after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Kanella

breakfast wine with kanella

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t says:  Today [i.e. the day I’m writing this, not the day this will post], Kanella served us the best brunch they have ever served us.  It was a perfect storm that looked a bit like this:


Step One: Bring Riesling.  g and I pulled out a delightful little not-too-sweet-but-just-sweet-enough Riesling and it was a perfect style of wine.  Kanella’s breakfast is entirely savory (I mean, there are some desserts on the menu, but you’re not going to find pancakes and syrup or anything on the menu).  With enough citrus flavors and a touch of honey, it’s the perfect accompaniment.  And yes, if this means that you have a 10:30am reservation, you start drinking at 10:30am – it’s never “too early” for a good Riesling!


Step two: Dips of the Day are compulsory.  They are that good.  The above combination (one was lentil, one was fava bean, and one was garlic+potato) featured the absolute best dips I’ve ever had at Kanella.

Step three: Shaksouka … no – not everyone needs to get the Shaksouka, but one person [who shares] does.  g is a shaksouka-sucker … and boy am I glad she is!  The stewed tomatotoes and peppers with the multigrain bread and that just-cracked egg was stepped up to another level with lamb merguez (a $2 supplement that’s totally worth it) – it was amazeballs (before the lamb wasn’t an option and it was still amazing!).

So there you have it – three steps to a perfect Sunday brunch.  Better take advantage of it now while all the people in Philly are out of town at the shore on the weekends …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

12 July 2013 at 6:01pm

kanella kwietly kicking ass

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t says:  There are some restaurants that we here at adsz have done a disservice.  How?  Well, there are some really great ones out there, and, while we tell people about them all the time, we have so few reviews!  Furthermore, press like Philly Mag (a suggests: in an attempt to be relevant?) disses them by placing them somewhere on the back 25 of their top 50 list, behind snooze-fests like Stateside, Il Pittore, Le Virtu, and Jamonera … I’m talking about Kanella.  Helmed by crazy-piercing-eyed Chef Konstantinos Pitsillides, Kanella has, over the years, cranked out some super-delightful dinners with flavor combinations that are still interesting and novel.  And while the servers all seem to have a dash of  weirdness, we at least appreciate their enthusiasm/energy.  As a matter of fact, g and I ate there with v and another friend (a was MIA) just the other night …

February 2013, Friday Dinner, Party of 4.  We arrived to an all-too-familiar experience when visiting Kanella: the wait.  It seems that dinner reservation times are always met with some kind of wait.  This time wasn’t too bad – about 5-10 minutes.  Fortunately, we were allowed to wait inside and not in that super-dinky-ante-room-thingee where we would have surely frozen.  Is a wait forgivable?  No, not really, but I did see the patrons hanging out at the soon-to-be-ours table, with the check paid, just lingering, so I can’t really blame the restaurant (can I?), rather, other people.  But what was cool was the opportunity to greet Chef as he walked around the room, as for all the press he gets for his crazy memos outside his kitchen window, I had never once heard him actually talk.  He was a little stiff, but I can’t say I was much better at trying to get a conversation to flow – it’s just his piercing blue eyes!

After we sat, we were greeted by our server, who, also typical of the Kanella experience, was just a little weird.  There was something in his verbosity that had us all chuckling, albeit a little uncomfortably – but that’s ok because we warmed up to him nicely.  Furthermore, he was very attentive, well-informed, and made everything sound wonderful, so he gets an A+ for the evening.

Now on to the food …

If you eat at Kanella, the “Dips of the Day” are pretty much obligatory.  Made of whatever vegetables they happen to have on hand, the spreads are always so lively and fresh that you wish you could just pull out an ampule of dip at work to spruce up your ho-hum lunch (it’d make “baked potato day” a whole lot more interesting … that’s right – some of you know what I’m talking about).  The octopus and [free] salad (Kanella very frequently realizes diners are waiting and will send out food) were both nice starters to the meal, waking up our palates with smoky tentacles and bright greens.  And after that, Kanella churned out three ridiculously good dishes of food (it was actually four dishes, but two of us got the same thing), just the kind to warm you up on a frickin-freezing-cold night.



What you see above you is a LOT of [most-likely-braised-and-then-]shredded oxtail, with a few dumplings and a lot of cilantro.  And it was AWESOME.  It was the most uplifted/bright/agile dish of braised meat I have ever had (imagine if you will a cow doing gymnastics), most likely courtesy of lemon and cilantro and one other unidentified green stalk (?celery? ?rhubarb?? chard?).  My mouth was so sad when it was over (but my tummy was full).  I would have liked a few more dumplings to balance against the meat (there were only ~4), but our server graciously gave us more bread (his idea!  we didn’t even ask for it!), so I was happily starched for the evening.

