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philadining

Mémé

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David Katz, who many of us knew from the restaurant M, has set up shop in the space that formerly housed Melograno, at 22nd and Spruce. The room itself is not dramatically different, in that it's still pretty tightly-packed, pretty noisy, and still dominated by the large windows and the open kitchen at one end. But the vibe is not the same at all, it's brighter, somehow a little more relaxed-feeling (not that Melograno was all that uptight.)

There's a blackboard menu, as well as small printed ones whose size, content and typography reminded us a bit of those at the Momofuku restaurants in NY. There are concise descriptions of the food, which tends toward straightforward, classic fare. It's not retro - there's no Steak Diane or Lobster Thermidor, as has been promised at Stever Starr's new Butcher and Singer; it's not self-consciously homey - there's no meatloaf or grilled cheese sandwiches - it's just classic good food.

Early press has been unable to resist deploying vivid metaphors of Katz's cooking being as gonzo as the restaurant's Ralph Steadman logo, or as brash and in-your-face as the chef's persona. I can't say I perceived either thing. What I experienced was very tasty food, neither gonzo nor badass, just delicious. As I had posted about Pub and Kitchen, there's nothing wrong with very well-executed food, no matter what the style.

And I'm not sure what to label this format, so I won't. It's tempting to resort to the cliché of "comfort food" but my grandma didn't make foie gras tarts or steak tartare, didn't seek out artisanal ingredients or roast shitakes with her chicken. Let's just say it's classics.

"Smallish"

Mixed Chicories, Roquefort, Walnut, Pear.

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Sizzling Mussels, Lemon Olive Oil, Herbs

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Cherry Tomatoes, Ricotta Salata, Grilled Bread, Balsamic

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Scallops, Butternut Squash, Bacon, Brown Butter

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Foie Gras Tart, Sweet Onions, Apples, Maple-Sherry Glaze

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Beef Tartare, Salty Chips, Quail Egg

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"For Two"

Whole Chicken, Roasted Shiitakes, Sweet Onion Grits, Madiera

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Roasted Lamb Leg, Ratatouille, Potatoes, Lamb Sauce

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"Larger"

Swordfish, Olives Preserved Lemon

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Sautéed Skate, Slow Cooked Tomatoes, Tapenade

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Wagyu Skirt Steak, Mushrooms, Fingerlings, Brandy-peppercorn sauce

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Duck Breast, Chard, Beet, Onions, Port

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(there's a fettuccini with truffles, and flatbread with goat cheese, figs and prosciutto that we skipped)

Dessert

Chocolate Ganache cake, Mint Ice Cream

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Espresso Pots de Creme, Orange Confit

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Brown Butter Cake, Banana Gelato

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It was all quite good, but personally, I think favorites were the (very) lemony mussels, the scallops, the foie gras tart, the curry-spiked tartare, the steak, the chicken, and all the ice creams on the desserts. I'm told the duck was delicious, but I somehow managed to miss that dish. I should have known, that's what one risks when eating with eGulleteers! I'll leave it to my dedicated dining partners to describe their faves, and to go into specific details, but suffice it to say that most everything was very vividly-flavored.

There were no big culinary surprises here, just very careful execution of good recipes. It's interesting that at a table of jaded diners, the simple roast chicken was mentioned often as a favorite. The juiciness of the meat, the intensity of the sauce, the roasted crackle of the skin, all made for a rare treat. Similarly the steak was a piece of good meat, cooked carefully, with only a subtle buff-up from a good sauce. Quality ingredients cooked well, it's hard to find fault with that.

If there's anything to give me pause, it would just be the same question I had about Pub and Kitchen: will this kind of food keep me interested? Time will tell. I think it might, and I'm sure there will be some changes and variations, specials and seasonal tweaks. And regardless, I think I could eat that chicken a few times a week...

