Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Amis

Jess' Take
Marc Vetri is one of my favorite Philly Chefs, and Osteria is one of my favorite Philly restaurants, so I was super excited to try his new restaurant Amis, billed as the more affordable of his three spots (which also includes the fantastic Vetri). Unfortunately Amis disappointed.

The menu is compiled of tapa style plates in a variety of categories such as bruschetta, salumi and formaggi, several types of antipastis, pasta, carne, pesce, contorni and dolci. We took our servers suggestions and ordered 4 of the antipastis, 2 pastas and 1 carne.

Of the 4 starters that we ordered, mortadella mousse, trio of pecorino, mixed salumi plate, and artichokes alla guidaida, the mortadella mousse was the most interesting and tasty. What Dave would describe as a “meat hummus” the consistence was a little more yogurt like than hummus, with a pink hue. It had a subtle sausage flavor without being overpowering. It was very tasty smeared on the toasted bread it was served with (although I have to say, they were a little skimpy on the bread, with just 2 pieces for a pretty sizable bowl of mousse). Also interesting were the artichokes, which were battered and fried twice at two different temperatures. I really liked the concept, but the final product was a little bland. The best flavor to come from it was of funnel cake, which I assume has everything to do with the batter. The only salumi that I could enjoy (but not for long!) was the pork live terrine which I did not care for at all. At best it tasted like something from a can.


On to our pastas. Again, we took the recommendation of our server and ordered what she said were two of the most popular pasta dishes: Bucatini alla “matriciana” with pork jowl, chili flake and pecorino and gnocchi alla romana with oxtail ragu. The Bucatini was the winner of the two in my opinion. At first I didn’t like the flavor, but after my second bit I got into it. It had a subtle spice that hit the back of the tongue and the pasta was cooked perfectly.
The gnocci on the other hand was not so pleasing. First of all, it resembled no gnocci that I’ve ever had. Instead of delicate little balls, it was two, larger balls of what looked like cream of wheat covered with sauce and cheese. It oxtail was undetectable among the mush on the plate.

For our carne we went for the guinea hen leg saltimbocca with prosciutto and sage. I’ve never had guinea hen before, so was very interested to try this dish. Now I have to preface this with the comment that I’m not a big saltimbocca fan, so that may have played into my opinion of the dish. Although I didn’t love the taste, the consistency was what really got me. The battered outside was soggy and the inside was chewy. I only had a few bites and gave the rest to Dave.

In my opinion, dessert saved this meal. Although we were tempted to throw in the towel and not have dessert, I convinced my fellow foodies that this is my last meal to eat guilt free and we must! So we decided on the olive oil torta with whipped cream and quince butter and Belgian style waffles with nutella, vanilla semifreddo and toasted hazelnuts. Both were delicious, but I will give an extra shout out to the waffles. Yes, I’m a nutella freak, and it was everything I hoped it would be.

Amis, I’m not sure that I’ll decide to step inside your doors again on my own. However, I’m also willing to give you another chance given the opportunity. The menu has a lot to offer and I am certainly willing to try other offerings – I’ll just steer clear of the gnocci and guinea hen.

Because I’m partial to Vetri and the desserts were great, Amis you’re getting a 2 out of 4 from me.

Dave's Take:
Amis was A-miss. Mark Vetri has failed where the other restaurateurs have succeeded, the recession-friendly medium-tier tasty restaurant. Garces did it with Village Whiskey, Starr did it with Pizzeria Stella and they did it well. Reasonably priced eateries with great food and just a slightly less polished feel than their brethren.

What Vetri did do right was the look and feel. A nice bistro style almost reminiscent of a smaller Osteria. A natural feel with warm wood panels and comfortable surroundings was exactly what we were looking for on the snowy day we visited. The menu sounded great, the wine I got by the glass was superb and reasonably priced. Things were going great until the food came. We started off with some small plates of Mortadella mousse, pecorino cheese plate and Artichokes alla guidaida and a mixed Salumi plate. Nothing was bad but nothing was that good either. The artichokes were tasty but Jess called it exactly when she said it tastes like funnel cake.
I'm thinking maybe the chef was inspired during a recent trip to the Iowa state fair. The Salumi plate holds a special place in my heart and Osteria is one of my favorites. This one on the other hand, was disappointing. It was ridiculously small. I know house cured salumi is expensive to make but for $16 I was expecting at least enough for my stomach to know I ate something. The pork liver included in the trio tasted like it should have come out of a tube.

Our next round came. Bucatini alla “matriciana” with pork jowl, chili flake and pecorino, Gnocchi alla romana with oxtail ragu and Guinea hen leg saltimbocca with prosciutto and sage. The Bucatini pasta was good but nothing special. My local pizza shop Angelino's in Fairmount makes a similar tasting dish with everyday ingredients and much cheaper. I love pork jowl and have had great preparations at Osteria but this was a waste of the tasty cut. Speaking of pizza shops, the veal parm, I mean Guinea hen saltimbocca was unimpressively mediocre. I really thought it should have come on a bun wrapped in aluminum foil. The gnocchi I thought was going to save the day. After all, Vetri is famous for his gnocchi. That too disappointed. The goopy cream of wheat or Metamucil or whatever it was totally ruined the tasty oxtail ragu that accompanied it.

Dessert was pretty good. I'm glad we decided to give it a try since it left we less disappointed. The Belgian style waffles with nutella, vanilla semifreddo and toasted hazelnuts was extremely tasty. The Belgian waffle was light, sweet and hot. The melting, very delicious semifreddo and nutella really added a richness and moisture and resulted in a great dessert. The olive oil totra was good too but less memorable. The pastry chef was obviously the only one in the kitchen that really took a new look and food cost rather than just trying to dumb down Vetri signatures with disappointing results.

OK, so it wasn't vile and wasn't too overpriced and the interior was nice but there are too many great places out there to make those my criteria for revisiting a place.

1 disappointed Dave's out of 4. If I didn't know this was a Vetri endeavor, I might give it a 2 out of 4.


Wade's Take

Whats left to say? My co-bloggers were on the mark with their comments above.

I was having a good time pre-meal, eating marinated olives and sipping a fancy Belgian beer in Amis very comfortable, warm atmosphere. The space is open, with exposed concrete beams and worn metal framed windows. Yet despite its openness, it is still a small, intimate space. There are great views of the kitchen and the bar - you could see every table in the house from my seat (which proved true when I spotted a fellow Narberthian). We saw Vetri several times (I admit I was very excited each time). I say all of these things because I too really wanted to like the place... but the meal didn't synch.

The defining moment came when the salumi plate hit the table. Where was the rest of it? A measly sampling indeed. In fact, the pork liver terrine was a flavor clone of Oscar Mayer's braunschweiger. A tube of liverwurst you can buy at your local grocer for $2.29.

There were other highs and lows, captured perfectly in the words of the reviews above. At the end of the day, though, I have to give Amis a 1 out of 4.

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