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December 31, 2006 Cuisine: Asian, Eclectic & International, Pan-Asian & Pacific Rim 325 Chestnut St, Philadelphia 19106 Btwn S 3rd St & S 4th St Phone: 215-574-9440 Website: http://www.buddakan.com/

Appetizer: Kobe Beef Satay with Vegetable Tempura ($16)

Entree I: Asian Barbeque Pork - slices of grilled tenderloin with chinese broccoli and giant panko crusted onion rings ($26)

Entree II: Japanese Black Cod with a miso glaze and cream cheese and arugula sushi rolls ($24)

Dessert: "Dip Sum" Doughnuts - five-spice sugar mini doughnuts served warm with blackberry jam, chocolate sauce and ginger cream cheese for dipping ($9)


The Astronomer and I rocked in the New Year at my favorite Philly restaurant: Buddakan. The ambiance at Buddakan is too trendy for my taste (see: giant glowing Buddha statue, waterfall wall, two bars), but the great food keeps bringing me back.

We were seated at 11 PM in the upstairs dining room which I was really excited about because I had never sat there before. The room's lit white curtains created a relaxed mood.

We began our meal with the Kobe Beef Satay; our waiter assured us that the beef was authentic Kobe. The meat was presented on wooden skewers and served with a side of vegetable tempura and a soy sauce-based dipping sauce. The beef tasted really fatty and not nearly as tender as the Kobe beef the Astronomer and I had at Nobu. The vegetable tempura saved the day. Asparagus, potatoes, and shitake mushrooms were battered and fried to a wonderful crisp. My favorite was the mushroom. Although the tempura was perfect in every way, the appetizer as a whole left a lot to be desired.

The portions at Buddakan are generous and served family-style. Our first entree was the Asian Barbeque Pork. The pork was moist, tender, and delicious. The barbeque sauce was flavorful upon the delicate slices of grilled tenderloin. The Chinese broccoli was stir fried to a perfect state and added freshness to the dish. My favorite side was the giant Panko crusted onion rings. The onions were thick and the savory batter was just salty enough. The Panko crusting provided a hearty texture that was fun to bite into.

Our second entree was the Japanese Black Cod with a miso glaze. The dish originally came with wasabi mashed potatoes, but our friendly waiter allowed me to substitute for some cream cheese and arugula sushi rolls. The fish was very good, the flesh was buttery and melted in my mouth. The carrot-slaw was quite flavorless so I mixed them with the pork's broccoli, which made them much tastier. The sushi rolls were awesome! Cream cheese and arugula are a great combination.

My favorite dessert at Buddakan is the Banana Tower. Sadly, the Astronomer is not a fan of bananas so we compromised and ordered the Dip Sum Doughnuts and they were fabulous. The doughnuts were warm out of the deep fryer and evenly coated with sugar and a little spice, but mostly sugar. All of the sauces were great, but my favorite was the cream cheese with bits of crystallized ginger. Yum!

Here's to a delicious 2007!


Brasserie Perrier

December 16, 2006 Cuisine: French, Bistro 1619 Walnut St, Philadelphia 19103 Btwn S 16th St & S 17th St Phone: 215-568-3000 Website: www.brasserieperrier.com --
Appetizer I: House Smoked Salmon Lemon Crème Fraiche, Potato Blini, Red Pepper Caviar ($13)
Appetizer II: Housemade Potato Gnocchi Butternut Squash, Fontina Cheese, Toasted Pumpkins Seeds, Sweet Garlic Sauce ($15)

Entree I: Crispy Black Sea Bass - Truffled Parsnip Puree, Braised Belgian Endive, Extra-virgin Olive Oil Emulsion ($36)

Entree II: Roasted Breast of Free Range Chicken and Leg Stuff with Forest Mushrooms, polenta cake, Sauce Natural ($29)


Our dinner at Brasserie Perrier was hands down one of the best meals the Astronomer and I have ever eaten. I dined at BP once before with my brother during Swarthmore Family Weekend 2004, but didn't think too highly of it because we ordered strange items like sweetbreads and wild boar. This visit was a totally different story...

