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Ansill Opening


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we stopped by ansill last night, after not having been there for probably six months or so, and the menu has indeed changed from back in the day. it's now divided into hot and cold sections only rather than the cured/fried/egg/vegetable sections they used to have.

andrew, i'm sorry to say that the osso buco sandwich is no more, having been replaced by a lamb shank sandwich. and... i know this may sound sacrilegious, but it might be better. big shreds of incredibly flavorful lamb on a thick piece of bread that gradually soaks up a salty, meaty broth... my god. it's a sin how good this thing is.

the crispy pig's trotters have been brought over from pif. boneless, formed into disks, breaded and fried till crisp, they're gelatinously delicious. served in a bowl with a few giant leaves of parsley and some pickled onions.

the bruschetta buckethead mentions is indeed da bomb. a big piece of bread, piled about 1/2 in thick with the pesto, covered with shavings of ricotta salata.... good.

a gazpacho with crabmeat, and some marinated white anchovies to start the meal were a great start to the meal.

there are some larger dishes on the menu -- a ribeye for two for $25, for instance.

but the key thing is this: happy hour from 6-8 nightly. yeah 6-8 p.m.! last night the specials were $1 oysters (i forget the variety but they were super briny, less cleanly metallic than others i've had. they were kind of long and thin), $5 proseccos, $3 draft beers (try the kostritzer schwarzbier with just about anything on the menu), $5 1/4 carafes of house wine... it was a nice deal. i'd go just for the oysters. the bartender said they were experimenting with some house-made potato chips, but chef ansill said that they don't have a fryer, so they're not sure they're going to do it. i recommended that they install a fryer and fill it with clarified butter like michel richard has down at citronelle. i don't think they took me seriously.

i had a nice talk with david about a lot of things while we were there, and at one point asked what made the steak at pif so f'in good. he said two things - SALT. AND PEPPER. proper seasoning is everything... then he mentioned putting a little demiglace in the pan while it finished cooking. and a wad of butter as well, while it's cooking. yeah, salt and pepper and butter and demiglace... ok i'm starting to think the steak is unnecessary.

p.s. finished with an epoisses that was nose-clearingly pungent. very nice indeed.

Edited by mrbigjas (log)
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  • 2 months later...
Damn!  I forgot!  I made plans to make a homemade dinner and start my first batch of homebrewed beer!  Now it has to be next month.

I thought they're doing it every Sunday now?

From what I heard, they are, starting yesterday. Speaking of which, did anyone go? I had a reservation but had to cancel it, so I won't get there till this weekend..

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I was really hoping to get there, but got diverted by some other socializing... I'm glad to hear I might be able to hit it next weekend!

But I did hear from a friend who went and said it was good: $40 price fixe, 3 courses, a few choices for each course, Piffy menu (escargots, veal cheeks, duck confit w/choucroute, etc.)

Sounds good to me!

If a few more us don't get our acts together and go, we might have to declare a moratorium on whining about missing Pif. I mean, what's he gotta do? Bring it to us?

Hmmm...Piffin...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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"$40 price fixe, 3 courses, a few choices for each course, Piffy menu (escargots, veal cheeks, duck confit w/choucroute, etc.)"

Yes, deliciouso.

Le meme chose pour nous.

escargot, pig trotter, veal cheeks, duck confit, etc.

We have pics if we ever post them.

Katie's after. Good grub/after dinner drinks.

Philly Francophiles

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If a few more us don't get our acts together and go, we might have to declare a moratorium on whining about missing Pif. I mean, what's he gotta do? Bring it to us? 

Hmmm...Piffin...

now you're talkin. it's 8:30, do i have time to order my crispy trotters with parsley salad for delivery at 11:45? and a glass of cheap rhone red.

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Hit Pif night, and toward the end, Chef Ansill dropped by the table and noticing the camera, insisted that the spirit of his food could best be communicated in Black and White. So, OK, I can play along...

gallery_23992_3172_2954.jpg

gallery_23992_3172_2378.jpg

gallery_23992_3172_54416.jpg

eaaaggh!!!

Sorry, I think we might have to stick with color...

