Monday, July 3, 2017

Vesper Review

On Sydenham Street between 15th/16th and Walnut/Locust streets, Vesper is hidden away in the heart of Center City. And shouldn't that be the case? After all, it is a supper club with a speakeasy hidden within (psst: it's behind the bookcase by the hostess stand). In 1901, the original Vesper club was chartered by the Mummers and throughout the next century, it was home to folks seeking reprieve from Prohibition with bathtub gin stills and mob ties leaving their mark. In 2015, the trio of Brendan Smith, Chuck Ercole, and John Barry re-imagined Vesper to be a Philly destination to enjoy a refined night out, without any pretension. 


The GF and I were invited along with Philly Chit Chat, Philly Food Girl, Philly Meatstagram, and Philly Food Porn to try Executive Chef Corey Mullen's latest creations. We started off at the bar and enjoyed some properly made drinks, before heading to the main dining room. 

Vesper - Cocktails
Clockwise from Top Right: Whiskey Smash | Old Fashioned | Moscow Mule | Vesper [$13 each]

The eponymous Vesper cocktail was smooth and boozy, with Bluecoat Gin featured along with vodka and Cocchi Americano. I enjoyed the Whiskey Smash, which had the bite of whiskey, muddled in the fashion of a Mint Julep with a citrusy twist. And who can say no to a properly made Old Fashioned or the ginger effervescence of a Moscow Mule? 

Bread Service

Vesper - Bread Service

Bread service consists of house-baked bread - warm, crusty, and fluffy within. A pat of chive butter melted easily and created a satisfying start to the meal.

Caprese Tower [$12]
Broken balsamic, basil oil

Vesper - Caprese Tower

The meal proper started off with a tower of thick-cut and ripe tomatoes, stacked with fresh mozzarella. Balsamic and basil oil drizzle complemented each bite, providing a twist on the classic caprese.  

Scallops & Chorizo

Vesper - Scallops & Chorizo

Skewers of savory-sweet scallops and house-smoked chorizo provided a nice interplay between textures and tastes, with red pepper providing a fresh reprieve. Oh, and the scallops were from Hokkaido, giving you a sense of the quality of ingredients available at Vesper.

Hog Wings [$12]
House-made spicy honey BBQ, summer slaw

Vesper - Hog Wings

One of the big hits of the night had to be the hog wings. Currently off-menu and soon to be featured on both the regular menu and during Happy Hour, these are a must. Properly frenched in lollipop fashion, these nuggets of pork joy are tender as can be and will fall off the bone in one fell swoop. The spicy sauce is tempered by honey and the summer slaw of watermelon radish, carrots, and parsnips provided a countervailing element to the pork. 

Lobster Ravioli [$28]
Sauteed leeks, roasted spring squash

Vesper - Lobster Ravioli

Lobster ravioli were generously portioned and cooked nicely al dente. The sauce was rich and smoky, with the tender, sweet lobster still shining through. The sauteed leeks and roasted spring squash provided even more depth to each bite. 

Chilean Seabass [$38]
Rehydrated cherry risotto, pistachio pesto 

Vesper - Chilean Seabass

PhillyFoodGirl and I both remarked that we could not get enough of the Chilean sea bass. A stunner of a dish and possibly the best of the night, the fish was cooked perfectly. Delicately seared and firm, yet flaky, Chef Mullen's deft touch with the seasoning on the fish was reasonable considering the punch of flavor from the rich risotto and flavorful pistachio pesto. Definitely coming back for this! 

Seared Lamb Loin [$32]

Vesper - Lamb Loin

Lamb loin cut like butter and easily ate like filet, with the light, grassy notes reminding you this was lamb. The bed of ratatouille was sweet, earthy, and had enough acid to counter the lamb.

Duroc Pork Rib Chop [$36]
Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin

Vesper - Duroc Pork Rib Chop

Vesper doesn't kid around with the quality of its ingredients. The brined Duroc Pork Rib Chop was moist, juicy, and nicely crusted on the exterior. And the potato and swiss chard gratin? Pure heaven, with the swiss chard almost eating like creamed spinach, but with more texture, especially with the potato gratin and crusted mozzarella on top. Even if you don't get this dish, you'd be remiss if you didn't order the gratin as a side!  

Chocolate Cake & Cheesecake 

At this point we were clearly stuffed, but dessert came in the form of a chocolate cake that was light, moist, and had a decadent ganache. The cheesecake was a clear winner in my book as well. So much so that it stacks up with Junior's in NY. It had just the right amount of tang and creaminess, with an ephemeral texture that made me think there was ricotta involved. So light in fact, it almost felt as though it evaporated upon mastication. If only that were the case with the waistline after a night like this.  

Chef Mullen's clearly killing it in the kitchen and service was beyond reproach. I know I'll be by again to check out the speakeasy downstairs, perhaps after popping in for some hog wings during Happy Hour. Then again, I can easily see that turning into another night salivating over more of the Chilean Sea bass and and cheesecake. 

FTC Disclaimer: I was invited to this tasting as a guest of Vesper & Stacey Kracher. Regardless, my opinions are mine alone and, therefore, unbiased.

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

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