I did not get a chance to snap pics of the goat stew, which I’m told was a winner last night (I was so “in” to my dish I didn’t bother tasting anyone elses).  While I don’t quite have specifics about their experiences, I can say that with nothing left on their plates, they were very much satisfied.  g went for their porkchop which, as she had once before, was scrumptious.  Really, I have  a lack of words here because no one had an ill word to say – and I think that‘s saying something.  Everything had this feeling of warmth and home and comfort that you’d almost forget you’re in a very-busy, loud Philly BYO …

creme brulee

pistachio creme brulee and lemon ice cream in the foreground, baklava and something else in the background

The desserts at Kanella are often in the head-nod-and-say-“pretty good” realm.  And that night was no different.  The pistachio creme brulee was perfectly executed, and when pit against the lemon ice cream that was dynamite (no, really – their ice creams are always wonderful), it was a fantastic combination.  The baklava was chocked full of nuts, which some people might enjoy (I prefer a little more sweet and layers in my baklava), and that other thing (the thing that looks like it’s covered with cheese in the photo), while interesting, was just a little dry.  It’s hard because I am probably completely unqualified to judge these desserts (maybe these are exactly how they’re supposed to be? I’m no Greek), so I guess you’ll just have to try it, yourself!

And the bill?  It was $42/pp (with tax and tip).  That’s not bad at all!  We did bring our own wine, so that was wonderful (thanks, a, for the Riesling!).  It’s a little pricey for a weeknight, but well worth the tariff on the weekend.  So go to Kanella!  I don’t know if it’s “cool” or not, but it’s reliably tasty!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

12 February 2013 at 9:14am

Kanella Steps it Up; Amis Steps Down

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t says:  g and I went to Kanella some time ago and found that although the food was good, the service was weird and it just wasn’t blow-us-away enough to pop into our heads every time we went looking for a BYO.  k, having to work in the area this past week, suggested that we re-try it.  So we set out for a weekday dinner …

5/2010, Thursday 7:30pm, Party of 4.  The four of us sat down, broke out a bottle of a particularly smooth Australian shiraz, and buckled in for an exciting ride.  One of the things that Kanella has in its favor is the element of surprise – well, at least for us it did.  As we scoured the menu, we realized that the descriptions really didn’t help us envision what the final product would be.  There were ingredients we clearly didn’t recognize, and surely how they were put together would be a mystery up until the very end when they hit the table.  Of course, had we had a Greek (or maybe “Cypriot” to be more exact), perhaps they would have been able to give us a hint of what was to come.  Nevertheless, we each made our selections and patiently waited for whatever the waiter was going to bring us.  We amused ourselves by playing such games as, “how much money would it take for you to change your name?” and “look at the chef’s crazy eyes!”.  (FYI, the chef has these piercing blue eyes that are super-intense – he make a marble statue cower in fear.)

I went for the goat with “wheat berries”, eggplant, and yogurt.  It was fantastic!  I can’t remember the last time I had goat, however, this was a stunning example of a well-braised meat served on top of a homy bed of “wheat berries” (it’s like the lentils of grains … hmmm … that makes no sense and will probably cause some people to laugh – but that’s what it was like in my head!).  It was the kind of food you want to have a family-style plate of to share with … family (duh).  That said, it was rivaled by k and cm’s “brick chicken”.  The flaw of the brick chicken?  As vague as my description of the goat was, my description of the brick chicken is even vaguer.  I have no idea what the spices were, I have no idea what the sauce was – all I know is that it was so good that I might actually order the chicken the next time I go there.

I’ll let cm, master of cutting straight to the point, chime in:

cm says: chicken in a brick was very good also, interesting cooking method for the potatoes they were like little crunchy nuggets of potato.  chicken very juicy.  i remember scooping up as much of the sauce as i could.  and the flat bread was very good and an interesting mix of flavors, especially the dried apricot, good balance of salty and sweet.

back to t:  oh yea!  the flatbread was indeed delicious!  oh, and g went for the the “stuffed vegetable of the day”, which was bell pepper which she liked it very much – it played a major role in de-funking her evening.  And then … there was dessert.  We went for the date-and-chocolate cake (with vanilla ice cream) and the pistachio-olive-oil cake (with ouzo ice cream).  And I must say that Kanella finished the meal quite well with these.  Actually, the table was fairly evenly split on which aspects of which desserts we liked better (some liked one cake with the other’s ice cream, and vice versa).  Personally, I would have been happy with a gigantic date-and-chocolate cake, as the “cake” was almost like a bread pudding in texture with a little punch of date and the mouth-coating rich chocolate – beautiful.  So in the end, we really have no complaints.  Kanella did a great job with food, our server was excellent, and the prices were reasonable.