It's an interesting trend: many of our cutting-edge younger chefs are stepping away from the modern techniques and presentations, although I imagine that some of the experiences cooking in that style of modern cuisine might quietly inform even classic preparations. I'll be very interested to see how this menu evolves. Apparently many people are urging Katz to slip in a few family recipes, perhaps from his Mémé, that reflect his Moroccan heritage. Whether it's that, or just the natural flow of a creative cook, I'm sure the food will change, and I'll look forward to seeing how.

(In the interest of full-disclosure, chef Katz knows me, and did come by the table to say hello at the end of the meal. But even though it's a small restaurant, we were seated at the furthest table from the kitchen, and I'm not sure that we were recognized before or during the meal, and I got no sense that we received any special treatment, so I think the photos and descriptions are a fair representation of what anyone would get. Tables are spaced close enough that it was pretty easy to see that others were getting dishes that looked the same as ours. )

I was initially saddened to hear that Melograno was moving, but as it turns out, their new space (on Sansom Street, just west of 20th) looks to be working very well for them, and now we have yet another great place to eat, so it may have worked out well for both restaurants, and for Philadelphia diners too.

Mémé is BYOB for a short time while the paperwork is getting finished, but they will soon have a wine list. We were able to get a table n a friday night, and while it was busy, there were not lines of people waiting, which may not be the case for long! So go now...


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Went to meme last night ( Sunday) . Really enjoyed the food, and the vibe of the place. It feels as though every table is a chef's table since you can hear the ticket machine, the chef expediting the food, and calling for "pick ups" across the restaurant. The general vibe i got was that the attention is to the ingredients and the techniques in which they are cooked. We got a quick glance at the kitchen on our way out, no immersion circulators or Co2 chargers, just a large cook range. There is a back to basics approach that I , as a professional chef , really appreciated. The food was great. Highly recommend the place.

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we stopped in on saturday night. 830 res, not seated till 9 -- thanks, dawdling smug larry david lookalike! eat slower! take more leisurely sips of your coffee! sit around gabbing with nothing on the table for another 15 minutes, why don'tcha! we're not hungry! it's cool!

i know why restaurants put time limits on the tables, is all i'm sayin.

anyway, not their fault.

the like, 25 minute pause between apps and entrees was kinda weird though, especially when i looked around the restaurant and no one had any food.

when the entrees came, they were great, though. i would say they made up for the wait, but by that time it was like 10 and we were through a couple bottles of wine without much in our stomachs, so we pretty much housed everything in sight, and it's all a little fuzzy.

anyway, i assume those problems were due to it being the last nice saturday of the year and the place being packed. things happen. i'll be back for the food, anyway.


Edited by mrbigjas (log)

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The wife and I had a most enjoyable brunch last Sunday. Wagyu skirt steak with a perfectly poached egg for myself, and my wife enjoyed her french toast. Everything was delicious, the coffee was strong and the prices were reasonable. Will be back soon to try some other dishes as well.

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Sorry to say - my dinner there was pretty awful. Maybe it was an off night but it was nothing like described above. Matter of fact - I bee lined for the chicken and it didn't look that phila's pic. My shrooms were scorched and it was so salty that - swear - my lips were chapped by the time I got home I was so dehydrated.

I won't crap too much on the thread as many of my trusted palates have spoken highly - but YMMV in a big way. Apart from the excellent desserts and shrimp, woof - yikes. Incredibly overdone - too thymey, too cuminy, too salty. The gentler hand must have been absent.

When they get their liquor license, they better be consistently good.

FWIW


Dough can sense fear.

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Sorry to say - my dinner there was pretty awful.  Maybe it was an off night but it was nothing like described above.  Matter of fact - I bee lined for the chicken and it didn't look that phila's pic.  My shrooms were scorched and it was so salty that - swear - my lips were chapped by the time I got home I was so dehydrated. 

I won't crap too much on the thread as many of my trusted palates have spoken highly - but YMMV in a big way.  Apart from the excellent desserts and shrimp, woof - yikes.  Incredibly overdone - too thymey, too cuminy, too salty.  The gentler hand must have been absent.

