Saturday, July 29, 2017

Renzell Tasting: Fork Restaurant Review

You may have seen my recent post about Renzell, the restaurant rating system that intends to eliminate the inherent bias that plagues the Yelp's of the world. Feedback is culled from diner surveys, which results in hundreds of thousands of data points providing us with a list of the best restaurants in the city. Why would diners take the time to fill out said surveys? Free Lyft credits, bottles of wine, and Soul Cycle classes aside, you're able to spend points to indulge in free Private Tasting experiences at some of the best restaurants in the city. 

Renzell Tasting at Fork Restaurant's Private Dining Room

The GF and I recently had the pleasure of exploring what a Renzell Tasting exactly entailed. And luckily for us, the stage was set by one of the city's most venerable and lauded restaurants, Fork. Co-owned by respected restaurateur Ellen Yin and Chef Eli Kulp, Fork is the original concept for these James Beard Award nominees. It's part of the High Street Hospitality Group, which also includes High Street on Market, High Street on Hudson, and a. kitchen + bar. It's rare that a restaurant has not only persisted, but consistently progressed over two decades. And with Executive Chef John Patterson at Fork's helm, Craig LaBan elevated Fork to four bells late last year.

Fork Restaurant - Renzell Tasting
Clockwise from Top Left: Parmesan Gougeres, Crab Salad and Watermelon Radish,
Pre-Dinner Cocktail and Wine Pairings 

So needless to say, the GF and I were excited. Whisked away to the private back room upon arrival, there was a grand, yet intimate tablescape set for the Renzell diners, along with a pre-dinner cocktail. One of Fork's signatures - Between Now and Then - this was easy to enjoy during this particularly hot summer night. Smooth sweetness from the Laird's apple brandy and the Winter pear liqueur had a nice interplay with the lime and rosemary. The foundation of Hayman's Old Tom gin had a light, herbal spice that evoked juniper and coriander. 

Passed hors d'oeuvres included a light crab salad - innately sweet, light on the mayo, and with some bite from green onion. This sat atop the crunch of watermelon radish. Gougeres were enjoyably light, but with plenty of Parm shaved over. 

Sweet Amalia Oysters | Castellroig Rose Cava

Fork Restaurant - Amalia Oysters

Local oysters were on offer from Cape May NJ. Plump, meaty, and briny, this paired nicely with the cava.

Fairytale Eggplant Castellroig Rose Cava

No bitterness came from these gorgeous fairytale eggplant, scored and delicately roasted to provide just enough smoky savoriness to bring us to our meal proper.

Watermelon Salad | Cuvee di Silex 

Fork Restaurant - Watermelon Salad

For the GF's first course, she received a gorgeous landscape of compressed watermelon that had a subtle sweetness and texture that was balanced by the espelette-brown butter crumble and the floral tang of the green coriander yogurt.

Shrimp Carpaccio | Cuvee di Silex

Fork Restaurant - Shrimp Carpaccio

Not to be outdone, the dish I received was just as visually stunning. Lightly smoked, the briny essence of the shrimp carpaccio was further cemented by the sea beans, with additional texture coming from bits of radish. Both were paired with a crisp and vibrant Chenin Blanc.

Bread Service

Fork Restaurant - Bread

Having previously flourished under James-Beard nominated Alex Bois, High Street on Market's bread program is second to none and continues to turn out amazing product. Therefore, it came as no surprise that bread service at Fork is not standard fare. A wonderful crust and a moist, buoyant texture within, it was the perfect vessel for the soft (yes!) pat of butter.

Potato Gnocchi | "B Minor"

Fork Restaurant - Potato Gnocchi

Pasta were paired with an Australian Mourvedre-Grenache-Shiraz blend from Nagambie Lakes. Rich and velvety, this went nicely with the GF's gnocchi. Pillowy clouds of pasta were ethereal and seemingly vanished in the sauce of lamb ragu and English peas.

Black Pepper Malfatti | "B Minor"

Fork Restaurant - Black Pepper Malfatti

Malfatti were rolled out to thin pasta sheets, with cheese, garlic scapes, and cracked black pepper interspersed with some heft from the occasional fava.

Golden Tilefish | Tasca d'Almerita Leone

Fork Restaurant - Golden Tilefish

Local New Jersey tilefish was delicate, flaky, and with the sweet essence of lobster or crab. Stewed Sun Gold tomatoes and potatoes provided the foundation, with furikake seasoning adding texture to each bite. This was paired with a fragrant Cattarato blend from Sicily.

32 oz. Dry-Aged Strip | Valderhermoso Roble

Fork Restaurant - 32 oz Dry-Aged Strip

We were also treated with a behemoth 32 oz. dry-aged sirloin - essentially the T-bone, with a bit of the filet as an added bonus. Nicely seared on the exterior and basted with plenty of butter and roasted garlic, I appreciated that the funk of the dry-aged beef was allowed to shine. This was served with rainbow carrots roasted in bone marrow and a well-dressed chicory salad. Paired with a Spanish red that was aged in French oak barrels, this was a luxurious end to our mains.


Fork Restaurant - Raspberry Sorbet

A particularly pretty palate cleanser of tart raspberry sorbet and pomegranates signified dessert.

Chocolate Mousse Tart

Fork Restaurant - Chocolate Mousse Tart

There was a nice interplay between the luxurious chocolate mousse and the tang of the citrus curd, with texture coming from the trail of chocolate graham crackers.

Pecan Brown Butter Cake

Fork Restaurant - Pecan Brown Butter Cake

And to complete the Renzell Tasting at Fork, tangy, saccharine sorbet and fresh peaches sat atop a moist pecan brown butter cake.

Service was exceptional and seamless. Beverage Director & Manager Harry Jamison also ensured that each pairing was well-described and every question was answered. It was wonderful chatting with Ellen Yin when she stopped by to say hello to each and every diner.

So what are you waiting for? Make sure you sign up for Renzell and become part of the movement to provide feedback as to what constitutes Philly's best restaurants! Beyond the pre-dinner cocktails, multiple courses, and wine pairings, we realized that one of the most enjoyable aspects of the Renzell Tasting was being able to have dinner with some of the city's most enthusiastic palates. No pretension, just general merriment.

Fork Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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