Saturday, January 21, 2012


Wade's Take:

It was a feeling of eternal return to be back in the space that is now Aperto. Yes, the PFB group has been in many restaurant real estate spaces again and again (see Koo-Zee-Doo formerly Copper Bistro, or Adsum which once existed as Coquette, to name a few). This was different for me. I've known this local eating space as four different restaurant iterations. What began as Carmine's turned to Margot. Margot became Gemelli. Now, Gemelli has blossomed into Aperto. Each had its unique strengths and each was a default spot to take out-of-town guests (I live mere blocks away). I am happy to report that Aperto lives up to this legacy.

The space is comfortable, intimate and warm. The kitchen is small and open, bordered by a eat-on bar curving across the corner of the room. This openness allows for a great feeling of connectivity with the chef and kitchen happenings.

We had a serving of small plates to whet our appetites. I ordered the feta and olives. Small chunks of fresh feta were skewered with nuevo brined olives. 

My starter was the salmon tartare. Small pieces of diced salmon were piled atop cucumber and tzatziki. The dish was good, but very safe. The salmon was mild and tempered even more by the simple tzatziki. Many people might like this dish exactly as it is. For my taste, I imagine it could be improved by serving it with toasted rye bread, a dose or capers or even some citrus to give it some zest.

The striped bass provencal was my entree. It was a scrumptious dish. The fish had a gently seasoned pan fried skin that I lovingly ate. It was cooked just right and was both flaky and meaty. The fish was second-fiddle to the rest of the dish, though. The french-based, thick broth contained chunky tomatoes, roasted fingerling potatoes, capers and cipollini onions. This was my first foray into cipollini onions, and I loved them. These tiny, sweet, purple onions almost tasted pickled with their tartness, but I think it only took some roasting to produce this fantastic flavor.

Dessert gave us many tempting options, but we decided upon the chocolate coffee panna cotta. If I had a nice bitter cappuccino alongside my panna cotta I would have been happier. The mocha and chocolate mousse layers weren't as strong as I'd hoped. We mused that perhaps there was too much gelatine that softened the flavors and left my taste buds craving something with a little more depth as my last taste of Aperto.

3 out of 4 local eateries. 

Jess’ Take:

You know it takes some convincing to get me outside of the City. We’ve done it before with success, so when both Wade and Craig LeBan informed us of Aperto I thought it was time to once again make the trek…. All the way to Narberth.

We were not disappointed. It’s obvious that we weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the new spot. Our reservation was at 8pm and when we left around 10:30 the restaurant was still hopping.

Embracing our European sides, we ordered 3 courses, beginning with several small dishes. The roasted chic peas were my top pic, although the spiced Marcona almonds were a close second.

My second was the Farm Salad, made up of greens, beets, goat cheese, carrots, smoked pancetta, almonds and cider vinaigrette.  It was delicious! The salty pancetta and creamy goat cheese made the dish (naturally the two things that bring down the “health” value of the salad quite a bit).

For my entrée I decided to go with the special, which was monkfish served with braised asparagus, carrots and squash. It was served over French lentils with a red pepper coolie sauce. It was excellent! Monkfish is one of my favorites for it’s meaty texture and subtle taste. This one was just slightly crispy on the outside and very moist on the inside. A top fish dish of the year for sure.

As Wade mentioned, the dessert was good but not great. As always, we were wooed by the chocolate but it failed to hit home. I’m always amazed at how challenging it is to find a good dessert in this town – Narberth included.

3.5 out of 4 commutes to the burbs. 

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Thursday, January 05, 2012


Wade's Take:
We jaunted down Broad Street for the second month in a row to try Sbraga, a fairly new "modern American dining" spot.

The interior was fantastic. A large, open-space was coupled with high-ceilings and lean pillars made of a web of re-salvaged woods. The bar and kitchen prep area stretched the length of the restaurant, and pillars broke up the space to allow for more of a private dining feeling. Windows wrapped around for views of Broad Street in every direction.

Sbraga's primary offering is a four-course prix fixe menu for $45. Each area had some great choices, and here were mine.

My first course was a dose of sweetbreads. These delectable morsels were flash-fried and paired with tonnato and capers. Let's never forget how great capers can be... and tonight's dish did not disappoint. The tonnatos gave the dish a subtle sweetness. The capers added a mini bitter bite. To finish the dish were small pools of yogurt-like substances, and some arugula. It was a dish worth having.

Next up was the arctic char. The fish was cooked excellently - but the skin was unforgettable. Separated from the filet and (pan-fried?) densely crisped, it was like eating a fish potato chip - yet less greasy and only with the slight taste of fish. Dipping the crisp skin in the beet sauce dallops along its side was perfection for me. The caviar, dill and pickled onions that also came along for the ride only added to my enjoyment.

The third and final savory course was meatloaf. I picked the meatloaf with a potato puree and bacon marmalade. The meatloaf was nice, with overtones of your typical homemade meatloaf and undertones of things a bit more exotic, like sriracha and lemongrass. The potato puree was doused in a rich beef broth reduction. The bacon marmalade was subtle, which was nice. I was expecting something too rich with bacon... but Sbraga proved that bacon actually can be subtle.

Dessert was their tiramisu flavor combination of marscapone, coffee granita and chocolate. The texture of this dessert was a highlight of the meal. The crunch, creaminess of the marscapone and bittersweet chocolate and coffee flavorings hit the mark.

Sbraga, I'd love to see you again. 3 out of 4 capers.

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