NOW … for the bad news … as you can see from the title of this post, we also went to Amis this past weekend, and they did not fare so well.  When we went to Amis for dinner some time ago, it was fantastic.  They did such a great job of taking dishes that we already knew and loved and making them even better.  Unfortunately, its price and lack of BYO-ness made it hard to go back … until we heard they did brunch.  Surely they could work their magic on some eggs and breads, right?  Wrong.

5/2010, Sunday 12:30, Party of 5.  I won’t dwell on the negatives of this meal because nobody wants to read too much of a Debbie-downer post.  So the positives: service was attentive, the decor is top-notch (would be a great date-place in the evening – lots of rich, dark-colored woods).  The negatives: the food.  w’s boyfriend and I went for a polenta scrapple with eggs and “peperonata” (i.e. stewed peppers).  Darn – what a letdown!  The eggs were fluffy (yay!) but lacked seasoning (boo!).  I liked the texture that the polenta added to the scrapple (yay!), but the scrapple was a bit anemic in terms of flavor (boo!), and the stewed peppers didn’t have much to bring to the table aside from … peppers … and tomato (more boos!).  The dish wasn’t inedible or anything – quite the contrary, as I cleaned up the plate – but it wasn’t something I’d ever order again.  The bread basket was “ok”, but nowhere near Parc’s bread basket, as the muffins were a bit dry and the zuchini bread was a bit crumbly.  g had the braised tomatoes and eggs, and, while she liked it “ok”, it’s not like they rocked her socks.  This leads us to the final nail in the coffin: the price.  I think w’s boyfriend summed it up nicely when he said, “we paid $12 for a $8-9 dish”.  And if you’re thinking “oh, that’s not too bad”, I feel like a 30-50% markup is a bit much.  In the grand scheme, I’d say that Amis out-performs Farmicia and Meme but is a notch below Supper for brunch.  Darn.  We were hoping that Amis would have been the place to take g’s parents because they strike us as the kind of people who’d be up for a savory brunch.  Alas, if you crave a savory brunch, forget Amis – go straight to Kanella (their brunches are awesome – and not just the Cyprus breakfast).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

18 May 2011 at 9:15pm

Lightning Round 2! (+Bonus Pic!)

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t says: We had a long time friend (drb) and his awesome girlfriend stop by in Philly a couple times during their recent visit to the area. We used this as an opportunity/excuse to show off some Philly cuisine, taking them to places that we thought were surefire bets for impressive food. Because we’ve been to all of these places before, there’s no real point to individual reviews, so here’s the quick and dirty …

drb keeps his own wordpress blog, so if you desire a non-g/t review of some of these places, check it out here.  And no, you’re not allowed to think he’s funnier than we are …

Village Whiskey:

Props: BBQ pork sandwich. Yea – it’s still ridiculously good (but I recognize that bbq is a very personal thing, so maybe some might disagree). My friends enjoyed the fries and veggie burger, but did note that perhaps this place was a bit overpriced (e.g. $8 for a glass of whiskey that could be purchased by the bottle for ~$25). My response: “welcome to Philadelphia”. While his girlfriend admitted to liking the veggie burger a lot, drb noted that it contained a lot of intact beans – he prefers a more homogeneous patty. To each their own. Slops: What is wrong with the service here? They just can’t seem to get it together! This was our second time in a row with crappy service. Although we didn’t get the juvenile attitude that our last server had, it took 40 minutes for two sandwiches to arrive despite the place being only half-occupied. And then they forgot to add the onions I had ordered on my sandwich. Very weird. VW has to have the most inconsistent service of all the Garces joints. drb noted that it seemed to him like it was staffed with a bunch of hipsters … and he hates hipsters (n.b. just to clarify, he is not one of those people who assumes that anyone with a tattoo is a hipster; he has absolutely nothing against people with tattoos … just hipsters).

Capo Giro:

Props: Dark chocolate and candied cherry gelato. Need I say more? Well I’m going to, anyways. drb’s girlfriend, who insisted that she had very high gelato standards (having spent time in Europe) and even admitted that she was quite cautious/hesitant/doubtful before tasting Capo Giro, proclaimed it to be the best gelato she has ever had. Bam!  It was so good, we went there a second time with drb and his mom a week later.  Slops: If it was just a dollar cheaper, that’d be awesome. However, I’d also be 87 lbs heavier, so maybe not …

Carman’s Country Kitchen:

Props: This place’s food was still off-the-hook. We knew that drb and his girlfriend would enjoy the “atmosphere”. We love how we can call up Carman and claim our table early. Slops: Totally forgot that if you have dietary restrictions or particular tastes (e.g. anti-fruit), this is not the easiest place to find something to eat (it’s summer – fruit’s in everything). If the chairs were just a little smaller, we might be able to smoosh in a little closer when sitting at the tables.


