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The Divine Miss "M"


philadining
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I was going to just tack this onto the previous thread here, but this place bears no resemblance at all to those previous reports, and that thread got a little off-topic, and I was afraid that newer comments would get lost amid the complaining...

And indeed there's new talent in the kitchen, and a new attitude overall, it seems. (and yes, the tables were clean!) So it almost seems like a new place.

Restaurant M: 231 S. Eighth St., 215-625-2946

We grabbed a couple of bites, and if it can keep going on this path, this could really be a special spot. First of all, it's beautiful, one of the nicest little courtyards I've seen anywhere in the city:

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There's some unavoidable urban hum, but no traffic noise, no wind-tunnel from the surrounding buildings, just a charming, quiet, green oasis.

But it's a restaurant, so, how's the food?

Risotto alla "Clams Casino"

Littleneck clams, pancetta, parsley, red pepper jus

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This was really delicious, tender rice with just that right balance of creaminess and brothiness. And when was something not improved by pancetta? The red pepper jus added a nice taste contrast as well as a visual one.

Fennel-Dusted Sweetbreads

Porcini marmelade, orange confit, marsala sauce

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The sweetbreads themselves were perfect: crispy, creamy, plump and luxurious. The mushrooms (you know, just cook them like a marmelade...) were slightly sweet, and a lovely contrast. But the best part was the orange rind, which played off the fennel notes of the sweetbreads, and cut through their richness, a great flavor combination I haven't encountered before. I've been having some good sweetbreads lately, and these are my faves.

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Free Range Chicken Breast

Truffled white polenta, slow cooked onions, sherry vinegar jus

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You know we don't order a lot of chicken these days, but chef recommended it, and indeed, it was rocking good. A tender, juicy breast that served as a great vehicle for the rich winey sauce and the luxuriously sweet onions. But the chicken almost got shown-up by its side, a creamy polenta studded liberally with truffle. It was delicious, and great with the chicken too.

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Prime N.Y. Strip Steak

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Sorry, I took a photo of the menu, and I can't read the description, but, you know, it's a freaking steak! There was a very tasty bordelaise-like sauce, well-cooked haricots vertes, and I forget the starch... it was good! In the end, it's nothing innovative, just a well-cooked hgh-quality steak, but sometimes that's just the thing, and if you're in the mood for that, you'll love this. And it's a bargain at $30 for this quality, with good sides.

Everything else was reasonably priced as well, most of the entrees are in the low 20s, starters mostly under $10, although the risotto and sweetbreads were $11 and $12, each a steal if you ask me.

It was so freaking hot out we just had beers, so I can't comment on the wine list.

oh, right, dessert!

Kaffir Lime Creme Brulée

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I'm normally opposed to flavored creme brulée, nothing beats a straight-ahead vanilla for me. But this was very nice, with a subtle lime overtone, which complimented, rather than fought-with, the vanilla flavor of the custard. Perfectly executed too, with a nice crunchy top.

In the interest of journalistic disclosure, we were lucky enough to be comped some food, but I'm not that easily bought, it truly was really good! If they can keep putting out dinners like this in such a beautiful space, I'll go back, and keep going back until it starts snowing. I'm normally not a huge fan of outdoor dining, but this place might make me change my mind!

(edited to add dessert)

Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Wow! That's an awfully 'purty outdoor space. There are far too few of those in general, so I'm delighted to hear there's one that's accenting the scenery with some good eats. :smile:

High on my list of places to try.

Do you have an exact address and contact info? Who is the new chef? What's the vibe like?

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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That's one beautiful patio--not just one of those "we have a little space in back so let's put some tables there" places. And the food looks great too.

Edited by I_call_the_duck (log)

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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Holy cow, that courtyard does look pretty. The food ain't bad, either. Unless I miss my guess, the starch laying underneath that strip steak is israeli couscous.

Are they open for lunch? I may have to try it out sooner rather than later.

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It's 231 S. Eighth St, on 8th, between Locust and Walnut, on the east side of the street.  Sadly, kind of easy to walk right by.

Not only that, but I could have sworn that was a private residence.

In fact, I think it was, up until very recently.

Nice adaptive reuse they've got goin' on there.

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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Who is the new chef?  What's the vibe like?

Yikes, how rude of me! New chef is David Katz, and he's clearly got serious skills, everything we had was beautifully done.

Hard to say about the vibe, it was a weeknight when we went, and as you can see from the pix, it was not especially busy. It seemed really quite chill, in good way, the tables are well-spaced, which would give some privacy, it seemed like more of a sophisticated spot, not a wild party patio...

I'd be happy to do more research!

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Jeff

although the food was solid, I quite enjoyed the Grits.

I wish them well. There are all these mini restaurant destination hoods popping up all over the city, they are close enough to the 7th and chestnut revival.