Mussels

gallery_23992_3172_62544.jpg

Escargots

gallery_23992_3172_10923.jpg

Pumpkin Ginger Soup

gallery_23992_3172_20923.jpg

Mixed Greens with Duck Leg Confit

gallery_23992_3172_46335.jpg

Porkchops

gallery_23992_3172_16438.jpg

Quail

gallery_23992_3172_65012.jpg

Sweetbreads

gallery_23992_3172_53653.jpg

---

Chocolate Fondant

gallery_23992_3172_77991.jpg

Financier

gallery_23992_3172_37689.jpg

Chestnut Mousse

gallery_23992_3172_99428.jpg

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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OK, my dining companions are pretending to be busy with work - leaving it to me to say it:

Dinner was good, but not quite as Piftastic as we were anticipating. I think we might even have been thrilled with this meal somewhere else, but it seemed to be missing some of that Pif magic we'd come to expect.

Mussels were very good, if not especially noteworthy. I'm told the bowl at the other end of the table was not all that hot, but the ones we had were fine on that account. I liked them, I'd get them again.

The escargots were pleasingly tender, and roasted garlic and hazelnuts are always good accompaniments, but the sauce was a shadow of its former self, nowhere near as dark, intense and Perdod-y as the Pif classic.

Pumpkin Ginger soup was quite tasty, the broth mined with a tiny dice of apple, a dollop of creme fraiche in the middle. It was thinner than most pumpkin or squash soups one sees, but I was OK with that.

The salad didn't have a whole lot of duck on it, but was pretty similar to a version we got in the final weeks of Pif. I think a few at our table were expecting a whole duck leg from the description of "Mixed greens with Duck Leg Confit" but it was in fact shreds of meat mingled in the salad. Still, pretty tasty.

I liked the grilled flavor of the porkchops, and the herby beans they sat on. They stayed surprisingly moist, given that they were very thin. But having had some big, thick juicy porkchops recently, they seemed a little austere...

The quails were absolutely delicious. I was about to complain that mine were a little over-done, but you know, it didn't seem to impact them much, they were still tender and juicy, and I loved the port sauce.

I only took a taste of the sweetbreads, and that bite was really quite nice, a crispy, charred corner, with a creamy interior. But someone else with a whole plate of them seemed less happy, but I'll let him explain, if he so chooses.

So, again, not really bad but the flavors were not quite as vivid and enthralling as we would often experience at Pif.

But then: an interesting turnaround - desserts were very strong.

The Chocolate Fondant was crazy intense, yet not overly dense, almost light in texture, but ultra-chocolatey. Very nice. The chestnut mousse was airy, as one would hope, and had a very nice, not-too-sweet nutty flavor. I liked toggling between that mousse and the chocolate... The Financier had a great texture, and again, not-too-sweet. We're not entirely sure why the creme anglaise was green, I don't think we specifically noticed any pistachio, or herb flavors, but it was tasty, so who cares?

All in all, it was a good meal, and I honestly wouldn't hesitate to go back, but it didn't quite knock us out of our seats like we were hoping. Two at our table had liked Pif night much more the week before, so maybe something just wasn't quite clicking on our night. Or had we over-romanticised our earlier experiences? Were we hoping for too much? I don't know...

All I do know is that afterward, someone in our party felt an overwhelming desire for Royal Tavern french fries, and it didn't take a lot of arm twisting to get company!

gallery_23992_3894_55533.jpg

Fries were awesome...

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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You were doing fine until you hit the pumpkin soup, which I agree looks all wrong in black and white. But let's compare those mussel shots, shall we?

gallery_23992_3172_2954.jpg

Mussels

gallery_23992_3172_62544.jpg

I'm not sure David was completely off base with his suggestion.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Is the whole place Pif-night, or just the back room as he'd originally planned? Also, is there that great French music he used to have a Pif? I'm guessing the experience can't be duplicated, much as I wish it could.

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We had the Pif menu served out in the main room, but we had a large-ish party, so it might have been a table-geometry issue. As we came in, they had both menus out, and you could just tell them that you wanted to do the Pif menu or the Ansill menu. No mixing of the two, for now at least.

