thumbs down from the gang, both for assaulting our wallets and our palates.  And while their very attentive and kind service tried to save the night (they’re not Talula’s Garden good, but still good), ultimately, we expect the noise will die down, as people go back to the restaurants like Fond that sparked the dining explosion in Philadelphia … and could very well keep it burning for years to come.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

28 September 2014 at 9:48pm

Fond keeps killing it

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t says:  A gaggle of peeps went to Fond recently.  I was slated to go, however, felt a bit under the weather, so the other 7 had to go on without me.  Fortunately, a and v and g paid attention and reported back … (but took no pictures …)

August 2012, Friday Dinner, Party of 7.

g says: The crudo was the best crudo they’ve ever made!  And I had the beef … it was delicious as always.

a says:  We had three appetizers.  The foie has no equals, and it was somehow made even better by the lemon-ricotta. (Note to Fond: Where can I find this stuff?)  The speck wrapped shrimp was OK, though I was warned by Steve (t explains: Steve is Fond’s charming, bigger-than-life waiter) that it wouldn’t hold-up to the foie. I actually think the corn risotto under the shrimp was more interesting.  (v jumps in:  Actually, the risotto dish is second to the pigs feet at Bibou on v’s list of favorite dishes in Philly.)  For my main, they do the best skate wing I’ve ever had, but I don’t know I’ve had it anywhere else. Whatever, it rocks. v’s spanish octopus had good texture and a lot of flavor, and not surprisingly, she wasn’t sharing much.  They accommodated v and I’s sharing of the cheesecake by pre-splitting and serving two plates. The cheesecake and shortbread cookie went together perfectly, resulting in a lighter, summer dessert . The service was outstanding in that we are treated like family (or at least a second cousin). We appreciated the honesty about the menu and thoughtfulness when serving of the staff.  We can’t wait to go back and share a few more shots with them in their new location. Hopefully they’ll still be on the house.

t says:  Sure, there were more stories and more people who had impressions about the food, but because I haven’t interrogated them, personally, I don’t want to put down what I heard they might have said – that’d be heresay.  The gist, however, is that the food continues to rock at Fond.  Actually.  If anything, it sounds like it’s even a little better than before, as the desserts which I kinda-sorta-poo-pooed last time were very well-received by the group.  We’re happy for their success and wish them luck in the future … even if they do move to a new venue with a liquor license …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

9 September 2012 at 3:04pm

Fond Brings Back the PORK BELLY

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t says:  g and I went back to Fond with a bunch of peeps – it was the night they brought in their Fall menu.  While we were excited from our past Fond experience, I was especially excited for the menu change, as it marked the return of their super-awesome, super-ridiculous PORK BELLY (remember: Pork Caps)!  Because we had so many peeps, I’ve pooled together their reviews for you here.  Sorry – not a whole lot of pictures, though (it was dark in there).

I will start off and post the wine list that I created for the night:

the wine list for the evening

smn says:  SO MUCH FUN. Can we please do it again? Like soon?  The restaurant was fantastic- welcoming staff, neat area of the city, cozy feeling inside. The food was equally fantastic. The amuse bouche [t says: I think it was some kind of root vegetable soup] made my mouth oh-so-happy. I could have had a whole bowl of it, along with more of the tasty olive bread! Speaking of bowls, the the cauliflower veloute was soooo good. Could have had more of that, too, even without the dollop of greek yogurt/saffron. My scallops were delish and cooked perfectly. Surprisingly, dessert didn’t blow me away. I didn’t love the passionfruit sauce, and without a sauce of some sort the mousse cake was just mousse cake. I loved every single glass of wine put in front of me- nicely done, t. I also sampled g’s short rib and kp’s PORK BELLY- yummo all around! As for dz, he also liked the amuse bouche, enjoyed his salad appetizer (in part because of the large portion size), and inhaled his tuna dish. One observation on my end is that Fond is lacking a solid vegetarian dish to round out the menu.

kp says:  So here’s my take …

Re:  Foie Gras App:  The foie gras was expertly seared with a nice crunch leading to a nice creamy interior. The flavoring (a sweet accent of sweet potatoes, turnips and pecans) was a nice but a little overpowering and too sweet over the foie gras. Maybe just hint of next time would be much better, the carmelized were a little lost in the mix too.