We started our feast with two appetizers. I chose the smoked salmon, while the Astronomer chose the gnocchi. I had read good things about the smoked salmon and liked the fact that the fish was smoked on the premise. A more than generous portion of thinly sliced smoked salmon was placed atop a potato blin, which is a small, yeast-leavened, buckwheat pancake. The smoked salmon was luxurious! The salty fish paired beautifully with the hearty blin and rich lemon crème fraiche. The red pepper "caviar" was made with science, but tasty nevertheless. I especially liked how each "egg" popped in my mouth and released it's flavor. The smoked salmon appetizer was incredible.

The Housemade Potato Gnocchi was also outstanding. The Astronomer described the gnocchi's texture as "delicate." I had a couple of bites of the dish and totally agree; each gnocchi melted in my mouth. The butternut squash added a wonderful sweetness and the pepitas brought about an interesting crunch. The cheese and sauce were amazingly rich and creamy. Almost too much goodness for my taste. It's a good thing the Astronomer prefers decadent sauces. The dish was a refreshing and innovative take on the classic Italian dish.

For my entree I ordered the chicken, while the Astronomer ordered the sea bass. We traded plates numerous times throughout the meal because sharing is caring. Even though I think chicken is an inferior meat, I had a good feeling about BP's preparations. While I'm not a full convert yet, I'm on my way because this dish was the greatest chicken I have ever eaten.

Moist, moister, moistest!

The juices were locked in and the spices (probably just salt and pepper) were perfect. The forest mushroom stuffing was also very lovely. In fact, I would have liked a side of mushroom dressing. The polenta cake was wonderfully dense and full of buttery flavor. The dish also included some sautéed vegetables including green beans, spinach and baby carrots. Wow, what a combination of flavors!

The Astronomer's sea bass was equally divine, but much more subtle in flavor. The sea bass was battered very lightly and fried to a perfect crisp, skin included. The batter was salted nicely and thus contrasted impeccably with the sweet pureed parsnips. The dish’s only flaw was the braised Belgian endive; it was much too bitter to be enjoyable.

By the time dessert rolled around, we were much too stuffed to indulge. I look forward to returning to BP for their lounge menu which includes fondue and steak frites!



Davio's banquet room for private parties is located in the penthouse.
December 13, 2006 Cuisine: Italian, Steakhouses 111 S 17th St, Philadelphia 19103 2nd Floor of the Provident National Bank Phone: 215-563-4810 Website: www.davios.com --

Hors D'oeuvres Philly Cheesesteak Spring Rolls, Spicy Ketchup Mini Crab Cakes, Caper Aioli Tomato & Mozzarella Bruschetta Smoked Salmon, Lemon Mascarpone, Potato Chip Antipasta Station Marinated Vegetables, Cured Italian Meats, Imported Cheeses, Mixed Olives, Roasted Peppers, Focaccia Bread Salad Station Mixed Field Greens, Cucumber, Balsamic Vinaigrette Davio's Classic Caesar Salad, Homemade Croutons Pasta Station Penne, Applewood Smoked Chicken, Spinach, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Walnut Cream Sauce Ricotta Stuffed Rigatoni, Rose Basil Sauce Carving Station Roasted Filet Mignon Roast Pork Tenderloin Seasonal Accompaniments and Sauces (gargonzola, mushroom, red wine)

Sides Roasted Asparagus Polenta Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Dessert Station Assortment of Davio's Italian Desserts - Cheesecake, Lemon Tartlet, Praline Hazelnut Mousse cake, Pumpkin Cake, Chocolate Raspberry Cake, Chocolate Dipped Biscotti


Public/Private Ventures had our annual holiday gathering yesterday afternoon at Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse. As far as office parties go, this one was one of the best. The food was phenomenal, the band was festive, the room was gorgeous, and the company was good too.

The party began at noon, but I didn't arrive until 12:30 because being fashionably late never goes out of style. When I arrived, the three-piece band was in full swing playing peppy holiday music, waiters were walking around with Hors D'oeuvres, an antipasta station was set up in the back of the room, and the bar was open with wine and top shelf liquors. I passed on the booze because I don't drink my calories.