Props: Best pork belly I’ve ever had (it was that 10-hour pork belly appetizer). Holy crap. Also – they had a “special” Japanese eel nigiri. Best eel I’ve ever had. It was the flavor of eel but the texture of pork belly and a crisp skin. Holy crap. It might have been the best piece of sushi I’ve ever had. Even drb also had a “best ever” moment with his sushi.  g enjoyed her red snapper special; it was superior to my main dish in both texture and taste (see Slops).  We also had some “burnt honey ice cream” for dessert (it was featured as a component in another dessert item, but we asked for it straight up).  The pieces of burnt honey (maybe they took a torch to it and then shoved it in the ice cream maker?) were surprisingly delicious as you encountered each little crunch – we’ve got to try this with j and k’s ice cream maker.  Also, our server was super-nice – VW should kidnap this guy and clone him.  Slops: Alaskan halibut with black bean sauce was … mediocre good. Had it been $21, then giddyup. But for near $30, definitely not. It made me wish they had the Chilean sea bass with black bean sauce on their menu, as I had heard so many good things about it from w; what a difference the swap in fish made (it was cooked fine, but kind of bland).


Props: Reservations on Saturday mornings is awesome – I’m over waiting in lines (although it was kind of empty in there). Cyprus breakfast was tasty – a savory breakfast for sure with egg, ham, bread, fried cheese, and some sort of vegetable. Overall, we enjoyed how the food was not only “simple”, “rustic”, and “delicious”, but well-executed (drb claimed his eggs were perfect).  Additionally, it wasn’t food-coma-inducing, which drb and g appreciated (I don’t mind a good coma every now and then). The baklava was pretty tasty – not as good as Zahav’s, but, then again, it’s like half the price. Slops: A little more bread in the Cyprus breakfast would have been great (I’m a starch man). I agree with the waiter from before – the Cyprus breakfast isn’t to-die-for – as there are probably tons of other things on the menu that are awesomer (we just don’t know which ones to choose because it’s not like we recognize any of the items on the menu).


Props: What do you get when you take French toast and top it with one scoop each of peanut butter, banana, and vanilla-bacon ice creams, banana-caramel sauce, and bacon? Allow me to illustrate:

The best French toast ever!!

Yea … it … was … awesome. I ate it all (minus the two bites g snuck in when I was fiddling with the iPhone camera (that’s her hand ready to pounce in the picture). Once again – I normally hate taking pictures in restaurants as it’s super-tacky, but this was one of those things where I knew that you’d need proof of its existence (plus I had to tease sr for having to bail on us for brunch at the last minute). g had the fried oyster sandwich (you see it in the background), which was good as well – but come on – what’s going to compete with the “Elvis French Toast”? Also, we saw the chef/owners of Bibou (the Calmels) enjoying brunch here, too (g has a super-power that allows her to recognize/recall important people in the Philly restaurant scene – I would have preferred a more useful super-power, personally). If they eat here, then you can rest assured that my constant praises of this place’s brunch are legit, and not just the ravings of a lunatic. Interestingly, Bibou’s website claims that they are on vacation … Slops: We can’t go anywhere else for Sunday brunch. Ever. They also peach-cobbler-ified their pancakes, so I have to go back for that, too. Maybe this time, sr and ha will come. I’d invite j, but she’s back to school; it’s ok, she wouldn’t regret missing a dish like this, right?

EDIT:  We’ve come back and I’ve experimented with putting these toppings on top of their super-awesome pancakes.  Surprisingly it was not as good as the French toast.  There’s something about the ice cream on top of their French toast that is awesome.  It’s almost like the French toast is the “savory” in this dish, whereas their pancakes are like another sweet.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

24 August 2010 at 10:00am

Kanella: Doing the Robot …

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t says: g and I anticipated a weekend without any plans, so we decided at the last minute to go out for a date night!  We visited Tria first, which was delightful as always.  And, after we each had some wine, a bit of tete de moine cheese, and a salad featuring grilled asparagus, white bean, and artichoke, we headed down the street to go to Kanella.  Kanella (transl. cinnamon) has gained some attention recently – a lot of people on chowhound enjoy it, claiming that it was one of the best BYOs in the city, and, as I found out right before we went, a dish was going to be featured on Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate”.  We didn’t know which dish it was, but were happy to go and check out Kanella’s dinner.