PORK BELLY ... looks like a slab of meat, but it's so much more.

Re:  Berkshire PORK BELLY: Holy crap- this thing was porktastic. One of the first times i have the PORK BELLY expertly crisped on the outside but the meat still easily falls apart- you could eat with a spoon. The escarole was nice cut to the fattiness of the meat and buttery sweet potatoes but I think there needs to be a more stronger cut to balance that fattiness. The sweet potatoes were the perfect accent of delicate sweetness to the meat and again was expertly prepared, it so well caramelized. PS If your really nice to the waiter they may offer Sirachi- which for one bite of the PORK is nice (but I love spice).

Re: Cannolis:  These little cream filled delights were amazing and the brown butter apples and cider were just the perfect fall accent to bring to this dish. The pastry remained crunchilious the mascarpone filling was and airy delight!

t says:  I went for the tuna crudo.  Shocker, I know!  We had a nice white, so I eschewed the escargots I normally go for in favor of the fish.  Take a peek:

tuna over asian pear and sesame seeds

It was a delightful dish, with all the right flavors – but composition was a little off.  I think it was because those sticks of pear were a little hard to eat and juggle on the same fork as the fish and the sauce.  Great flavors, but just needed a better way to put it into my mouth.

Next up, I went for the PORK BELLY, as kp mentioned already above.  It was every bit as delicious as I remember it from the past.  Without a doubt the best piece of PIG you can get.  It’s all about the contrast between the top crisp layer and the rest of the tender meat with just the right amount of fat (so I guess whoever’s providing them with PIG should also get credit).  But I also agree with kp – it needs a little something else to brighten the plate.  It’s kind of like making football players take ballet to keep them light on their feet – but come on – this is one helluva kick-ass football player nonetheless.

The surprise of the evening was the shortrib.


The shortrib was g’s dish.  I had some.  HOLY.  CRAP.  I haven’t had a shortrib this good since the slab of shortrib included in Talula Garden’s beef duo.  It was fall-apart-tender and glazed in that rich thick sauce.  I can’t tell you what was in it, but what I can tell you is that if I go back, I’d actually not be able to choose between the shortrib or the PORK BELLY.  But of course – there are worse things in life than being forced to choose between the two.  I don’t recall the accompaniments (?Brussels sprouts? ?onion spatzle?), but like the PORK BELLY, I don’t recall there being much counterpoint to the rich lusciousness of cow meat.

In the end, I think everyone enjoyed their dishes at Fond.  The apps and mains are done superbly well.  For some dishes, all the right flavors are there, but maybe a dish here or there could use a little more tweaking in terms of composition/presentation.  For others (i.e. the pork belly and shortrib), I don’t think you can find better cooked slabs of meat in Philly.  Period.  With a little bit of brightening, these are best-dish-dish-I-ever-had worthy (crazy good!).  The desserts around the table were all thought of as “good”, but not really life-altering.  They ended the meal on a sweet note which [I believe] is necessary, but I don’t think they’re going to change anyone’s life – but I’m not even sure if that’s a fair assessment – “ragging” on dessert because it wasn’t life-changing?  Hmmm.  I guess there are worse situations for Fond to be in …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

31 October 2011 at 10:53pm

Fond … “A Hundred and Fifty Thousand Percent Right!”

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t says:  In a mini-FTC (any gathering of 4 of the five of us: g, t, a, v, and/or kp), all but kp headed to Fond.  It was a meal that started at around 9:30 I think.  It ended after 1am.  I’m sure it could have gone longer had we had more wine.  Here’s a picture-show of what happened …

8/2011.  Friday Dinner.  Party of 4.  We arrived with quite a few bottles of wine that night.  Riesling, Champagne (the ‘good stuff’), 1.5 bottles of red.  There may have been one other.  I can’t remember – a might remember, but the details are not as important as the fact that we offered some to our server, who happened to be one of the owners, Tory.  Brilliant move.

