INTERMISSION: Focus on Philly Restaurant Week

by Walter Bender

Amada, 217-219 Chestnut Street

One of the great epicurean events in the Philadelphia area each year is Philadelphia Center City Restaurant Week, where participating restaurants (and there are a LOT of participating restaurants!) offer prix fixe menus for $35. This opens the Philadelphia culinary market to a whole new group, those who might otherwise not be willing to pay the prices to some of Philadelphia’s great restaurants. Some of the participating restaurants are Brazilian churrascarias CHIMA and FOGO DE CHAO, Italian restaurants LaSCALA’S, PORCINI, SPASSO ITALIAN GRILLE, and VARALLI, Stephen Starr’s Gastro Pub THE DANDELION, Asian restaurants BUDDAKAN, SAMPAN and SWANKY BUBBLES, Japanese restaurant FUJI MOUNTAIN, local restaurant icon LE BEC FIN, and Garces Restaurant Group restaurants CHIFA, GARCES TRADING COMPANY, TINTO, and AMADA. (For a full listing of participating restaurants as well as a sneak peek at the menus, go to I went to AMADA last night to get a taste (no pun intended) of what Restaurant Week is all about.

Chef Jose Garces' restaurant AMADA is one of the dining establishments participating in Philadelphia Restaurant Week.

Chef Garces has prepared a special menu for Restaurant Week, comprising a beautiful selection of tapas from his usual dinner menu. For the Prix Fixe, each diner selects two of the first course selections, two of the second course selections and a dessert. I took my favorite foodie with me on this journey so we were able to sample a total of 10 dishes. First courses included Aged Manchego Cheese with a truffled lavender honey (the truffles giving a sharp contrast to the sweetness of the honey, accompanied by green apple slices), Melon con Jamon (a Garces take on a traditional ham and melon, with Serrano ham rolled around melon slices and grilled), Chorizo Pamplona ( a delicious spread with caperberries, cornichon and French Dijon), and Ensalade Verde (a personal favorite of mine…mixed greens, asparagus and avocado with shaved cheese and a lemon dressing.) Second courses at our table included Chorizo Brochette (a flatbread with ground chorizo, cheese and black truffles…yum!), Esparragos Con Trufas (grilled asparagus, poached egg, mahon crisp and more truffles), Madre E Hijo (chicken breast with truffles and fried egg) and the favorite of the table, Lubina al Pescadore (a roasted sea bass and potatoes with arbequina olives, preserved lemon and salsa verde. The bass was “like butta!”) Desserts were Crema Catalana (my fave…vanilla custard and a canelle of vanilla ice cream with caramel veil, ginger and pine nuts) and Pastel de Chocolat (my companion’s fave…flourless chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream and chocolate-hazelnut caramel with hazelnuts.) Add in some of Chef Garces’ house specialty Sangria and it was a wonderful dining experience.

Restaurant Week is a great time to experience the world-class cuisine that our local restaurants have to offer. Some of the restaurants offer limited menus for the occasion, but there is enough variety that there is something for everyone. Time is running out for this year, but try to get in (if you go earlier in the evening, there are still reservations available in many of the restaurants) and mark your calendars for next year!

Philadelphia Center City Restaurant Week
September 12-16 and 19-23, 2011

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