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February 6, 2011

My weekend dining: Philadelphia road trip -- Amada

exteriorA friend got in his head that we should all pile in a car and take a day-trip up to Philadelphia to eat at Amada, just one of the jewels in the crown of restaurants that Jose Garces (James Beard Award winner, Iron Chef) owns in Philadelphia.

Worth it.

The menu, previewed online, looks commonplace, like something you've seen before.

But there are many moments of great pleasure and delight, not one of which seems forced or gimmicky or anything but right.


Cocktails are gorgeous -- shown here, The Matador, a Bourbon sour is brightened with candied ginger and lightened with elderflower. Another, the Labyrinth of Passion (ok, that's a bit much) infuses strawberries, balsamic and bitters into whiskey. Cocktails were maybe a tactical error -- we ordered the Chef's Selection for the table, with beer pairings.

Many hours later, we were woozy.

Everything is bright, shining, packed with flavor. Cured meats are shaved to parchment thinness matador--- you can pick up a piece of serrano and look right through it. Cheese are with one of Garces' home-made condiments -- truffled lavender honey goes with aged manchego; garlic dulce de Leche with Garrotxa and a currant-pistachio "Salbitxada" with La Peral. Pairing this with strong, vinegary Isastegi cider -- just brilliant

An ensalada verde composed of greens, asparagus, avocado, green beans and favas makes you angry about almost every other salad you've had in a restaurant. A ridiculously good warm fava and lima bean salad is the kind of thing that can go so badly -- the beans can end up as pebbles or mush.

Something simple like lamb meatballs with shaved Manchego are allowed to be simple, fuss-less and delicious. Shrimp, from the grill (a la plancha) are aggressively, wonderfully salty. Maybe the table's favorite of the day, grilled wild mushrooms are a feast of butter.








Those olives. Simple, perfect, glistening. Judgment -- knowing how much or how little to intervene feels essential to Garces' talent.







Cured meats, sliced thin as parchment The photo doesn't show the caperberries, mustard, and cornichons, but it does show -- hey, you gave us enough bread! I know it's silly to reduce such an exquisitely considered meal to a bread-to-meat ratio, but it kills me how many restaurants are willing to stoke ill will by flubbing this.








Look how nicely the scallops are presented, skewered with wood. tasted great, too.

Thanks to the friend who took these photos. 

Posted by Richard Gorelick at 3:05 PM | | Comments (4)


Okay--now I'm hungry!

You've described a lovely lunch, beautifully.

last september me and my girlfriend had a similar day/night in philly.

saturday night we went to garces' Tinto and had an amazing meal, and had a solid (albeit not nearly as good) brunch the following morning at his mexican place distrito

Thank you for posting this. i have been looking for a quality article for some time now.

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About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner blog.
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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