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philadining

Koo Zee Doo

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OK, the name's a little silly, but we've had a couple of terrific meals at this new BYOB on North 2nd street. It's in the space where Copper Bistro was, just a stone's throw north of Spring Garden St.

For some reason, I never made it to Copper, so I'm not sure how much it's changed, but the space is cozy (Koo Zee?) with recessed candles in the walls, a few cork-topped tables, and an attractive counter overlooking the kitchen.

The owner/chefs are David Gilberg and Carla Concalves, previously responsible for the interesting menu at the early days of The Ugly American, the first minute and a half of Coquette, and before that, Loie, Matyson and others. Carla Goncalves was born in Portugal, so she's the one bringing the authenticity to the table, but Gilberg seems to have absorbed a lot from some visits to the country, and Goncalves family dinners, because what we've eaten has been pretty delicious.

I'm not all that obsessed with authenticity if the food's good, but I do enjoy eating food that is actually reflective of a place, not just having a few flavors splashed here and there to give a vague impression. I've generally found the more authentic flavors to be much more interesting and satisfying than when they're only hinted at in the interest of being more accessible. In this particular case, we happened to have an expert witness handy, so we brought a real, live Portugeezer with us to offer his opinion.

We were a little worried at first, he was making some strange faces when reading the menu and listening to descriptions from our server, but when the food started arriving, he unclenched, and eventually, we're pretty sure we actually saw him smile! Of course nothing is ever going to be exactly the way each person's family did it, but overall, he found the flavors and aromas to be familiar and legitimate, even if the final dishes had some unique twists. Most importantly, the food was tasty. I'm totally fine with interpretations, as long as the chef understands what he's interpreting.

A perfect example of that is the Bacalau Salad. Gilberg cures his fish in-house, creating a lighter, fresher, flakier version of salt cod, but one that still fills the role of the traditional preserved product. In this presentation, it melds beautifully with the chickpeas, olives and egg.

KZD-BacalauSalad.jpg

We also loved the Pork and Clams, which featured tender chunks of meat amidst a variety of clams, including some lovely tiny sweet ones, that might have been cockles. Perfectly roasted cubes of potato rest on top, and soak up the intense sauce that collects in the bottom of the serving dish.

Duck rice is crazy good, leg meat baked into the rice, a grilled breast on top.

KZD-DuckRice.jpg

The steak would be pretty tasty on its own, but drape it with ham, add some runny eggs, sauteed rabe and amazing fried potatoes, and wow...

KZD-Steak.jpg

The signature Cozido Minhoto, a big pot of meats and vegetables, is a great cold-weather meal, with three kinds of sausage, ribs, chicken, root vegetables, and a comforting broth. It's homey, and homely, boiling everything together will do that, but the variety of ingredients makes it more interesting than mom's pot roast.

We liked the Milho Frito, which was kind of like slabs of fried polenta accopanied by roasted and grilled vegetables. It's dense, rib-sticking food, even this vegetarian dish, but marked by vibrant flavors, like the smoky accents on the grilled and roasted vegetables.

The desserts all look good, but so far we've only, barely, had room to try one, the Pastel de Nata, a custard tart. That had a beautifully flaky crust and creamy filling, so I'm willing to bet all the desserts rock. Some day I'll leave room to try some. Maybe.

Portions are huge, and things are served family-style, so go with some friends, or family, and go hungry. This particular style of food is not well-represented in Philly, except for a few places out in the northeast, and this is a great chance to try this cuisine in a context where it's executed very well, and has a modern updated feel, while retaining a solid link to tradition.

A few more musings on my blog>>


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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In this particular case, we happened to have an expert witness handy, so we brought a real, live Portugeezer with us to offer his opinion.

Order has been maintained in the universe. My very first thought upon seeing this thread was, "did they bring He-Himself-the-critical along?" Most particularly in this case, I suspect his opining was both entertaining and quite valuable in terms of authenticity.


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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In this particular case, we happened to have an expert witness handy, so we brought a real, live Portugeezer with us to offer his opinion.

Order has been maintained in the universe. My very first thought upon seeing this thread was, "did they bring He-Himself-the-critical along?" Most particularly in this case, I suspect his opining was both entertaining and quite valuable in terms of authenticity.

