Saturday, January 21, 2012

Aperto

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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