after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Vetri

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

k and cm Go to Vetri

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k says: This is a long overdue discussion of our venture to one of the best restaurants in the city. Or, better spoken by the people at Bon Appetit, it is “ probably the best Italian restaurant in America.” (cm note: or as k put it, “the most important meal of our lives.”) We’re talking about Vetri. Yup, and we got to go. Ballers. So this is usually a bit out of our price range, but we had help from t and g in the form of a gift certificate for our wedding gift. It was a wonderful night. We waited almost a year to go, waiting for the right time when we were both definitely in need of a night out, and actually free enough to have a night out. We were also lucky to get in just after the airing of Iron Chef America with Vetri as the challenger, as I’m sure they booked up quickly after his strong showing.  The evening started with the presentation of the menu.  It resembled a price fixe menu but instead of you choosing one from each category, the chef chooses for you (and you get more than one from each category anyways.) They ask if you have any particular requests, and beyond that you are to leave it to the chef. Now, normally, I don’t like giving up any element of control, particularly in a very expensive meal.  But if we hadn’t, then we never would have experienced Israeli couscous for dessert!

The atmosphere was really cozy – the living room of an old Philadelphia row house turned into a gourmet restaurant. We spotted the shiny espresso maker, which he famously made room for by removing one of the tables. We took a corner seat, perfect for people watching. We were the youngest people in the room, and definitely the most excited to be there. We were surrounded by older couples that seemed bored by the concept of a delicious dinner, and frankly bored by each other. One couple just played with their phones the whole night! There was also a young woman dining by herself in a short black dress. We took bets on whether she was a food critic or just stood up on a date. Twice we saw Mr. Vetri himself wearing his chef outfit. I stifled my desire to yell something out to him, although I felt a bit like an adoring teenaged fan. We did get a chance to talk to Jeff, the wine guy. He was really friendly and very knowledgeable about wine and food pairings. I liked his obvious pride in his work, yet his ability to speak about his specialty without making you feel dumb or beneath him.

The dinner began with an array of amuse bouches. My favorite was a solitary butternut squash gnocchi with a crispy sage leaf, served on a golden spoon. The gnocchi was so rich and smooth, perfectly balanced by the saltiness of the cheese and the crispy, herby leaf.

cm felt the foie gras was delicious but could only eat his own and not mine also, as it was too similar to butter to eat much of.  The golden sweet onion crepe was incredible, with onions that had been cooked for hours and so much intense flavor.  Other amuse bouches included a bluefin tuna tartare and a veal carpaccio, both decadently rich.

Perhaps my favorite part of the entire meal was the spinach gnocchi. So fluffy, like green pillows bursting with spinach and cheese flavor. The biggest mistake of the night was not eating my last spinach gnocchi. I was afraid I’d be too full for the rest of the dishes to follow. But I awoke the next morning wishing for just one more spinach gnocchi. A major error!

Next we were served two different pastas. One was a saffron pasta stuffed with braised squab and hand shaped into tortellini then served with a savory cocoa sauce. This was cm’s favorite from the whole night. I loved the stuffed pappardelle. It was long strips of tender home made pasta stuffed with cheese and matched with caramelized onions and topped with shaved foie gras. I had never eaten foie gras before, and I feel like I can still claim that. This was literally shavings from a big block, much as like some sprinkled parmesan cheese, and once it melted in I couldn’t taste it at all. The flavors in this pasta were very similar to the sweet onion crepe. Frankly, I didn’t care because they were both so freakin’ delicious I liked having it in two forms during the meal.  In both pasta dishes the texture of the pasta was absolutely perfect, and cm wished he could have a whole bowl of it.