I wish them well, at least it isnt another gaddamn Eyetalian BYO.

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I'm just kind of amused at how circular this could get: apologies if this somehow creates a data black-hole that sucks the entire interweb into its spiralling self-referential gravity.

This restaurant M topic was recently mentioned over at FooBooz, so you can check them out, which will just send you right back here...

But seriously, there's some good food and booze tips at FooBooz,. Thanks to Diann for the heads-up.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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  • 4 weeks later...

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This is one of the prettier risotto presentations I have seen. Nice.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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  • 1 month later...

Very positive review In the Inky.

The flavors aren't overly exotic, the compositions aren't contrived. But Katz's food shows the value of focus, distilling a pair of good ideas on each plate into vivid flavors that put the spotlight on good ingredients.

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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  • 4 months later...

Brutally cold Valentine's evening outside + nice and warm Restaurant M inside + pleasant, friendly service + great food = mmmm, mmmm good. More details to follow when I have more time.

I would kill everyone in this room for a drop of sweet beer...

Homer Simpson

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  • 4 weeks later...

I really was planning on just having a quick drink at M, but as I sat down at the bar, Chef David Katz recognized me and said hello, and next thing you know, food starts arriving mysteriously...

Sometimes it's really great to be in the right place at the right time!

First, ask Katie to make you a "Pomeranian."

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uhh, I don't know what's in it, but it's really tasty!

The bar menu has a nice selection of cheeses, and this night that list included Roaring 40s Blue, served with quince paste.

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I think I have a new favorite blue cheese.

Crispy Braised Kurobuta Pork Belly, Gingered Rutabaga, Grain Mustard Sauce.

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Wow, I mean, wow... Katz's preparation leaves it luxuriously rich and tender, not really perceptibly fatty, just silky and soft and intensely flavorful. The mustard sauce and root vegetable puree made great platforms for the pork.

Seared Scallops, Citrus-Fennel Salad

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I really wish I could cook scallops like this. They were just perfect, with a barely-firmed interior between the pleasing crusty seared surfaces. The fennel salad provided a tart and crunchy counterpoint to the sweet shellfish. Simple, but not so simple to get it so right.

Squab Two Ways:Sauteed Breast, Leg Confit, Pancetta, New Potatoes Medjool Dates, Balsamic Brown Butter.

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I was really enjoying the juicy breast, cooked to an ideal medium-rare, intensified by the syrupy sauce, but I almost fell off my barstool when I tried the confit of that tiny leg. That meat had super-concentrated flavor and falling-apart tenderness. The dates, bacon and potato provided excellent support. I've been surprised to be eating more squab than I would have expected here in Philly, and they've all been good, but this is one of the best I've had.

Those three appetizers from the current menu made for a pretty substantial meal, but chef had one more surprise in store:

Banana Tarte Tatin, Dulce de Leche Ice Cream.

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The only banana tarte tatin I've ever had, or heck, ever seen was at Studio Kitchen, and I loved it there, so I was thrilled to see this dish again. And it did not disappoint, the still-firm, caramelized fruit atop a flaky crust, the icecream amplifying the flavors while contrasting the temperature. Fantastic dessert.

So sure, it's hard to stay completely objective when being treated so nicely by a chef, but I don't think I lost all perspective, and everything tasted great! It's very elegantly-executed food, nothing too avant-garde or shocking, just delicious. (Although there might be some sorcery going on with that pork belly... )

The dining room actually looked pretty full on this saturday night, but you probably still could get a reservation with a little planning. M has gotten universally good press and the word-of-mouth is spreading, almost everyone I spoke to at the bar had been referred by friends who love the place, so word is finally getting out. I'd go now before it becomes impossible to get a table, I suspect that's going to happen!

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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The bar menu has a nice selection of cheeses, and this night that list included Roaring 40s Blue, served with quince paste.

Marmalade. From "marmelo", the Portuguese word for quince. The orange-based jam you're familiar with was concocted as a substitute when the real thing couldn't get through, during some war or other.

Beautiful shots of what looks like a wonderful meal. It's good to be you, isn't it? :wink:

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Bill, there's only a small array of beers by the bottle, I want to say only 5 or 6, no taps. Yard's Saizon seemed popular with the beer-drinkers at the bar last night.

I didn't even look at the wine list, I honestly was intending to just have a cocktail and go! That said, Katie suggested a really lovely Red Burgundy, and a glass of that accompanied the food really nicely. I think one of us will just have to go back and investigate the wine selections!

Pedro, is "marmelo" the same thing as "membrillo" in Spanish?