A liquid amuse bouche ...

We started the meal off with a “Spicy Watermelon Gazpacho”.  It was refreshing, cleansing, sweet, spicy, awesome.  Someone remarked, “hey! it’s like a Bloody Mary … but with watermelon.”  Upon informing Tory of our opinion (no idea why we felt it was necessary to do so), he chuckled with us and agreed.  “It only needs vodka.”  This amuse was so good that it inspired g and d to try and concoct one at home.  While not as successful as the original, messing around with pureeing watermelons was good fun and we’ll give it another whirl for everyone at a brunch one day.  I hope everyone’s ready for “Blushing Mary”.

The veal breast and sweetbreads and broccoli rabe terrine.

I ventured the “special” terrine appetizer.  I will say simply that this is the best thing I ate that night and easily the best terrine I’ve ever had.  Of course, it has the distinct advantage of being a warm dish, whereas most terrines I’ve had have been cold (I like warm dishes).  For some reason, my notes indicate that someone said, “The heat is broughten”.  Apparently, the terrine was so good that we felt obliged to violate some fairly basic rules of grammar …  It actually defies description, so I’m moving on …

g got the yellow fin tuna crudo.  She always gets the yellow fin tuna crudo.  It’s that good.  I have nothing else to report …

v had the corn risotto, for which I lack a picture.  Her response consisted of “Wow!” followed by unintelligible sounds/noises/silence.  Eventually, she said something about how “it was like Mexican food” or “a high class cream corn” or “a fancy Thanksgiving”.  She agreed with g’s assessment: “I feel like i can make this at home … but I know I can’t”.  At this point, someone was declared by v to be “a hundred and fifty thousand percent right”, but the context is unclear – g thinks it might have been something she said … so all we know is that something about Fond’s corn risotto is “a hundred and fifty thousand percent right”.

Something v got? Foie?

v also ventured the Foie.  I have no notes – I assume she liked it.  Either that, or this dish, too, strickened her with silence.

a's wing of skate and gnocchi

a’s lone comment regarding his skate was: “This is some badass skate”.  Upon further inquiry, we’ve decided that this skate had been donning tattoos and riding a motorcycle (without a helmet, of course) immediately before being caught …

Harpoon-caught Swordfish

The harpoon-caught swordfish was my entree.  Actually, it was perhaps the weakest of the entrees at the table.  But that’s not to say it was “bad”.  On the contrary – much was very delicious.  The fish was superbly cooked, retaining some its fish-like qualities in terms of texture, not the least bit resembling those thick, steak-tough swordfish pieces I’ve seen elsewhere.  But unfortunately, in terms of flavor, it wasn’t really pushing an envelope.  The angel hair cake was intriguing as an accompaniment – it reminded everyone of ramen – I guess due to the umami from the mushroom and salt of the broth?  End result: superb cookery in the dish, but more subtle than I was expecting.

Skirt Steak

g got steak.  Big surprise.  Her response: “You guys, i’m so happy right now”.  And that cheese concoction in the upper-left, something that g normally shies away from, she enjoyed very much.  Once again – so close to overtaking Bibou – her fave for steak – it’s only missing that reduction that Pierre makes that’s so intoxicating …

chocolate dessert (guess who ordered it?)

For dessert, I went with a dark chocolate mousse (surprised?), accompanied by candied ginger, coconut, and that wafer which I believe was cocoa nibs (but I could be wrong).  While I’m no stranger to chocolate-ginger combo, I enjoyed the twist of coconut in the dish.

The other chocolate dessert ...

Unfortunately, a ordered the real chocolate winner for dessert – I was extremely jealous.  Lucky for me, he was sharing …  Oh – I forgot to tell you what it was: malt chocolate ice cream accompanied by peanut brittle and a peanut butter ganache.  It was like the best kandy kake I’ve ever had.

The non-chooclate dessert of the evening ..., fig, pistachio tart, some kind of ice cream

g and v ventured the fig and pistachio tart dessert. “It’s kind of like baklava … but better”.  I still don’t understand why someone would want to eat that over chocolate.

a had the final food-related quote of the night: “Oh SHIT that was good.”