Appetizers: I was quickly offered a mini crab cake; the first of three or four. The crab cake was placed atop a crustless round of white bread and dabbed with a Caper Aioli on the bottom to adhere it to the bread. The crab cake was excellent - slightly crisp on the outside, large chunks of crab on the inside, and its natural flavors brought out by the aioli. Another appetizer standout was the Philly Cheesesteak Spring Rolls; I had two of those. A better name would have been the Philly Cheesesteak Taquito because it was deep fried. I liked everything about it - the meat was salty, the wrap was crisp, and the ketchup was spicy. Well done. I had one of the Smoked Salmon appetizers, which was pretty good. However, the potato chip had a very strong taste so it sadly outshined the more delicate Lemon Mascarpone and fish.

The antipasta station had a good selection of meats and cheeses, as well as fruits (berries and figs) and vegetables to complement the flavors. My favorite cheese was the smoked Gouda. The smoky flavor was divine. There were stronger cheese offerings as well, including two types of goat cheese. However, they were a bit too intense for lunchtime. I also really enjoyed the prepared mushrooms. My favorite cured meats were the salami and prosciutto.

Main Course: The salad, pasta, side dishes, and meat were served buffet-style. I passed on the salad because greens are a waste of precious space. I went with a piece of roasted filet mignon drizzled with the gargonzola sauce, a side of asparagus, and both types of pasta. The filet mignon was delicious; it made me appreciate cows all over again. I received an end piece of the roast, so it wasn't as rare as I would have liked but tasty nevertheless. The gargonzola sauce was good, but not needed because the meat itself was fantastic. The asparagus was simply prepared. The pastas were excellent as well. Even though I hate penne as a pasta shape, I couldn't complain about the accompaniments. I loved the sun dried tomatoes. The rigatoni was stuffed with ricotta cheese, which was creamy and mild. The rose basil sauce was the perfect sauce choice. I tried to go back for some polenta, but they were fresh out. So I moved on to dessert!

Dessert: The dessert offerings were AMAZING! I tried the pumpkin cake, cheesecake, lemon tartlet, and the praline hazelnut mousse cake. The cheesecake was decent, but nothing uber special. The lemon tartlet was very lemony which I loved, but the tart shell was a bit too tough. So I ate the filling and tossed the crust. My favorites were the pumpkin cake and the praline hazelnut mousse cake. The pumpkin cake had a lite, airy, pudding-like consistency. It tasted like whipped pumpkin pie filling. Mmm! The praline hazelnut mousse cake rocked my world. It consisted of three layers - the base layer was a flaky and crunchy praline cookie of sorts, the middle layer was a hazelnut mousse, and the top layer was a hazelnut gel. OMG. The three different textures worked incredibly well together and put Nutella to shame. What a wonderful note to end a spectacular feast!