I didn't notice any French music, but there could have been some in the back room...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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As we came in, they had both menus out, and you could just tell them that you wanted to do the Pif menu or the Ansill menu.  No mixing of the two, for now at least.

They are serving the same desserts on both menus, I was at Ansill on Saturday night and the financier, fondant, and mousse were all on there. We did the cheese plate instead as desserts there usually don't measure up to the greatness of the savory dishes, but now that I see the pics I think maybe we made a mistake.

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  • 1 month later...

Ok, so I was more than a little late in finally getting to Ansill last Saturday. Overall impressions were solid, though I did run into a poorly executed dish and found both the beer list and especially the wine list to be on the weak side. Some thoughts about the food:

Our “starter” plates included a marinated olive mixture, roasted beets, pigs’ trotters and steak tartare (missing the final “e” on the menu). The olives and beets succeeded by virtue of quality ingredients. The lightly pickled, just slightly snappy beets were accompanied by a few sections of orange, lending a bright, citrus accent to the beets’ sweet, earthy and briny core. Perched atop a generous portion of steak tartare, in a play on the traditional hen’s egg, was a raw quail’s egg. A bold hand with use of purple mustard along with the more usual seasonings made for a high level of zestiness, nearly overwhelming the simple pleasures of the beef itself. The steak’s freshness, though, was unquestionable. Pigs’ trotters were roasted, the meat shredded from the hooves and then rolled with parsley and seasonings before being compressed, sliced and finally pan fried. Served with a toss of pickled red cabbage, they were juicy little medallions of goodness, far removed from any visual association with their original place in the food chain.

If there was a weak point with regards to the food, it came in the form of my “larger plate” selection: pappardelle with venison, pancetta and truffle butter. That truffle butter was not in evidence; the pancetta made nary an impact. Larger issues were at hand though. The pasta was overcooked. So was the venison – tender yet braised for so long as to rob the meat of its very venison-ness. Celery, as it turned out, was the dominating flavor of the dish. Oh well…. In order to have a vegetable somewhere in the trotter, tartare and venison mix, I’d ordered a plate of (non-vegan) Brussels sprouts as well. Roasted to a nice exterior char and infused with a touch of bacon, the sprouts helped to make up for the main course disappointment. So did dessert, which brought the food-related quality of the experience right back to where it had been. A light, creamy cup of chestnut mousse, dressed up with a ginger snap garnish, was a simple delight.

A more complete write-up, with photos, can be found at: Ansill Food & Wine.

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  • 6 months later...

Bringing this back up: did anyone go for the Jun 20th event? I quote:

European-style BBQ! Bring your appetite; we’ll bring the food. Thirty dollars gets you a heaping plate for two. With roasted pig, assorted grilled meats, and marinated vegetables you’re bound to be in back-yard heaven. With an excellent selection of ice cold beers on tap, and the best AC in the city to sweeten the deal, why wouldn’t you be there?

I would've liked to be on the right side of the ocean, though I guess Ansill is now last year's news.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have reservations for my upcoming trip (Wednesday, July 30th), and I wanted to check on the dress code. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Casual is fine. Ansill isn't a white tablecloth type of place. There will be folks in everything from jeans and T-shirts to suits in there.

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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  • 2 months later...

I hit Ansill for their Sunday night "Pif Prix Fixe" on Sunday. Here's a snapshot of what we ordered and (mostly) enjoyed:

The signature dish from the days of Pif – escargots plump and redolent of butter and Pernod, served alongside a head of sweet, nutty roasted garlic – practically disappeared before it even hit the table, certainly long before I could train the camera and snap a picture. The salad of red beets, first roasted and then marinated, delivered a nice sweet and sour contrast that paired well with its topping of fresh goat cheese. The only slightly ill conceived dish of the starters was the mussel soup. It’s not that it lacked flavor, just that it lacked depth. A spike of red pepper was the predominant flavor in the broth and soggy croutons did little to help, though freshly sliced scallions livened up the dish a bit.