Ok, so you realize now that we were light on descriptions, mostly because you’d get tired of the superlatives we’d be using.  Take our word for it: Fond delivered truly great food.  It’s not the kind of food coming out of some fancy-shmancy restaurant (there were no foams or mists or crazy-looking food vessels) – it’s homey and it’s tasty.  It’s the stuff that we imagine chefs would make at home, even though we fully realize that this is most certainly not a reality.  Better yet: it’s the stuff we wish we could make at home.

What rivaled the food that night was the service.  We shared a glass or two of our liquors with Tory, who we didn’t realize was a co-owner.  End result: he was really nice to us.  He didn’t give us free food or anything, but he took us to the back patio and showed off their “chef’s table” space.  For around $100/head, you get some insane meal for you and 7 guests.  Immediately, we had flashbacks of Talula’s Table.  We’ve got to do that.

Later, as the other patrons left, the staff and Tory visited our table and started chatting with us.  We met the famous “Steve” – PhillyMag’s “Best Waiter of 2011”.  We’ve had him once before – before his fame/fortune.  He’s good.  But this night, we got to know him – he is funny.  Select quotes include:

-“Stop touching my hair it’s Friday night.”
-“I’m trying to get two years in a row.”
-“Yea, the foie – its a nice piece you could share it… but I wouldn’t – it’s too damn good.”
-“Not because I work here but it’s the best swordfish I ever had.”

There were other quotes but either included more expletives or were surrounded by a controversial/racy context (this is a family-friendly blog!), so I can’t put them here.  Trust us – he actually is funny.

Then Omar, a server from Lacroix came in and chatted with us some.  Topics ranged from countries in central and South America, how surprisingly tall a is, and why v hates Lacroix.  Hilarious.  Time flew and before you knew it, some members of the party were enjoying a shot of some sort of unidentified alcohol and we were being invited to a happy hour celebrating their second anniversary.

In summary, the food was excellent.  The service was friendly.  We’ll be going back, guaranteed.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

23 September 2011 at 2:51pm

Debating Barbuzzo and James Beard …

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t says: Barbuzzo’s a seminfinalist for a James Beard award.  Hooray for them!  I can’t wait to see how they do!

Now, I’m a huge fan whenever any Philly restaurant is nominated – it’s a very nice accomplishment, and they deserve the recognition for their work.  And as you know, we do like Barbuzzo … a lot (go ahead and search our blog for it).  But to be honest, I’m not actually sure if they’re going to be able to bring it home … our friend, a, decided that I am indeed mistaken.  And so here we begin the debate …

I’ll let a go first, with the question: “Do you think Barbuzzo can win?”:

a says: Honestly, yes. Looking at the list of competitors, I see nothing I’ve heard considerably more about over the past few months (realizing I live in Philly). Also, the James Beard Awards seem to be very fluid in that they move with current food trends to keep them relevant. The current trends are f-t-t, ingredient-focused kitchens, and unadulterated final products (noting that the WD-40 trend has slowed). Currently, I think no one in Philly, and especially no one new, is doing this as well as Barbuzzo.

t says: Well then what about JG Domestic?  They’re probably sticking closer to the prevalent food movement than Barbuzzo?

a says: I’m not surprised JG was omitted because it’s not as polished (they overcooked my burger during lunch; your adsz title is “Growing Pains“) nor is it as inventive. f-t-t is their main shtick but I don’t feel (yet) that they add a lot of value to their dishes, which is not how I feel about Barbuzzo.

t says: Ok, well then I’ll give my take on their food (I’m going to ignore the very weird warm-wine-issue; a interjects: the wine program needs work but this is their first non-byob).  I think I agree with your take on the goodness of the food … for the most part.  Barbuzzo has the flavors, and their execution is usually spot-on (their pasta’s a little too al dente – but they fixed it on our second outing at our request).  Overall, the food is bold and fun and makes you want to eat more!  In summary, my brain feels like Barbuzzo is the food equivalent of the show Stomp … or a Lady Gaga video …  From the moment it starts, it sucks you in.  It’s whiz-bang, it’s engaging, and when it ends, I’m even a little disappointed that there wasn’t any more (of course, I’m usually full by the end of the meal, so it’s ok).  So, overall, Barbuzzo definitely has “good food” and I’m happy to go back to Barbuzzo any time to eat …