Not that entertaining, and "authenticity" is overrated. But it was delicious, and it did take me back. Even the "Cozido" (which does not mean "cooked", I wish people would stop saying that) was appetizing, and that's a trick for what's basically a bunch of boiled stuff.

I hope they do well. I want this place to stay around.

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I hope they do well. I want this place to stay around.

me too. i hope their family style servings and the associated price points will allow them to. it's not that fun to go with just two people, for instance, because you can only have a couple of apps and one entree without spending a mint and having a ton of leftovers -- it makes it hard to decide what to get.

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The pork and clams dish you had looks exactly like the one I had at Tony De Caneca's in the ironbound. It was awesome and I would like to try the one here. Is it open for lunch?

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The pork and clams dish you had looks exactly like the one I had at Tony De Caneca's in the ironbound. It was awesome and I would like to try the one here.

From what little I know about Portuguese food, that's a classic dish, and it is excellent here. We had a good version up at El Balconcito in the Northeast too, but this one was even better.

Is it open for lunch?

Lunch: Friday-Sunday 12pm-3pm

Dinner: Thursday, Sunday, Monday: 5:30pm-10pm, Friday-Saturday: 5:30-11pm

CLOSED: Tuesday, Wednesday

The closed on tuesday-wednesday thing has thrown us off a couple of times, but I'm glad they're open sundays and mondays.

official website: www.koozeedoo.com


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I hope they do well. I want this place to stay around.

me too. i hope their family style servings and the associated price points will allow them to. it's not that fun to go with just two people, for instance, because you can only have a couple of apps and one entree without spending a mint and having a ton of leftovers -- it makes it hard to decide what to get.

Hmm, I made reservations a few days ago, and was glad to see Phil A's positive review. But there are just the two of us... worth it? Or should we invite some friends along?

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I've gone twice with three people, but you know our crowd, maybe that counts as 6 normal people? The three of us actually ordered four main dishes last time...

Mr Big makes a good point, but I guess it depends on your perspective. You could get a couple of starters and share a main, you'd have plenty of food, and wouldn't spend much money. Or you can get two mains for the sake of variety, and just count on leftovers.

I personally think entrees are fairly-priced for what they are (most are in the mid-twenties.) That might seem a little expensive for duck on rice, or pork cubes with clams, but there's a lot of food there. Plus, it's delicious.

As a rule, I think their portioning and serving style is probably a better fit for groups of 4 or more, but I've seen couples there looking pretty happy. Duos just have to be serene with sharing the same entree, or having a lot of food.


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I hope they do well. I want this place to stay around.

me too. i hope their family style servings and the associated price points will allow them to. it's not that fun to go with just two people, for instance, because you can only have a couple of apps and one entree without spending a mint and having a ton of leftovers -- it makes it hard to decide what to get.

Hmm, I made reservations a few days ago, and was glad to see Phil A's positive review. But there are just the two of us... worth it? Or should we invite some friends along?

oh no, it's totally worth it. go!

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I've gone twice with three people, but you know our crowd, maybe that counts as 6 normal people? The three of us actually ordered four main dishes last time...

Mr Big makes a good point, but I guess it depends on your perspective. You could get a couple of starters and share a main, you'd have plenty of food, and wouldn't spend much money. Or you can get two mains for the sake of variety, and just count on leftovers.

I personally think entrees are fairly-priced for what they are (most are in the mid-twenties.) That might seem a little expensive for duck on rice, or pork cubes with clams, but there's a lot of food there. Plus, it's delicious.

As a rule, I think their portioning and serving style is probably a better fit for groups of 4 or more, but I've seen couples there looking pretty happy. Duos just have to be serene with sharing the same entree, or having a lot of food.

oh yeah, i didn't mean to imply that it was overpriced at all. i don't think it is. it's just that tackling a large $27 mound of food means you have to come to an agreement on what you want to eat, if you don't want to end up with a ton of leftovers.

i will point out, btw, that the duck rice is excellent left over.

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The pork and clams dish you had looks exactly like the one I had at Tony De Caneca's in the ironbound. It was awesome and I would like to try the one here. Is it open for lunch?