And yes, I'll have to admit: sometimes, it's good to be me...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Phil:

Thanks for making everything look so appetizing! It was nice to see you. Chef likes to see your pretty pictures as much as I do, so it really is good to be you sometimes. :smile:

On the wine and beer selections - we normally have four to five reds and whites each by the glass ranging in price from $8-13 per glass. Every once in a while we'll have something really special by the glass that's more expensive, like a few weeks ago we were pouring a Chehalem Reserve Pinot Noir from half bottles for $17/glass, but that's breaking even in terms of the bottle cost. Our bottle list is full of really interesting and well chosen wines that are marked up far less than at any other restaurant I can think of. Chef David and Dining Room manager Tom are in charge of the wine list. I'm just pouring the stuff, but I'd certainly be here drinking it if I weren't behind the bar. Some serious bargains on that list.

As far as beers go, everything is bottled. Right now I have Amstel Light, Corona, Hoegaarten, Yards Saison, Moretti, Pilsner Urquell and Lindemans Framboise Lambic. You can't really tell in the photos, but it's a tiny little bar with only eight seats. It's pretty well and eclectically stocked for such a small bar, but it does limit what I can have at my disposal. Some new cabinets are being built that will have room for some more bottles soon so I'm working on having some more interesting spirits ordered for me (like Maraschino, Chartreuse, an Armangac, an upscale rye, a few more vodkas and gins, etc.) so I can go all old school and mix up some Aviations, better Manhattans, and some other crazy things.

The Pomeranian pictured above is the latest round of mad science from me. A cross between a Salty Dog and a Pomegranate Gimlet. Pearl Pomegranate vodka, lime, and ruby red grapefruit juice with a salted rim. Woof! :raz:

Looking forward to seeing more of you gracing the 8 most comfortable bar stools in the city. :wink:

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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Bill, there's only a small array of beers by the bottle, I want to say only 5 or 6, no taps. Yard's Saizon seemed popular with the beer-drinkers at the bar last night.

I didn't even look at the wine list, I honestly was intending to just have a cocktail and go! That said, Katie suggested a really lovely Red Burgundy, and a glass of that accompanied the food really nicely.  I think one of us will just have to go back and investigate the wine selections!

Pedro, is "marmelo" the same thing as "membrillo" in Spanish?

And yes, I'll have to admit: sometimes, it's good to be me...

Yeah, membrillo seems to be the spanish word for quince. I love the fact that on the fairly small-scale map of the fruit's range on the Spanish website where I found this information, someone went to the trouble to make sure they left a teensy little blank strip on the West coast of Spain. Somehow that just figures. Since it's our goshdarn word that names the stuff, internationally...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hello folks, this might only be my third or fourth post after having lurked on this board for the better part of 4 or 5 years (thank you all for your pictures, rants, raves...I've learned a lot).

I am proud to say that upon arriving at M last evening for a date with the future in-laws, and chatting with the loquacious and talented bartender, I learned that Philly and the internets are really a small world. When I mentioned the egullet thread to the bartender (is there not a better word for her?), as if I was telling her something new, she simply said her name was Katie and being the egullet stalker that I am, I gasped, "YOU'RE KATIE LOEB???" Enough gushing. on to the goods.

First the Red ____ viognier was delightful and simple, just my style. Once we got to talking, Katie proffered a superb concoction, a rum and Falerno (sp?) and mint mix (the name of which escapes me). Give me the courtyard and 75 degrees and sun, and I am there at happy hour just for that drink. Or else for the "Taylor Made" which is a Bourbon based drink, mixed with brown simple syrup, grapefruit and something else...and falerno. I think I'll have one - or two - of each next time. (special note: falerno's scent in the bottle , but its taste more so when mixed, lends a gingery aroma ,hinted with other spices, that reminded me of the scent of some asian markets...weird, yes, but I really mean it - and in a good way).

The service was excellent.

The lobster amuse bouche was delightful with a hint of ...mango I believe and vanilla too.

My scallop starter was tender, perfectly cooked and pretty (with red watercress?)

The pork belly starter across the table, on mashed rutabaga, was a new first for me (why oh why , pork belly, have I missed you?!?!?!?) and the two that ordered it were in heaven.

I had the poussin with roasted sweet garlic bread pudding, and brussel sprouts with pancetta. I have to admit I have never ...ever...(at least not in the past 12 yrs) ordererd any sort of fowl at a restaurant, preferring the fish or meat entrees, and I did it on a lark (mmmm lark....fowl...maybe I AM converted). the poussin was delicately seasoned /brined and so very tasty. Major major love for the bread pudding.

I had a pinot grigio - not sure of the name - at the start of dinner and found it sort of dull or tart - please note that I am hardly the one you go to for wine recs. My palate is untrained and simplistic...and likes the sweeter side. So i had one more glass of the viognier and was pleased.

All in all, I found M to be the best in my book, with great thanks to the server, Manager, and our friendly neighborhood Ms Katie.

merci beaucoup!

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