My weekend dining: Philadelphia road trip -- Amada
A 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.
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 --- 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.