I ate at Sol-Mar (also in the Ironbound) the following week, and my friend ordered the Carne de Porco a Alentejana. KooZeeDoo's was better than that one as well.

Honestly, most of their stuff was as good as any version I remember having, on either continent. This dish may be the exception: it's not as agressively seasoned as I've had it back home, and I think I prefer that. But that's a quibble: it's still very, very good.


Edited by Capaneus (log)

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Drool. Must try this place some time... I'm terribly out of the PHL loop lately, having only just ate at Modomio for the first time this week... Northern Libs is going to have to appear on my agenda much more frequently it appears.


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Lari Robling raves about KZD in the Daily News.

If there were a quintessential Portuguese dish it would be the Carne de Porco a Alentenjano, a mix of pork and clams, with crisp potatoes ($24). The combination of pork and clam may seem counterintuitive to our tastes stateside, but the melding of flavors in this dish is amazing, as was the tenderness of the pork.

Clams are a featured ingredient in Portuguese cuisine, and in Portugal this dish features their local, small, sweet varieties. Here, cockles are added to our East Coast clams to make the substitution.

Another traditional dish we truly enjoyed was the Arroz de pato, baked duck rice ($24). A perfectly sautéed breast was served on top of a bed of rice with morsels of duck leg. Chorizo sausage added a layer of spicy flavor.


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Another really good meal at KZD. Couldn't resist repeating some favorite dishes, but tried a few new ones as well.

The mushroom turnovers were perfectly fried for a crunchy yet tender exterior, with a mild, creamy center.

Blood sausage salad featured an interesting, chunky sausage, whose richness was cut by a bracingly tart salad of beets, marinated peppers and fresh greens. Very good.

The most surprising dish was the chicken gizzards. We like gizzards well enough, well - actually, I'm not especially fond of them - but my dining companions are, but these were better than any of us had imagined. They were uncharacteristically tender, apparently from a long braise, and delicately flavored, with a comforting, smooth sauce.

For larger plates, we find it impossible to resist the Duck Rice. This was an especially nice version, with wonderful crusty edges on the baked rice.

We also tried the grilled sardines, which are pretty straightforward: simply grilled, and accompanied by marinated peppers. Our representative from the authenticity police remarked that they'd probably be charred a little more severely if one was getting them in Portugal, but these were still pretty tasty, and had some good grill flavor. They are whole fish, so you need to be ready to do a little boning at the table, and its hard to catch all of those fine ribs, but it's worth the trouble.

An finally we returned to another of my favorite dishes here, the Pork and Clams. I can't figure out what kind of magic Chef Gilberg is doing with the potatoes in this dish, they seem like pretty standard fried cubes, but there's something unusually light and fluffy and crunchy about them. The pork itself is tender and delicious, as are the clams, and the combination of the meat and seafood and potato and super-concentrated sauce... it's just one of my favorite things to eat in the whole city right now.

KZD-PorkClams.jpg

As is the Duck Rice. Ooh, and that steak is strangely compelling. And I find myself craving some more of those mushroom turnovers...

We managed to leave room for some desserts this time, and they were all really good. The Pastel de Nata (Custard Tart) has been tweaked a little since we first tried it, and for the better. I liked the first one, and this recent one even more. The Bolo de Bolacha ends up tasting a bit like a tiramisu, but airier. We liked it a lot. And the "Chocolate Salami" is quite delicious too: a dense composition of dark chocolate that has a texture somewhere between a cookie and fudge. It's very hard to do here, but try to leave room for dessert!

We may have found the ideal formula for ordering. The portions here are very large, and presented family style, so it makes sense to abandon the conventional formula of each person ordering his or her own appetizer and entree. We found that three appetizers and three entrees for four people was just about perfect, we were pretty stuffed, yet still managed to squeeze-in some dessert. Or, as we mentioned in earlier posts, order more, and just be ready for the fact that you'll have leftovers. Ordering as we did made this restaurant a crazy bargain, somewhere in the range of $35 per person (including tip) for lots of excellent food, including dessert.