For the meat, we were served poached cod with a side of mushrooms. This was cm’s other favorite. The fish was light and buttery and kind of understated flavors. I agreed but thought it was over salted. Next we were served these little shot glasses of Concord grape sorbet. The texture was so smooth and creamy, not the usual icy feel you expect. As cm put it, it was more grapey than grapes. It was seriously grapey, and the perfect palate cleanser before dessert. Then came the craziest most creative dessert we’ve ever eaten. Israeli couscous, nuts, raisins in a light vanilla sauce served with ginger ice cream. As I mentioned, I never would have ordered this myself, but I was so glad we tried it! The Israeli couscous is plumper than the conventional one, with a great nutty flavor and feels almost like eating the pearls in bubble tea. The second dessert was a pistachio flan with a rich chocolate sauce and molten pistachio stuff flowing from the middle. This was followed by a plate of bite-size desserts. One was a deliciously light meringue with a vanilla coconut flavor. There was also a miniature chocolate mousse layer cake that was very tasty.

In all, we were stuffed to the brim with fantastic foods. Some were unique combinations of flavors we never would have dreamed of, while others were classic foods just executed perfectly. Thanks to t and g for making this culinary wonderland possible! Vetri sent us home with a signed copy of the menu and 2 beautiful blueberry muffins for the next morning’s breakfast. Such a nice touch to have a bit of the night’s dining experience left over for breakfast. Doesn’t make up for not eating that last spinach gnocchi though. How could I!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

8 February 2011 at 1:07pm

Osteria: More Than Pizza

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t says: We loved our visit to Vetri – everything was superb, from the moment we walked in to the moment we walked out.  That said, we wished for a similar quality of food, but for less expensive dishes, like pastas and pizzas, as g and I are not yet bawlers.  Then we heard of Osteria, a second eatery by Vetri that promised just that: delicious pasta and pizzas.  So, when an out-of-town friend came to visit, we took her to Osteria (actually, she treated us, which was very kind of her).

1/2010, Tuesday Dinner, Party of 3.  Despite an 8:30pm reservation, we had to wait ~20 minutes.  Normally waits don’t bother me, but the place just didn’t really seem that “packed” (and open tables were in plain view), so I just didn’t know the cause for the wait.  Fortunately there were seats at the bar so took the opportunity to relax and get reacquainted.  As we made chit-chat and ordered some of their mixed drinks (I had an espresso martini – it was ok), we looked around and took in the space … there was a lot of it!  I guess I would have never guessed that a place with rustic foods could occupy such a large venue – both by square footage and by height – then again, it’s a little out-of-the-way, so there’s probably a location-space trade-off.

We were seated at the table, and, after perusing a menu of very appetizing-sounding dishes, we opted for … surprise … some pizzas and pasta.  We placed our order with our slightly awkward server and waited with excitement, enjoying the bread and oil they had provided.  The octopus pizza and the margherita pizza (gotta try the classic) were both delicious with perfectly-thin thin crusts.  The octopus was still tender, and the margherita, despite being so basic, sung tomato and basil.  Our friend’s side of kale was a nice complement to the pizzas.  I, on the other hand, had the potato gnocchi in a mushroom sauce with piave vecchio.  I was flabbergasted by the texture – it was so soft and airy, but not mushy – perhaps a little more dense than the gnocchi at vetri, but the lightest potato gnocchi I have ever had (I got the spinach gnocchi with the brown butter at vetri).  And the sauce was perfect – mushroom flavor without overpowering the other herbs and cheese. I found myself trying desperately to slow down sending the gnocchi to my mouth – they were so good.  I will confess, however, that I wished there were more on the plate for $16 …

Desserts on the other hand were hit-and-miss.  We ordered the chestnut crepes, but found that there was just too much honey for the chestnut flavor to handle.  The polenta budino with hazlenuts was spot-on; it was a new dessert to me, and one I hope to try out at other places, too (if anyone else serves it).

In my opinion, the pizza was very good – I look forward to trying out the other combinations on the menu.  However, the possibility that the other pastas on the menu could be at least as half as good alone warrants a second visit.  Now if only they were BYO …

Written by afterdinnersneeze

23 February 2010 at 4:39pm