Friday, January 18, 2013

Lolita Review

This is part of a series of posts related to Chef Marcie Turney including: VerdeLolita, the Midtown Village FestivalJamoneraLittle Nonna's, and Barbuzzo.

When I think of Philadelphia dining, I automatically think of Midtown Village and 13th Street in Center City. And the duo of Chef Marcie Turney and her partner Valerie Safran embody 'Restaurant Row' better than anyone else.

They infuse multicultural tastes in an intimate setting and more importantly - do it very well! Lolita (Mexican) was their first child, the foundation for an empire which included Bindi (Indian) at one point,  and now encompasses Barbuzzo (Mediterranean tapas) and Jamonera (Spanish tapas). This power duo is also the force behind Marcie Blaine (artisanal chocolates) and Verde (jewelry), among other ventures.

The GF and I have been to all of their outposts and are fond of Barbuzzo especially (think salted caramel budino!). This was actually our first time at Lolita, which is unfortunately cash only, but is also a BYOT joint - as in tequila! They offer delicious pitchers of mixes, including blood orange, which is an obvious best seller.

So on a recent Tuesday, the GF and I strolled in without reservations (apparently they do take reservations Sundays through Thursdays!) and were able to procure a table for two, by the kitchen. One note - the seating at these establishments is typically ... intimate (read: you will practically be sitting on your neighbors). However, this is really the only pitfall that I can discern from the dynamic duo's dining destinations (too much alliteration, I know, but I couldn't help myself!).

In any case, make sure to subscribe to the Lolita mailing list because then you'll be in the know about Taco Tuesdays - $20 prix fixe for a delicious meal!

Gaucomole & Chips [$9 supplemental]

Guacamole was offered as  supplemental course for $9, in addition to a $10 mango guac. We opted for the traditional, which was a delicious iteration of a favorite dish. But let's start with the chips, of which there were three varieties! The standard tortilla chip wasn't stale, but unfortunately, some were chewy. There were also mildly sweet plantain chips and deliciously sweet taro root chips as well! The guac itself was creamy, accentuated with lime, and topped with jicama slices. The tomato-heavy salsa was perfect and had a slight kick on the finish. And finally, the salsa verde was fresh and accentuated by cilantro.

The $20 prix fixe allowed us to choose from multiple options that seem to change every Taco Tuesday (which isn't every Tuesday mind you - so again, sign up for the mailing list!). Your selections are accompanied by three corn tortillas each, which actually had a flour-like texture which I enjoyed, along with various sides. Avocado-tomatillo and roasted tomato chipotle salsas were provided as well.  

Tomatillo Braised Pork Carnitas
Grilled chorizo, shaved green apple fennel slaw, pickled red onions

I opted for the pork carnitas, which were well-infused with sweet tomatillos. They were juicy and savory. A shaved green fennel slaw and pickled red onions offered a nice change in respective textures and tastes. The smoked chorizo was nicely charred and had some appreciated heat on the finish.

Crispy Potato & Wild Mushrooms
Smoked chihuahua cheese, sauteed kale

The GF opted for the crispy potato and wild mushroom taco for her selection. Unfortunately, her crispy potatoes weren't actually crispy and there were only three! However, they were still delicious and had a nice roasted flavor and texture. The mix of fillings was ... filling - mostly kale and mushrooms. The GF appreciated the variety in mushrooms, but noted that some were slimy in texture. She was, however, a fan of the accompanying spread.

Black Beans 

This included beans, which were the only difference between our respective spreads. Her black beans were sufficiently creamy and reminiscent of a black bean soup.

Mexican Beans
Smoked bacon, morita chile, caramelized onions

I had a sweet stew of pintos which contained smoked bacon and caramelized onions. I noticed the GF kept coming back for more!

Arroz Rojo
Tomato, jalapeno, red onion

We both had deliciously fluffy Mexican rice, which had nice chunks of tomato and red onion. The jalapeno was not sufficiently noticeable.

Jicama, Green Mango & Watermelon Radish Salad
Pepitas, Olive Oil, Lime

We also had the radish salad, which was mixed with olive oil and lime. The green mango pieces were appreciated and had an obviously softer texture and sweeter and taste when compared to the jicama and watermelon radishes.

"Street Style" Roasted Butternut Squash
Cotija, chile, lime aioli

But our favorite of the spread? The "street style" roasted butternut squash. The squash was creamy, but retained its structure - positively delicious, hearty, and O-face inducing (you know what I mean). In fact, this dish inspired us to buy some butternut squash to roast and top on tostadas later in the week!

Overall, Lolita hit the spot for us and Taco Tuesdays is a great deal to try a variety of Chef Turney's interpretations of Mexican-inspired dishes. Just be sure to bring some tequila, sufficient cash, and try to get a table that offers a bit of room!

Lolita on Urbanspoon

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