White Dog Cafe

December 8, 2006 Cuisine: American (New), Vegetarian 3420 Sansom St, Philadelphia 19104 Btwn 34th & 36th St Phone: 215-386-9224 Website: http://www.whitedog.com/ -- Entree I: Pork Loin - Bosc pears and apples with a Chanterelle mushroom gravy ($23.00) Entree II: Low Country Spiced Crispy Pekin Duck Breast - Cajun spoonbread, smothered greens, with crawfish etouffee sauce ($23.00) Entree III: Herb Roasted Free Range Lancaster County Chicken Half with Natural Jus - sage roasted heirloom cheese pumpkin panzanella with local green beans and shallot confit ($19.00) Entree VI: Rosemary Grilled Buck Run Farm Strip Steak with Flying Fish Beer Batter Fried Onion Rings - sour cream and chive mashed potatoes, garlic braised greens and burgundy Dijon glaze ($28.00) -- From opentable.com: "White Dog Cafe is nationally known for it's contemporary American menus, fashioned from the highest quality farm-fresh ingredients and humanely raised meats and poultry. Their menus change seasonally to capture the best locally grown, organic and sustainable foods. " Colton, Duncan, the Astronomer and I dined at White Dog Cafe the other evening to see if their food was as impressive as their business philosophy. Our conclusion? A lukewarm yes. Colton ordered the pork loin, Duncan had the steak, the Astronomer ordered the chicken, and I had the duck. We passed on appetizers because they were mostly salads, how boring. My dish was very delicious and unique. I rarely order duck, but the Cajun preparations really enticed me. The meat was moist (prepared medium rare) and naturally flavorful. I definitely need to order duck at restaurants more often! The crawfish etouffee sauce was spicy and an interesting accompanimentent to the duck. I especially liked the little pieces of shrimp in the sauce. The smothered greens were an acquired taste. I did not like the greens at first due to its strong vinegar taste, but throughout the meal they sort of grew on me. My favorite side was the spoonbread, which is a sweet egg and cornmeal concoction. It was just the right amount of sweetness to balance out the acidic greens. Colton thought his pork loin was perfect - just like the duck it was moist and flavorful. His chief complaint were the skimpy sides. He would have liked more apples and pears with his entree. Duncan echoed Colton's complaint about the portion of the sides, his entree only had a small helping of mashed potatoes and two onion rings. He did not enjoy the greens and left them untouched. Sides aside, Duncan thought his steak was amazing. Prepared rare, the delicate piece of meat spewed delicious "life blood." Perfect for a vegetarian like Duncan. The Astronomer said his chicken tasted like chicken. The flavors did not permeate into the meat as he had hoped. He had no complaints about his sides. White Dog Cafe can be summed up as a restaurant with phenomenal meats, skimpy sides, and horrendous decor.


Fellini Cafe Trattoria

December 7, 2006 Cuisine: Italian 2216 Walnut St, Philadelphia 19103 Btwn S 22nd St & S 23rd St Phone: 215-972-0860 Website: www.fellini-cafe.com/ --

French bread, marinara sauce, pickled red peppers, parmesan cheese (complimentary)

Panino Fellini - Grilled homemade bread with olive oil, vinaigrette, salad, tomato & Parma ham ($5.95)

Panino al Pollo - Grilled Chicken, Provolone, Lettuce and Tomato Sauce ($4.95)

-- Fellini Cafe Trattoria is a local chain in the Philadelphia region. There are six locations (mostly located in the 'burbs) and all are independently run by each franchisee. The menu is consistent across all the locations where I have dined. I tried Fellini for the first time my sophomore year of college for a Cross Country team dinner and have loved it ever since. I even had my 22nd birthday party there! Sadly, since my Swarthmore days, the Baltimore Pike location has shut its doors. Luckily, a Fellini opened up one block from my apartment in Center City. Woot. I usually go to Fellini for dinner, but have always wanted to go for lunch because they only serve paninis at lunch. During our visit, Wes and I both ordered paninis. I had the Panino Fellini, while Wes had the Panino al Pollo. The complimentary bread was very good, it would've been better if it were warm. While Fellini makes a mean pasta, their paninis are mediocre. Our paninis were a let down because they didn't meet our expectations of grill marks and melted cheese. However, after this experience I am starting to question my expectations because my panino from Paninoteca back in October also lacked grill marks and melted cheese. Here's how Wikipedia defines "panino": "A panino is a sandwich made from a small loaf of bread, typically a ciabatta. The loaf is often cut horizontally and filled with salami, ham, meat, cheese or other food, and sometimes served hot." I think my definition may be a off. Expectations aside, my panino had both high and low points. The "homemade bread" was a definite high. It was crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and held the contents well. The mixed green salad was also delicious. I requested provolone cheese for my sandwich, which was good but pricy ($1.50). The panino's lows were pretty low. The Parma ham was most definitely deli counter ham and skimpily applied. And the tomato sauce on the bread made it soggy and cold. I did not try Wes' al pollo, but it seemed similar to mine (minus the ham, plus chicken). The chicken was grilled and cut into strips and seemed a bit more robust than my ham. Wes said that his grilled chicken had a “burnt” taste in spots, but other than that it was good. The panini portions were ridiculous. I could only finish half of mine and Wes only ate a quarter of his. Next time, I'll stick to the pasta!