For shits and giggles, and for added insurance against leaving without full bellies, we supplemented our orders with a couple of small plates from the regular Ansill menu. Roasted mussels turned out to be an interesting preparation take on a bistro classic. When the little mollusks were just right, they were tender, savory and intensely infused with the aromas of the fresh rosemary sprig included in the roasting pan. The technique, though, did seem to result in less even flavor distribution relative to steaming or sautéing, and a few of the mussels were a little on the fishy side. I had no compunctions, however, about the deliciousness of our roasted bone marrow crostini, full of rich, zesty flavor and topped off perfectly with a sprinkle of smoked sea salt and a tousle of fresh greens.

Our main courses delivered the most uniformly successful round of dishes. The sweetbreads – ample, tender and meaty – may have been the showstopper, their perfectly cooked accompaniment of sliced shiitakes providing icing on the cake. Not lagging far behind were two petit filets of branzino, pan-seared to a perfect level of exterior crispiness and interior moistness and set atop sautéed greens, all surrounded by an intensely citrus yet light-footed beurre blanc. A duo of richly meaty lamb chops, seared just barely to the medium side of rare, matched nicely with crispy potato gaufrettes and roasted artichokes. Those artichokes, I’d swear, tasted like they’d been infused with lemon and pekoe tea.

An otherwise perfectly nice if somewhat perfunctory cheese plate was marred by the inclusion of Époisses that had gone to ammonia. I know it’s supposed to be pungent. And I know it’s expensive. But come on, sniff it – better yet, taste it – before you serve it. Our desserts, on the other hand, showed that the folks at Ansill don’t treat the final course as an afterthought. Both the pot au crème and bread pudding were delicious enough that I could envision stopping by late-night and ordering either of them just to top off the evening.

Photos and additional details can be found at: Pif Night at Ansill.

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  • 3 months later...

We dropped in to Ansill on saturday night and ended up eating at the bar, as all tables were full, including what seemed to be a birthday party or some such thing in the back room.

I'm pleased to report that everything was quite delicious, making me kick myself for not making a policy of eating here once a week or so. I'm sorry to report that the light at the bar is very low, so I have no photo evidence.

We started with a simple green salad, which made us marvel at the artistry necessary to make such a minimal thing so satisfying. Pristine, tender leaves of butter lettuce, very lightly dressed with an elegant vinaigrette, a few nuts, some small chunks of grapefruit, salt, that's all there was to it, yet we couldn't stop commenting on how great this salad was.

Tomato bread was grilled, then rubbed with tomato, served with tiny tomatoes and garlic cloves that mushed beautifully onto the toast. We opted to add chorizo, which was served in paper-thin slices, providing a surprisingly subtle addition to the flavors, but a good one.

The meat from pigs trotters was formed into discs, lightly breaded and perfectly fried, accompanied by strong purple mustard. The contrast of the crispy exterior and the meltingly moist interior was especially thrilling.

We then moved on to slightly larger plates. Two slices of beef tenderloin sat in the shadow of a towering bone, a spoon protruding from its top. In retrospect, we should have asked for some bread to accompany the marrow, but we had no trouble finding other things to slather it on. The beef was perfectly cooked, and deeply flavored, a solid char fading to a juicy medium-rare. It sat in a pool of delicious jus.

Crispy sweetbreads were just that, nicely crusty, encasing a delicate interior.

Potatoes Boulanger proved to be another lesson in elegant simplicity: thinly-sliced potatoes, onions, bacon and kitchen magic. Each of us was employing a bit of elbowing and misdirection, trying to hoard more of those potatoes, without the others noticing...

Brussels sprouts were just as we like them, with dark, roasted edges playing up their sweetness, a little bacon balancing that with smoky salt.