But for me, I feel like food can do more than just entertain me.  I’m looking for food that will move me.  I want something that will take my breath away.  I want it to make me ponder the meaning of food.  Does that make me weird?  I have no idea, but right now I’m the one at the keyboard – muhuhahaha!  Are these attainable goals?  Sure!  I recall a short rib ravioli at the old Django, and quite a few dishes at the old and new Talula’s.  Of course, there’s Bibou which consistently delivers such an experience (and they were a James Beard finalist in the past – and Pierre’s up for another!) and newcomer Fond with an amazing pork belly and foie gras (and a nomination for their chef!).  That said, if Bibou couldn’t pull it off and bring home the medal last year, then I suspect that Barbuzzo’s superficially good food (my new terminology) will only at most get them to be a finalist, which is still a fantastic accomplishment, but is certainly not a medal.

a says: Superficially good? Good, is good. Can you make sheep’s milk ricotta & fett’ unta or those meatballs at home? And even if you can, would they be that good? I don’t think a place should be penalized for using amazing ingredients and bold flavors to reconceptualize food people are comfortable/familiary with (meatballs, pizza, etc.). Morimoto or Vetri or Lacroix may seem more mysterious and intriguing because they use exotic/odd ingredients – to us. In Japan or Italy or France, I doubt people would have the same experience but the restaurants would still have outstanding cuisine deserving of recognition. I think Barbuzzo just happens to have food that we have “tasted before” but when you get down to it, has it ever been that good?

And on that note, I’m heading to Barbuzzo for lunch …

t says: I suspect you and Barbuzzo are in cahoots …

g pops in from nowhere: who cares as long as blackfish isn’t winning?

t says: zing!

g says: not that i have a problem with blackfish, its acclaim is just putting philly restaurants into a pissed-off depressive mood. and that is the last thing we need, sheesh…

Written by afterdinnersneeze

22 February 2011 at 5:54pm

Fond … Understatement of the Year!

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t says: g and I were looking for a BYO to have our Merry Christmas dinner together … but the usual suspects were not under consideration …  We had just recently gone to Cochon, we’ve done GTC to death, and Bibou was closed for the holidays … What to do?  What to do?  g was in charge.  She suggested Fond.  What’s Fond?  Fond is a restaurant tucked away in South Philly that has garnered much praise recently from Zagat and Philly Mag, but perhaps only a so-so review from LaBan.  To be honest, I wasn’t super-thrilled at first – it’s just so far away from where we live.  Would cabs for our return be easy to come by?  Would the food be worth it?  Well, by the time the date rolled around, I couldn’t come up with any other ideas and, to be quite honest, I was a little excited (it had been a long week).

December 2010, Thursday 7pm, Party of 2. We gave our cabbie the address, but he had no idea where it was – Passyunk’s slant throws everybody off.  Fortunately, the iPhone led the way.  We arrived 10 minutes early!

When we walked in, we were greeted by the hostess but were told that they might be running a little behind so that we’d have to find something to do for 20 minutes.  She did, however, say that we could go and grab a drink at Paradiso just a few doors down.  That sounded like a plan …

g says: having a drink before dinner is the kind of thing that i generally think of as only happening in the movies. it’s not something we do all that often, if ever (t is a lightweight and we love a byo anyway) but this was a celebratory meal, so i thought it might be the perfect time to class it up a little. when the hostess said that paradiso was only 3 doors down, i was a little surprised since i hadn’t noticed passing it on the way. it is the only restaurant that we had ever been to in the area (for d’s graduation celebration this past summer) and i felt comfortable walking into their place for a 20-minute visit since it was familiar territory. fond’s waiting area/foyer is super-tiny as well, so it really doesn’t make much sense to try and stand there waiting for your table while others are trying to enter and exit the restaurant.

