After 5 years at the helm of Marigold Kitchen, Chef Robert Halpern has decided to move on. Lucky for me, the GF took us here for my birthday last Fall.
This goes to show how behind I am in my posts!
One of Philly's best attempts at modernist cuisine, Marigold Kitchen is certainly a bright spot in West Philly, situated in a nicely renovated home.
Tasting Menu [$85 pp]
The motto of Marigold Kitchen is "let us amuse your bouche." And rightly so - the tasting menu here is an offering of small bites. And as with many Philly establishments, it's BYO!
Liquid Nitro Popcorn
Truffle oil, sea salt
Clearly a nod to Ferran Adria's elBulli and subsequently, Grant Achatz's Alinea, Chef Halpern offered up liquid nitrogen popcorn, perfumed with truffle oil. The effect at the former restaurants was to create a dragon's breath where the nitrogen could escape out of your nose. Here, there was no such instruction and perhaps this was because the effect was not apparent, if at all. Still, each bite was crunchy, cool, and salty - not bad.
The dippin' dots continued our nitro amuses and to better effect. The funky essence of gorgonzola and the savoriness of bacon was distilled into a creamy cool bite. Delicious.
Rilette, prosciutto, pickled cranberries, Gherkins, mustard seed
The charcuterie platter was decent. The rilette of confit duck was nicely seasoned, but I could have used more toast points. The pickled cranberries offered a bright counterbalance. The heft of the prosciutto was apparent, while the pickled Gherkins and the mustard seed offereing some acidity.
2-year aged Cabot clothbound cheddar
The aged cheddar cracker was certainly a nod to Cheez-its, though with better flavor and a pop of sharp warm cheddar within.
Now, I was starting to get impressed. The sweet foam of was infused with herbaceous thyme.
And even better? The rich lobster bisque beneath. A nice juxtaposition.
Creme fraiche, pumpkin seed soil, burning cinnamon
We weren't offered utensils for this particular dish so it was a bit awkward. Still, this dish offered even more contrast, with an ethereal creme fraiche provided with a substantive cake. The latter had great walnut essence, heightened by the pumpkin seed soil and the headiness of the burning cinnamon (inedible).
Roasted Corn Ravioli
The GF's favorite of the night was a simple roasted corn ravioli, the sweetness of the corn balanced nicely by the cumin salt. Delicious.
Orange, pistachio, balsamic, port, lavender, goat kefir ice cream
The omnipresent beet salad was one of the better interpretations I've had in awhile. The balsamic foam - simply amazing - was easily one of the best things I've tasted in awhile. The goat kefir ice cream did have a bit of an aftertaste, but overall, each of the other components of the dish worked well.
Glidden Point Oyster
Hot & Cold cauliflower, uni, sturgeon caviar, edamame, lemon
Typical of most Maine oysters, the Glidden Point had a firm richness that could withstand the other components of the dish. The creamy sweetness of the uni and the brininess of the caviar was balanced by the lemon, with the cauliflower providing a smooth undertone. Very nice.
Pickled jalapenos, shiitakes, truffle, Cabot clothbound cheddar
One of my favorites was the peeky toe crab, which was cooked perfectly. The 2-year aged cheddar provided a sharpness to the mac n cheese broth. Speckled with jalapeno, bacon, and lardon, there was extra weight to elevate everyone's favorite comfort food.
As an intermezzo, a red currant sorbet brought forth sweet undertones with a tart brightness - nice palate cleanser.
Miso eggplant, roasted cauliflower, lemon-tahini glaze
The GF's main incorporated the interplay between the salty miso and the umami of eggplant, which still had some bite. The baked quinoa was initially sweet but came through with earthy flavors that were complemented by the cauliflower and accented by the lemon-tahini glaze. The chickpea croquettas could have been a dish by themselves.
Carrot puree, sweet potato croquette, confit leg, bacon potato hash
My succulent duck breast came out medium rare - cooked perfectly. The confit leg was decadent and rich. The bacon potato hash was absolutely delicious, containing smoky and some candied savory bits. My croquette was just as good as the GF's, but contained sweet potatoes within. The beautiful pearl onion helped to brighten the dish a bit, with the baby bok choy providing some greenery to the plate.
Surprisingly, it was at this point we were offered bread service in the form of a gruyere popover, reminiscent of BLT Steak and of course, Sbraga. This was nicely airy and cheesy. Perhaps the latter provided a transition into the cheese course.
Birchrun Hills Fat Cat, Jasper Hills Bayley Hazen, Valley Shepherd Creamery Oldwick, quince, green grapes, Marcona almonds
Valley Shepherd's sheep's milk, a Birchrun washed rind, and a Jasper Hills blue cheese were offered along with some sweet marcona almonds, gluttonous quince paste, and green grapes.
Pomegranate caviar, green tea tuile
I was also offered what was somewhat reminiscent of a creme brulee, with the brulee being replaced a green tea tuile, and the vanilla being highjacked by bright pomegranate caviar and a smooth pistachio creme. Nice.
The GF received a nitro chocolate with ice cream within. It was accompanied a childhood treat - a creamy chocolate and vanilla push pop!
And with that the meal was over - for now. Along with the bill, we were gifted a box of caramel popcorn to be enjoyed at home.
Of course, I couldn't help but take a peek at home and pop back a few kernels. The caramel really came through - rich, salty, sweet. Yum.
It's unfortunate that Chef Halpern has decided to move on, but he has definitely left his imprint on Philly cuisine. Service on this night was good - a bit inconsistent at times, but overall very friendly and accommodating. Hopefully some iteration of Marigold Kitchen remains and it'll be interesting to see what direction it may take. Be sure to reserve one of the final tables as service under the Halpern era appears to be fini on June 28th!