Speaking of crazy bargains, alongside the check was a flier for their New Year's Eve dinner. It's a special 5-course dinner with a couple of choices for each course, for $75 per couple. Yes, that's per couple. Sure it's a BYOB, so you might want to bring your own bubbly, but on this night when most restaurants are quadrupling their normal prices and serving a reduced menu, this is a real anomaly. It looks like a way to sample a variety of their food, at what works out to be a discount from everyday prices, on New Year's Eve. I'd book now, if I were you!


"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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This place is so great... I keep wondering if it's just the fact that it's Portuguese, but then I remember the long, long list of Portuguese restaurants I've despised. It's just amazing food that happens to also remind me of home.

And there's the corroborating witnessing of everyone I know who's been there.

And they're improving, still: that pastel de nata wasn't just "tweaked", it was radically different - and much better. The pie-like crust was gone, replaced by a puff-pastry that was lighter than what I've had before (which is good), and the filling was creamier and a shade tangier (it might still benefit from more aggressive flavoring, but that's very much a quibble), and came still warm, which was great. It's not quite what you'd get in Lisbon, or Newark - but I no longer want it to be, because in this case "different" happens to be a very good alternative.

I still want them to make the feijoada with meat and saussage, like God intended :raz: ; I still think the pork and clams could stand stronger seasoning; and I still hope they try a good old-fashioned acorda de coentros, or another traditional recipe. But none of those are really faults, just avenues I might like to see explored - and you (and the chef) might not.

Speaking of which, was any feijoada on the menu yesterday?

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Koo Zee Doo has quickly become one of our favorite restaurants in Philly. We've only been twice, as we don't live particularly close; if we lived nearby we'd probably go twice a week. The level of care and attention that goes into the food is clearly quite high, and it has great results. For example, everything is perfectly seasoned. We've been known to carry portable salt and pepper containers with us as much restaurant food is not properly seasoned (and good salt and pepper isn't usually available); at Koo Zee Doo we salted the butter but that was it.

The gizzards were truly a revelation; I don't mind the texture they normally have, but in moderation (as in, one yakitori stick). These I could have eaten a large bowl of... and the sauce was fantastic. The blood sausages were also a revelation for me, as all blood sausage I've had in the past hasn't been terribly distinctive, apart from the color. These were distinctive, texturally and in flavor, in a really good way.

All of the mains we've had have been great but I still have a soft spot for the steak with the amazing potatoes. And the desserts are on at least as high a level as the rest of the food.

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They're really doing something special at Koo Zee Doo.

That pork and clams dish may just be the best thing EVER. The potatoes, so crispy! The clams, so tender! The pork, so... porky! It's really something special. Ditto the the gizzards- I agree that it'd be easy to scarf down an entire bowl.

I've gotta get back, as soon as possible. Man.

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i'm hitting up that NYE special they're rockin tomorrow night. but it looks like everything's family style, so do two of us have to come to an agreement about each course? this is going to entail some serious negotiation...

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i'm hitting up that NYE special they're rockin tomorrow night. but it looks like everything's family style, so do two of us have to come to an agreement about each course? this is going to entail some serious negotiation...

Yeah, that deal sounded awesome. I'm hoping to figure out a way of ending up there.

I'm not sure the portioning for New Year's is going to be the same as the a la carte - I assumed it was a per-person charge, and that the portions would be reduced to make the multiple courses manageable.

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I'm not sure the portioning for New Year's is going to be the same as the a la carte - I assumed it was a per-person charge, and that the portions would be reduced to make the multiple courses manageable.

omg i hope so! there are two choices for each course, and that way i'd get to eat everything on the menu.

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I'm not sure the portioning for New Year's is going to be the same as the a la carte - I assumed it was a per-person charge, and that the portions would be reduced to make the multiple courses manageable.

omg i hope so! there are two choices for each course, and that way i'd get to eat everything on the menu.

Sorry. Just checked the online menu, and my memory clearly isn't what it should be. I think you're right, you get to choose one dish per course for the two of you.

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Sorry. Just checked the online menu, and my memory clearly isn't what it should be. I think you're right, you get to choose one dish per course for the two of you.

yes it was. except! the first course there were four turnovers, and they were happy to split between the two varieties. the soup/salad course was individual (we got lamb consomme and the salad).

it was a ridiculous amount of delicious food. we have leftovers. i seriously love that restaurant.

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