so, off we went to paradiso. that place is actually pretty spacious, which i appreciate. it wasn’t terribly crowded, and we were able to sit right down at the bar. it’s a family-run establishment, the bartender for the evening being a pleasant young girl whose aunt donna made the complimentary pizzelles on the counter. t ordered a glass of rose, and i went for a glass of bubbly. we were joined at the bar by some regulars (read: old italian south philly men) whom all seemed to know each other. this strangely put me at ease; it was like their version of cheers, except they had cookies instead of beer nuts.

about 2 sips into our drinks, fond called t’s phone letting us know that our table was ready. he told the hostess that we had just received our drinks so we might be a little late. she said that was fine, or that we could just bring our drinks to dinner with us. interesting. my immediate reaction was something like, “wait, she -the hostess- said that we can walk out with their -paradiso’s- drinks? what do es she (nodding toward the bartender) have to say about that?” i was not about to be chased down passyunk in 3-inch heels and  30-degree weather by any angry paradisians. t asked the bartender, and she confirmed that fond and paradiso are indeed very friendly and would allow us to carry our glasses to dinner, as the staff at fond would bring them back at the end of the evening. an arrangement unlike anything i have ever heard of – very interesting, indeed.

we made it to fond without dropping anything (thank goodness) and were seated right away next to a friendly couple of guys who were finishing up. they had pork belly on their plates, and it smelled divine – t was hooked. it wasn’t uncomfortably packed in the dining room, but our waiter did come over to let us know that they would nudge our table over a bit once our neighboring party had finished to give us a little more elbow room. how thoughtful! though we really didn’t mind being so close to the pork belly aroma…

anyway, i ordered the yellowfin tuna crudo and the hanger steak with crispy polenta, both of which were so delicious. the tuna was chopped, mixed with jicama and pickled pineapple, and seasoned with curry and cilantro. it was light and refreshing, yet still complex enough for me to feel that i was eating a decadent hors d’ouevre.

fond’s hanger steak is the strong, silent type; an equally humble and satisfying plate. t reminded me when it came that i would have to compare it to the bibou version, which is my favorite in the city. this was excellent in its own way, completely different from bibou’s approach. this hanger steak was not marinated in wine, and its jus was very simple. no hit-you-in-the-face flavors here, just really lovely subtleties. it was more of a mom’s pot roast jus, which i happen to appreciate. i will say that they make the best polenta i have ever encountered. the texture was just fluffy enough, and the top perfectly crisp. the best bite of this dish was a combination of the steak and polenta, swirled around in some jus. they had passed the test of making something otherwise simple really shine – one of the two ways that restaurant food can impress me (the other being a dish so creative and well-conceived that i wish i had thought of it).

t says: Allow me to review my dishes …  First off, the foie gras was absolutely awesome.  Now, I don’t eat foie often, so please understand that I might not be the best foie critic (it’s not a cruelty-to-animals thing, rather, an it-doesn’t-taste-any-better-than-butter-and-tofu thing), but I have had it at Bibou (I think), O Ya, Talula’s Table (twice), and a few other places that are supposed to do it well … But this dish was different than those … Well, except O Ya.  Both O Ya and Fond attempted to marry their foie with dramatic “other” flavors … and to be honest, Fond’s was the better of the two, and also the best foie I’ve ever had.  So what’d they do?  They seared the foie beautifully (nice and dark on one side) and served it with some caramelized apple, a dollop of ricotta, some “pie crust” (puffed pastry-esque), and likely some other ingredients I couldn’t identify.  The end result far exceeded the sum of the parts – there was a symphony of flavors and textures that worked so well together that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how good it was despite being a somewhat simple idea (foie and apple pie!).  g had some, too, and she was less impressed than me, but of course, she’s not so keen on tofu-esque textures like foie.

