Sunday, November 23, 2008


Wade's Take:

Tradition was broken when we sat down at this latest spot. What’s our vow? Never to eat at a place where any of us dined before. Well, we had ALL been to 2201 Spruce Street once before, when the place had been the pretentious and tasty Melograno (see our thorough blog entry on the joint here). But truly, it wasn’t a rule breaker. It was a new restaurant we were dining at on 2201 Spruce Street… Meme.

Meme is at a corner spot with close tables of open-grain wood, awesome hipster lights and a snug, intimate feel. You feel like you’re in a neighborhood bistro from the get-go. This intimacy was even reflected in the smells of the place. As the stoves roared and crisped the foods all night, we had smell-o-vision of the whole ordeal, we were that close. Even the music made it feel like we were in a friend’s kitchen. With a great soundtrack of 80’s beats, Meme is beyond that blasted ambient/trance music that haunts most restaurants and makes you feel like you should be wearing a black turtleneck and dancing like Sprockets.

Okay, enough about the scene. The food is what matters.

Well, it was outstanding.

I began with a small plate of shrimp with etouffee and toast. Great combo, great flavor. The shrimp (head and all), were atop the orange sauce with chunks of green pepper and a slight Caribbean flair. It worked.

Then I went with my old favorite order… duck. It came out as tender sliced duck breast, with red beets, pearl onions and a port sauce… layered on spinach. Fantastic. The duck was the most perfectly done duck I’ve ever had… soft and red enough to have its savory duck-ness intact. The spinach was phenomenal… still tasting fresh, and mellowing the tart beets and intense duck. I don’t think I took breaths in between bites, I was trance-like in my enjoyment of this dish.

We topped the night off with two cheeses and a pot de crème. The pot de crème was actually that… served in a small pot. The espresso in it was superb and the creaminess of the dessert flowed over my tongue with great delight. It had a hat of a zest orange sauce… unnecessary.

The Pierre Robert was an incredible cheese until someone made me realize it may be in fact named after the WMMR DJ. Then I suddenly thought it tasted like socks for a minute, and then quickly got over it and re-realized it was in fact a tasty cheese (it’s actually a decadent, cave-aged triple-crème style cheese from France, I found out later). The Roaring 40s was a blue cheese from Australia, made with cow’s milk and aged in wax. It was definitely the best blue I’ve ever had – mild and the perfect last bite at Meme.

I can’t believe I’m doing this…. Maybe it was the flowing wine, the cozy atmosphere or the distinguished dishes, but:

Four out of four, I say!

NEWSFLASH: My two fellow PFBs have been selected to dine at Talula’s Table. Sacre bleu… this is big stuff. I implore them both to write about the experience and grace PFB with their descriptions of the sure to be tantalizing feast.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Modo Mio

Dave's Take:
Wade said it right, we needed to give another Italian joint a try. With such a string of disappointing experiences, the next one had to be good. I wanted to hit a place that wasn't in center city and that target Modo Mio as our next stop. Depending on when you read this, a store-front shop on Girard between 1st & 2nd may not seem like a place to get dynamite food and the exterior wouldn't suggest it either. But everything changes when you enter this cozy little BYO. It is warm and comfortable inside and the service is friendly and very knowledgeable.

When we first sat, they brought over an amuse bouche. Woo-Hoo! Usually this means the place is going to be good, and who doesn't like a free bite to eat. This was roasted eggplant unlike I've ever had on top of a small piece of crusty bread. It was smoky, spicy (but not hot) rich and wonderful. They cleared the plate and when a few minutes later, another waiter offered us our free amuse-bouche, we said thank you and gladly took it. OK- so maybe we should have told them we had one already but it was too freaking good.

We all got the Turista menu. 4 courses for $32 and it came with a free shot of Sambuca. I must admit that Jess ordered best, but here is my selection. For my antipasto course, I had traditional veggie antipasto but I must admit, this is the best I've tasted. Roasted eggplant, asparagus, and red peppers with a fantastic rich compote of some sort and a roasted beet. Went together great and was only overshadowed by Jess's outrageous scallop. Wade's was good too.

