Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Vetri Ristorante Review [1]

This is for a series of posts for the Vetri family of restaurants including: Pizzeria Vetri [1], Pizzeria Vetri [2], Pizzeria Vetri [3], Alla Spina, Amis, Vetri Ristorante [1], and Vetri Ristorante [2].

When I first came to Philadelphia for grad school, I instantly missed NYC dining. However, when I got a closer whiff of Philly's food scene, I realized I was completely ignorant. Sure there's Restaurant Row on 13th Street, but influential restaurants? That's where Marc Vetri offers his magic and helped me fall in love.

Having been to his other outposts, which include Osteria, Alla Spina, and Amis, I agree that Marc Vetri's namesake restaurant (you guessed it - Vetri) should be described as one of the best Italian restaurants in the country. If  the venerable Mario Batali opines as much, then you know that Vetri, is quite simply put, in godly territory when Italian cuisine is concerned.

Originally opened in 1998, Vetri's handcrafted pastas won him a James Beard Award in 2005. Unfortunately for the general public, Vetri moved to a tasting menu only format in March of 2011. However, this allowed Vetri's skills to be properly showcased with a selection of dishes to amaze your palate.

As we head into 2013, I thought back to some of my favorite meals in Philly. Certainly, Vetri stands out in the forefront. I took the GF here for her birthday, but to be fully honest, it was probably more of a present for me than her. While her tastes have certainly expanded since we've started dating, we appreciated that the staff at Vetri was able to accommodate her interests, which did not include foie gras or goat. However, I was certainly game for anything and everything.

Vetri Tasting Menu [$155 pp]

At the time, I didn't plan on detailing our excursion in a food blog and more importantly, I was looking to enjoy the GF's birthday dinner. So apologies in advance for the lack of pictures, but I've detailed the meal as best as I can. I've included a few pictures of some of the highlights of our meal - credit goes to Foodographer, who beautifully details her own meal at Vetri.

Wine Pairing [$90 per person]

We also opted for the wine pairing, which was expertly matched by Vetri's esteemed sommelier, Jeff Benjamin.

As with all meals at Vetri, our night started with a glass of prosecco. This had fruity and light effervescent notes - a perfect aperitif. There was also a quartet of amuse bouches to whet our palates. These included pastrami-cured foie gras, salami, calabrese salami, and a vegetable torta. Both salamis had bite to them. While the calabrese salami had a spicy kick from the Calabrian chiles, the regular salami was redolent with fennel.

Pastrami-Cured Foie Gras with Peach Mostarda

The foie gras was rich and accentuated by garlic. The peach mostarda served as a nice counterpoint to cut through the bite.

Vegetable Torta

But the favorite of the quartet? The vegetable torta - filled with stewed vegetables, garlic, onions. This was quite savory, perfectly complemented by being sandwiched between nutty Parmesan crackers.

Then, it was off to the bread course. We were served foccacia and white bread - both baked in house. These were served with a fruity Italian olive oil. But of course, we had to save space for the rest of this six-course tasting, of which the highlights were ...

Sweet Onion Crepe with White Truffle

The onions in this crepe were perfectly caramelized and stuffed into a crispy pastry shell. The crepe was placed on a truffle cheese sauce, which was divine. This was all topped by nutty, salty Parmesan. Certainly a savory and deep dish, I can see why this is one of Vetri's signature dishes. 

Spinach Gnocci with Brown Butter 

This was my favorite dish - a quartet of spinach gnocci, which was perfectly molded. I was amazed at the fact that they did not fall apart until they were in my mouth. Hand-made - this was certainly impressive. Buttery, creamy, and savory - this is definitely the most delicious pasta dish I have ever tasted.

Almond Tortellini with Truffle Sauce

The GF's favorite dish was the almond tortellini. These tortellini were nicely al dente - redolent of sweet almonds, perfectly complemented by the truffle sauce. Crushed amaretti cookies added a nice textural element to the dish. I personally thought the dish was slightly more sweet than savory, but I can see why it was the GF's favorite.

Our meal also included a perfectly medium-rare and marbled Creekstone dry-aged rib eye with roasted peppers and a meaty, yet flaky black bass with zucchini and peas. It ended with a pistachio flan and an airy chocolate polenta souffle, followed by mignardises, which included toasted marshmallows and macarons.

And at the end of meal proper, we were gifted with a beautiful take-home bag, with the artful menu and wine pairings. Vetri also included almond cookies, which we enjoyed later that night.

Overall, the entire night was pretty magical - an experience, to be sure. Despite the $700 price tag including tax and tip, I can't wait for the next celebratory night to enjoy another decadent and perfectly crafted meal from Marc Vetri and his staff. If only they could bring back the a la carte option ...

Vetri on Urbanspoon

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