And with that, three of us were stuffed, not able to contemplate dessert. But we did vow to return again soon. The cooking at Ansill has always been fairly direct and unfussy, but it seems to have gotten even more focused, concentrating on intense, fundamental flavors. And I'm all for that...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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While in Philly over the holidays I ate at Ansill: overall, it was quite good. I found their menu a little confusing, mostly because nothing about it says "tapas" to me, but after a chat with the waiter about portion size and plating we went ahead. I can't review too much of the menu because I wasn't that hungry (day after Christmas...), but the fried trotters with some kind of pickle on top were very good, the sweetbreads were also good (as mentioned above), and the pasta special, a mustard spaetzle with duck confit, featured a bland spaetzle but an excellent confit. Overall, a pretty good meal, and a nice atmosphere. I didn't find it too dark, but then again, I wasn't trying to take photos. I did find it a little odd that we were seated at table next to another occupied two-top, in an otherwise nearly empty dining room (we had early reservations, around 6, I think).

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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  • 3 weeks later...

After several years of intending to go, we finally went to Ansill on Saturday. The food was very good and the couple we invited along loved it. We'd been to Pif many times and it's clear David Ansill is one of the better chefs in Philly. We all liked the grilled romaine with an anchovy and balsamic dressing, but it occurred to me that years ago romaine used to be a deeper green; now it has the same color and almost the consistency of iceberg.

The only miss was the fact that we were seated a full hour after our reservation. The very kind but needlessly overwhelmed hostess told us it was going to be a 30 minute wait. It would've been closer to that had she paid attention to the fact that several tables sat waiting for their checks for over 10 minutes, that it took another 10 minutes to bus the tables and then another 10 for her to set them. At 50+ years old I'm not ready for the early bird special, but when our entree's arrived at 10:00 p.m. it was close to my usual weekday bedtime. David Ansill was aware and sent out an appetizer as a comp. They also comped after dinner drinks.

Another interesting twist was when we were waiting at the bar and decided to order a bottle of wine. A single bottle sitting in the cooler looked interesting and wasn't on the wine list. It was a 2000 southern French, perhaps a Côtes du Vivarais, and they had no clue to its cost as it had been "hidden in the back" for some time. After a while the beverage manager offered it to us for $75. I countered with $50 and he said the lowest he'd go was $70. Wanting to stay in the $50 range I declined. My friend looked it up on his Blackberry and said it retailed for $27. The bar tender said with their markup it was an $82 wine. I still passed.

We ended up getting two bottles of tasty Fools Bay Dusty's Desire Barossa Shiraz.

Edited by Mano (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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SWMBO and I made our way to Ansill a week ago: it was my pick for my birthday dinner, not having been there before. Because we were there early on a Tuesday evening, we encountered none of the service issues Mano survived on a Saturday.

SWMBO had tomato bread and grilled chicken, highly seasoned with lemon and pepper (seemed like a mix of different peppercorns ground up), plated with a spear of broccoli rabe. The chicken was so small, I suspect it was a rock cornish hen (which is, after all, merely a very young chicken). Though there wasn't much of it, what there was, as Spencer Tracy would say, was "cheerce". She also ordered a side of potatoes boulanger, potatoes with caramelized onions and bacon; very bacon-fatty, very delicious. The tomato bread was very high quality slices of bread accompanied by slightly cooked cherry tomatoes and roasted garlic, which you spread to taste.

I started out with bone marrow atop the same bread as Jean Sue, less the tomato and garlic, accompanied by parsley salad. This is a riff on a dish pioneered at St. John Restaurant in London, which truly does specialize in "head-to-tail" eating. There, however, the marrow is served still in the bone, bread on the side for spreading. Here, the marrow was disappointing, lacking full flavor and dried out, perhaps from being cooked outside the bone. It should be unctuously oily; it wasn't. I followed that with the chef's pasta of the day, spaetzel with de-boned beef short rib, butternut squash and spinach. A beautifully balanced dish, absolutely delish. I ordered a cheese course (Epoisses), served with some bread and homemade spicy apple preserve; to make it truly festive I accompanied it with a sweet dessert wine. All the food, with a glass of wine for SWMBO, a beer and the dessert wine for me, totaled $80 before tip.

The menu was not nearly as full of "offal" as thought it would be. Regrettably, that's probably responding to the marketplace. It's not offal, but I hungered for pork belly, sadly missing from the menu.

Despite the disappointment with the marrow, definitely worth a trip back.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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