When they get their liquor license, they better be consistently good.

FWIW

I agree about the salt. When I go there, I tell them not to add salt and to go easy on the butter. Additionally, I have been disappointed with the whole fish dishes, since they are too complicated to eat at the table. They should fillet it for you before serving. The salads are always quite nice (good mix of flavors), and I haven't tried the desserts.

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We had dinner at Meme last night. The food was well prepared and thoughtful. I had no problems with the amount of salt, in fact everything was well seasoned and not overly so. I am very sensitive to too much salt and I had some trepidation about that after reading some of the reviews on this thread. For example, I attended the Shola dinner at Blackfish last year and found many of the dishes inedible, and burning my mouth due to overseasoning.

We had the sizzling mussels and they were fabulous. The mussels carmelized on the hot skillet as they were brought to the table. We had a microgreen salad with grapefruit that was refreshing and nicely dressed, with the exact right amount of finishing salt. The spiced scallops were seared on the outside and raw in the middle and they were coated with an intriguing mix of spices that we could not identify, maybe some cardomom, not sure. I loved the foie gras tart, it was decadent, with foie gras pate that had some bruleed sugar on top, cooked apples and puff pastry. The Moroccan lamb ribs were very good, one of the ribs had honeyed almonds sprinkled on it which really took it to a new level of deliciousness.

The meyer lemon meringue tarte was delicious, but I would have rather had a true pie crust on it instead of puff pastry. The hazelnut pot de creme was exquisite, I could eat it all day. It had a nice crunchy topping.

We had great service. Our waiter was knowledgeable about the food and he made an excellent wine suggestion. The food came out at a good pace. We were very happy and so were the people next to us who started a conversation with us about how good the food was and what we thought about the dishes we ordered. The bill was reasonable, 125 with a nice bottle of wine, for two.

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I ate at Meme a year ago or so, and left with a good impression of the place--I had the duck dish pictured above, thought it was cooked and seasoned well. I went back a month ago, and it got worse (either that or I ordered the wrong dishes)! The smoked salmon flatbread was unexciting, the date sauce on the foie gras appetizer was way too sweet, catch of the day was very bland. The butternut squash agnolotti was alright, but wouldn't order it again.

A shame about this place, since I enjoyed it a lot the first time. At this point, I find Noble more promising.

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We had two more amazing meals at Meme over the past year. The last one was about a month ago. I think the butternut squash agnolotti in brown butter sauce are a revelation. We had a gnocchi special the last time we ate there that I thought were the best gnocchi I had ever eaten, even compared to Vetri. I dont remember the particulars of the dish except that I think it was potato gnocchi with some type of meat sauce. The gnocchi were exceptionally light. The steak tartare is a favorite of ours as are the mussels. The foie gras last visit was a terrine, and it tasted like decadent butter. We had a steak dish that was also very good, perfect preparation and spot on flavor.

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Meme-FriedChicken2.jpg

Meme serves Fried Chicken for Thursday lunch and only Thursday lunch. Not sure why just Thursday lunch, but glad they do. Two pieces of dark meat - leg and thigh - served with a hugh biscuit (cat head perhaps) and, for some reason, a spicy mayonnaise, and a bottle of Miller or unsweetened ice tea. Perfect fried chicken - a thin flour coating, pan fried and finished in the oven. Crisp skin, the meat inside squirting juice with the first bite. The biscuit was crying out for some homemade preserves. Got a side of macaroni salad. Was craving greens, but that was the only side. First come, first served. When the chicken runs out, lunch has been served.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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We just made it back to Mémé the other day too, but for dinner, rather than thursday lunch. It really made me kick myself for not going more often. I find that neighborhood to be almost impossible to park in, which has been a disincentive a few times, but I really need to remember that I should just suck it up and park wherever possible and walk, or spring for a parking lot, or whatever it takes.