Up next, the Pasta dish. I got Parpardelle with Wild Boar Ragu. This was fantastic. The only Pastas on that level are the rich Duck Ragu's you get at places like L'oca or Vetri. This was screaming fall. Spices like clove and cinnamon exciting the rich and highly reduced rich sauce that hours ago was broth. With tender strings of wild boar and perfectly cooked pasta, it was amazing. The highlight of my meal.

My Secondo was a roasted suckling pig. On the menu it had goat cheese which I'm not a big fan of (hey-don't give me crap) so I asked to get it without. The waiting was so confident and knowledgeable he pleaded to leave it in as he knew that was in there to take some of the richness, heat and saltiness out of the dish. We agreed that we would both cut some slack and leave it out but that it would be my fault if it wasn't fantastic. It was very good, but not fantastic. Maybe it was my fault but I didn't balk at those points he mentioned. To me, it was a little bland- kinda like a Chinese food brown sauce. Good, but not exciting. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt. The duck special however that I was thinking about getting was out of this world. I stole a taste from Jess but could not gain access to any more.

Desserts- They're OK but nothing to write home about. So I won't. If you don't get the Turista menu, don't get them. If you are doing the tasting menu, then it's included so why not?

This was the closest place to the 4 out of 4 in a while but I just can't do it... due to the only okay desserts. I'm going to give 3.75 out of 4 little piggies. I know it's a cop-out but I'm writing this so I can do what I want. I will certainly be back to Modo Mio and you should go too. For the value, it is one of the finest places I have been and got me loving Italian food again!!!

Wade's Take:
I am a carb-fiend. So when I walked into Northern Liberties’ Modo Mio and saw the largest loaf of crusty bread I’d ever seen before, I was intrigued. The loaf, which was Umbrian country bread, weighed nearly 20 pounds. And I am quite sure that I am in love with it.

Bring on the specials when you dine at Modo Mio. For $32, you go through four courses which includes antipasti, pasta, secondo and dolce, aka dessert. Modo Mio, what a deal!

The amuse bouche was tantalizing. But that Umbrian country bread I was in love with was great. The bread came out with a sweet olive oil and butter/cheese hybrid. My mouth was brimming with my bread friend and her oily companions. Perfection.

My appetizer was essentially a mozzarella sandwich with anchovy caper butter. A finer grilled cheese I have never known. The bread was perfectly crisped on the periphery, and soft, gooey and warm inside. The mozzarella was at an ideal melting point and the anchovy caper butter gave it a sensational flavor kick.

The lamb and veal tortelloni with sage brown butter, as my pasta course, proved equally delightful. The meats were tender and well seasoned in their modest pasta shells. Like my theory of capers (“nothing can go wrong when capers are involved”), my brown butter motto stills holds strong (brown butter makes it better, baby!). Add in the sage flavorings, and you had a solid dish. The portion size, too, was amenable to my stomach.

My primary course was the skate special – lightly deep-fried with an incredible texture, balanced between crispy outside and tender flaky inside. The poisson sat atop lightly grilled eggplant and a nest of spinach. The dish was well-salted, and its intense sodium may have been too much for some, but did me right.
Dessert was a torta de chocolate – like a moist brownie with no trace of the vile nutella that was supposedly used to flavor it.

And what a view from inside of Modo Mio. There’s a sweeping view of the city skyline from inside the restaurant, so long as you sit in just the right spot. We were there at sunset, and the whole skyline had an amber glow. Plus, it gave me an excuse to look towards that delicious hunk of bread, worthy of Andre the Giant, once more.
3.5 out of 4 colossal loaves of bread

Jess’ Take:
Do not miss this restaurant. Dave and Wade did a great job so I’ll cut to the chase – I cannot stop thinking about the Parpardelle with Wild Board Ragu. It was quite possibly one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. I’ll also give props to the scallop antipasti – the scallop was done to perfection and placed on top of a sweet, egg-based bread. The combination is fantastic. Even though you have to get a dessert with the tourista special, it’s such a deal you can’t really complain.
I officially give Modo Mio a 4 out of 4!

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