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the pork belly appeared.  That’s right – I ordered foie and pork belly in the same meal.  The waiter commented, “So, I guess we’re going for a light meal this evening?” – funny guy.  Back to the belly: it was ridiculous.  The top had a super-dense crust.  I suspect that they braised the pork belly, cut out a slab, and then deep fried the top (?maybe with a coating of sugar?) just before serving.  Of course, as I’ve said before, what the hell do I know about how they did it?  Neverthless, however they did it, it was the single best piece of pork belly I’ve ever had.  Better than Cochon.  Better than Morimoto.  Better than Talula’s.  That said, the dish as a whole just missed the title of the best pork belly dish I’ve ever had.  Morimoto wins for superb incorporation of “other” flavors, and Cochon’s garnishings felt like they added a lot more dimension than Fond’s Okinawan sweet potatoes – which were good, but really, pork belly doesn’t need more rich potato flavor, rather a little something to cut through the fat and reset the palate between bites of pig – maybe some veg or something zippy/zingy/sour/spicy/sweet – I don’t know.  But don’t get me wrong – I demolished the entire dish – and that was after eating a foie appetizer (I obviously did not go for a low-fat, low-calorie meal), so it’s pretty darn fantastic.  And actually – I’d even order this dish if I had to order again, just so I could taste the pork belly once more, which I’m not sure I would do for pork belly dishes elsewhere.

I think we may have had a sorbet sampler for dessert – I actually turned down some sort of super-deep chocolate desserts for fruit-based dessert!!  THAT says something about the rich-ness of the other foods I ate.  I remember the sorbets being good – I think blood orange and strawberry were two of the flavors we went for – I forget the third – maybe a chocolate sorbet (I was thinking it’d be lighter than like a chocolate bake/cake thing).  We’ll have to get at their dessert list the next time we go …

And now … back to your regularly schedule programming …

g says: our fond-love-fest, er dinner, was not without comic relief. about halfway through our meal, a table of 6 senior citizens was seated next to us. they were cute – it made t wonder if we would be like them when we are their age, going to dinner and talking much more loudly than necessary with friends, attempting to read the menu in dim lighting. they weren’t a terribly rowdy crew, and as i mentioned before, it wasn’t a totally cramped dining room, but WOW we had a lot of elderly butts in our faces. it seemed like someone from that table was up to use the restroom every few moments, shimmying by us, unaware of their behind hovering over our table, dangerously close to our glasses each time. t had to rescue our wine bottle from spillage on more than one occasion before we decided to shift our entire table over. this put us a bit closer to the table on our other side, a new party of 4 much closer to our age, so we hoped they understood.

certainly no butts-in-the-face ruined our evening, though, and we were able to have a good laugh. when we were ready to  head out, our hostess called us a cab. they said it would be 15 minutes. after about 30 minutes, the hostess called back and they said it would take up to 2 hours to get a cab out there. t started to worry. what if we couldn’t get back? walking was not an option, as we were far too south of south, and although we knew there was a subway stop nearby, it just didn’t seem like the best time to be figuring out the philly underground that late at night. t called a few more cab companies himself, offering “whoever gets here will get a BIG tip!”

as he made calls by the door and strategized with the hostess about how we could get home, i stayed seated at the table. our new neighbors to my right were 2 young couples with a few open bottles of wine. the guy seated directly next to me was pretty happy at this point, and wanted to make small talk – mostly about my handbag. he kept talking about how awesome it was and showing his wife, who kind of rolled her eyes, half trying to be polite to me and half embarrassed that her husband was so interested in it rather than their party’s conversation.  i kept my end of our conversation brief so as to let him get back to his friends, but this guy was not just friendly – he was drunk friendly, which in his case meant that talking to me/my handbag was more important than how many times his wife kicked him under the table.

finally, i was able to make a quick escape when we saw a cab drive up – which we jumped into immediately. turns out, it was not one of the 4 cab companies that t/the hostess called.  oops! sorry, cab dispatchers…

t says: Overall, the food was great, but the location kind of stinks.  There’s only one thing to do … we need to go to Bibou for a throwdown …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

9 January 2011 at 9:59pm

Posted in in Philadelphia, Restaurant Reviews

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