Oddly enough, we ate a lot of the same things that we had back when the restaurant was brand new (see photos above.) We chatted a bit with chef Katz, and we were laughing about how he's changed a lot of those dishes, but in an odd coincidence, many of them happened to change BACK to their original forms recently.

This was actually not a disappointment to me, I enjoyed it quite a lot back then, and liked it just as much this time too. I love those sizzling mussels, in fact I might rate them as one of the best appetizers in the city. And the steak tartare is probably my favorite version of that in town as well. I happen to enjoy the Moroccan spicing he uses in it, although not everyone does...

The roast chicken for two might be a little steep at $42, but it's delicious: tender, juicy, seated in the most intense jus you can imagine. The duck was great, once again accompanied by swiss chard and beets. We also had a special of Steelhead Trout with trumpet mushrooms that was subtle, but quite nice. The fish's ocean-going ways make it a bit more salmon-like than a rainbow trout, so the meat was pinker and richer than we had expected, but that only made the dish more flavorful.

Wednesdays are BYOB night, but the place has an interesting wine (and beer) list, and pretty fairly-priced too, so I'd go back any night.

And very exciting was the flier they were passing out advertising a special night at Zahav, featuring chef Katz doing his homestyle Moroccan thing! Menu looks very good, including:

Grilled Sardines with Chermoula

Meatballs with Celery and Peas

Chicken with Green Olives and Lemon

Couscous with Favas and Morels

Crispy Meat Cigars

and the main course, Dafina, a traditional sabbath stew eaten by Moroccan Jews. As Chef Katz described it to us our mouths were watering, so we'll be there for sure.

The dinner is Wednesday May 12, at Zahav, $45 per person. I assume there will be more info on the Mémé and/or Zahav websites at some point.


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Chef Katz occasionally makes some culinary references to his family's roots in Morocco, and even went pretty deep into it about a year ago, at a special dinner at Zahav, as mentioned in the post above (sorry for not reporting back on that, I thought I took pictures... )

He went fully back to his roots this past wednesday, when he hosted two seatings of a family-style Moroccan dinner, prepared under the supervision of his mother. The regular Mémé kitchen did the actual cooking, but they used David's mom's recipes, and she was on-site to make sure it was done right. As he explained in some welcoming remarks, this was not just served family-style, this really was home-style cooking, what they would eat at home when he was growing up, and as such it wasn't going to be restauranty-flashy, just good.

And I think I'd agree with that portrayal, it was indeed comforting, hearty, homey food, but from a Moroccan home. The spicing was more subtle than I'd expected, but then, I'm probably used to Moroccan restaurants that while referencing the same geography, are cooking from a different cultural tradition, and that are amping-up the exoticism for effect. Chef Katz joked that there weren't going to be any belly dancers, and that worked as a metaphor for the meal too: it wasn't a show, it was dinner.

The restaurant is named for what he called his grandmother, and his kids' grandmother was overseeing the cooking, so the dinner was dubbed Mémé at Mémé.

Cooked Carrot Salad

cumin, parsley

Beets and Beet greens Salad

Cooked Olives

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Celery, Peas Potato Stew

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Baked Blue Cod

Tomato, Lemon, Herbs

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Lamb and Turnip Tagine

Prunes, Almonds

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Potato Pastels

Ground Beef

Grilled Merguez

Couscous, hot pepper salad

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Almond Apricot Cigars

Orange Blossom Honey

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Mint tea...

I'm frequently pestering Chef Katz to put some more Moroccan food on his regular menu, and some dishes do show up from time to time, but after this meal, I'll be hoping for it even more, especially that tomatoey, garlicy, lemony cod, and the tender, slightly sweet lamb tagine...

That said, as I was waiting for my dining partners, I was reading over the restaurant's regular menu, which is fairly compact, and is not too different from other times I've gone, but looking at that list made me kick myself for not eating here more often, without a special event to motivate me. Here's hoping I can manage that soon, I need some sizzling mussels...


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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