Is Blackfish the Best Restaurant in Philadelphia?
In its January 2011 issue, Philly Mag named Blackfish the #1 restaurant in Philadelphia (well, in the greater Philadelphia region, since it’s actually in Conshohocken). So, last night we decided to see for ourselves.
Described as a new American bistro, I had been there once a few years ago, before it had achieved significant buzz and critical acclaim. I remember eating a deliciously saffrony bouillabaisse, but I don’t recall much else.
With Matt able to get a night off from his tax accountant duties and our friends snagging a babysitter, we enjoyed a mid-week double date night. The room was lively, but not overcrowded.
While the guys opted for the 5 course tasting menu (at $70), my friend and I ordered a la carte. My friend started with the cauliflower soup with madras curry, golden raisins, and marcona almonds and then ordered the loch duart salmon, young beets, charred romaine, parsley, and horseradish crème. I tried oysters with pickled watermelon and carbonated meyer lemon to start and then the wild striped bass served with lardons, green apple, spinach, and caramel-red wine sauce as an entrée. She loved her dishes and so did I. To give you an idea of what the oysters tasted like, imagine a tart yet slightly sweet freshness. The striped bass was pan seared on a bed of the spinach, green apple, and lardons, which are essentially bacon.
The tasting menu changes from night to night, diner to diner. You can make requests or ask them to nix certain items, say if you are allergic to shellfish, for example. So, here’s what the tasters received:
First Course: house smoked scottish salmon, crispy potatoes, deep fried egg, sour cream
Second Course: liquid center foie gras terrine, sour cherry, pistachios, brioche
Third Course: new Zealand rack of lamb, sunchoke puree and some type of sauce that I missed. (This was not on the regular menu, and was a special entrée from the chef.) All of the sauces, including those on the bass and salmon, were poured tableside – a nice touch.
Fourth Course: cheese, the type I can’t recall either because this was also off the menu, but it was similar to a triple cream brie.
Fifth Course: chocolate cremeux, pistachios, whipped ricotta, compressed pineapple.
If you’re not familiar with some of the terms on this menu, neither was I. I just googled cremeux and discovered that it’s basically a French chocolate cream. Some things sound and look more impressive than they taste. I was able to score a few bites, but I found the chocolate flavor to be kind of flat and the consistency of the chocolate cream to be too firm; it was almost frozen.
There were many highlights to our evening, as well as a few low spots. Being able to bring your own wine is a nice way to keep the cost of the meal down a bit, although it was still not cheap. When you are paying $33 for a small plate of fish, you should not find a bone in it, as I did. Also, our servers could not keep track of who ordered what, dropping the wrong plates in front of the wrong diners. This is not a huge deal, but when the expectations and costs are this high, there is little room for error.
So, is Blackfish THE best place to eat in Philadelphia? I hate lists, so I’ll leave that up to Philly mag to decide.