2/2010, Friday Night, Party of 2.  When we arrived at the restaurant for a 9:30 reservation, we were told that they were running a bit behind.  So we, and at least three other couples, crammed ourselves into the super-tiny entrance-way (it was very cold outside, so we stayed indoors).  While some of the other waiting people were getting frustrated, I was still happy from the wine I had at Tria.  After the first half-hour, I could only laugh that we were still waiting while no patrons had left the restaurant (we figured someone would have to leave for us to move in).  The hostess was super-apologetic for the wait (she apologized every five minutes), but there clearly was nothing she could do.  Then, she came with a dish of the grape leaves appetizer “from the kitchen”.  Then the chef came out and apologized, bearing a plate of the fried halloumi cheese appetizer.  I have to admit that g and I weren’t particularly impressed with either of these.  The grape leaves had a nice sour punch, but the stuffing was quite bland.  The cheese was just that … cheese.  But, these aren’t the kinds of appetizers that we would have ordered, anyhow, so we were happy to try something different and greatly appreciated the sentiment.  Eventually we were indeed seated – we were the last couple they were seating that night, so we had a nice four-seater to ourselves.  On our way in, an older couple dressing to leave commented, “don’t worry – it’s worth the wait!”  We hoped so.

When we sat down, we were greeted by a very friendly waiter.  He was super-enthusiastic about the food here, so that was great!  But things changed a little when we asked him which dish was being featured on the Food Network.  He kind of rolled his eyes and admitted that it was the Cyprus Breakfast.  Later on, when I returned home and googled it, it turned out that the Cyprus Breakfast had been garnering quite a bit of critical acclaim recently.  The waiter said that he was shocked that it was the dish getting such favorable comments, as he felt other dishes were superior; we appreciated his honesty.  But then he commented that they would get a LOT of people asking for it at breakfast, referring to them as “robots”. During our conversation, as another server passed by, ours broke conversation and said, in a robotic voice, “cy-prus-break-fast”, to which the passer echoed “cy-prus-break-fast”.  Apparently it was a common joke among the servers that patrons mindlessly order the Cyprus Breakfast.  I felt a little awkward by this exchange as I felt that even if it is a “simple” dish, if people are willing to pay for it – who cares?  Also, had the dish been a dinner dish that I could have ordered, I think I would have been one of those robots they were making fun of.  This possibility led me to conclude: if you like something else better, then that’s all you have to say – you don’t have to put down patrons – have some tact!  *steps off soapbox*  So, that put a sour taste in our mouths to start.

Having had some food at Tria and also the “ok” appetizers we were given while we stood, we decided to go straight to dinner.  g ordered the pork tenderloin with chickpea fritters while I had the lamb with some sort of orzo concoction (?giuvetsi?).  g’s pork tenderloin and my lamb were good; they were cooked well and seasoned well, but they just didn’t sing to us – it’s hard to be pleased by a pork tenderloin after having had one at Cochon.  But perhaps the meats being only “good” was not the fault of the pork or the lamb or the chef, rather, it was the fault of the orzo side on my plate – it was fabulous.  We agreed that it was the most delicious thing on both of our plates.  It was rustic and tasty – it could have been a dish by itself.  And there was so much that I brought some home and reheated it for lunch the next day – it was still phenomenal (so I knew it wasn’t just the wine talking the night before).

Before our entrees were cleared, we had another odd encounter with our waiter.  He dropped by specifically to ask g if the pork “was too rare for her” – but something about the way he said it didn’t make it sound like he was being helpful, rather, being critical – I interpreted it as, “are you too much of a wuss to eat pork the way it’s supposed to be cooked?”.  The answer was no, the pork was fine and she was just full, but I was tempted to say “no, it’s just too unremarkable for her to eat the rest”.  I bit my tongue and let her do the talking (she doesn’t even remember this happening, so perhaps it wasn’t that big of a deal) …

For dessert, we had their assortment of ice cream which included cinnamon, coffee, and pistachio.  The cinnamon ice cream was absolutely delicious – the cinnamon flavor wasn’t overpowering and the texture was great.  The coffee and pistachio were also very nice and worked well with the cinnamon – we liked these ice creams very much.

So, all in all, we had an “good” meal at Kanella.  There were two shining lights (cinnamon ice cream and the orzo).  As for whether the rest could stand up to Kanella’s reputation – maybe it was a rough night in the kitchen with how busy they were?  Maybe the attitude of the service influenced our perception of taste?  Maybe we were just too full from Tria?  I don’t know.  But I do know one thing … we will be going back … for the cy-prus-break-fast.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

27 February 2010 at 12:52am