Sunday, July 16, 2017

Walnut Street Cafe Review

You've probably heard about the newest gal in town. Not only does Walnut Street Cafe have a Michelin star-backed pedigree in the kitchen, but she's certainly pretty. Gorgeously designed and located on the ground level of the FMC Tower at Cira Center South, Walnut Street Cafe is sleek, bright, and open. A quick five-minute walk from Rittenhouse, you'll feel right at home whether you're enjoying pastries and coffee at the bar area or enjoying the view of the open kitchen during lunch and dinner service. So yes, Walnut Street's an all-day affair!

Walnut Street Cafe

Who are they exactly? I'd be remiss if I didn't exalt the team behind Walnut Street Cafe. While having dinner here, the GF and I had the chance to chat with proprietor Branden McRill & Chef Daniel Eddy. Branden is co-owner of Michelin-starred Rebelle in NYC, with his experience reading off like a litany of "It" restaurants and restaurateurs (read: Alinea, Blackbird, Danny Meyer, Jean-Georges Vongerichten to name a few). Chef Eddy began with Michael Psilakis, ultimately landing in Paris to work extensively with Daniel Rose. French technique intact, Eddy eventually returned to NY to team up with Branden at Rebelle. And with this move to Philly, their dynamic team is seeking to satiate Philly's palates without pretension. Think delicious food and evident technique in a convivial, approachable atmosphere.  

Bread Service
House-baked focaccia, olive oil 

Our meal started off with airy house-baked focaccia, with a perfectly bubbled crust. Not overly perfumed or salted, this went great with the accompanying olive oil. 

Dominican Wedding [$14]
Mole bitters, yellow chartreuse, PX sherry, mezcal 

Walnut Street Cafe - Dominican Wedding

I'm a sucker for drinks with chocolate bitters, so was obviously intrigued by the mole bitters. A bit of smoke from the mezcal married well (get it?) with the sweetness from the Pedro Ximenez and chartreuse, with the mole bitters rounding things out. 

Cold Crush [$14]
Lemon, cinnamon, grapefruit, rum, soda 

Walnut Street Cafe - Cold Crush

The GF's tipple offered easy drinking for the summer. The rum tempered the citrus nicely, with a bit of light effervescence from the soda. 

Ricotta and Lemon Toast [$7]

Walnut Street Cafe - Ricotta & Lemon Toast

Forget avocado toast - Walnut Street Cafe's ricotta with preserved lemons and parsley hit all the right notes. Especially the case on top of Chef Eddy's perfected multi-grain toast. Somehow hearty, yet light, and with the right amount of texture without losing any moisture. 

Iceberg Salad [$12]
Bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, blue cheese 

Walnut Street Cafe - Iceberg Salad

I have no qualms about ordering salad when they're adorned and dressed like this. This horizontal wedge eschews the uninteresting parts of the Iceberg, with crisp, unctuous bacon lardons, bright red onion, roasted sun-dried tomatoes, and plenty of blue cheese interspersed perfectly within every bite. Acid, texture, fat, freshness - it was all there.

Lasagna [$16]
Veal ragu, toasted hazelnuts, thyme 

Walnut Street Cafe - Lasagna

We were simply stunned by the lasagna. Sorry Philly - it's not all about the Sunday Gravy or red sauce, because Eddy's white sauce is where it's at. Another summer delight, this dish offers all the enjoyably crispy bits of pasta, with plenty of savory notes from the thyme and veal ragu, along with additional texture and wonderful mouthfeel from the hazelnut. This is a must order.

Black Bass [$24]
Cranberry beans, sauce piperade 

Walnut Street Cafe - Black Bass

Gorgeously plated, the black bass was firm and moist, with crisp, seasoned skin. Cranberry beans provided nice heft to the dish, with plenty of acid and subtle sweetness from the stew of tomatoes, green peppers, and onions. 

Hangar Steak [$26]
Salsa verde, sauce bordelaise 

Walnut Street Cafe - Hangar Steak

I appreciated that the hangar wasn't prototypically overly marinated and Chef Eddy allowed the beautiful cut to shine. Steak is appropriately executed sans salt crust, which would have detracted from the flavorful beefiness of the steak. And frankly there was plenty of salty hits of savoriness from the salsa verde, which emanated plenty of caper and anchovy essence.

Honey-Roasted Carrots [$8]

Walnut Street Cafe - Honey-Roasted Carrots

A veritable garden of gorgeous rainbow carrots were honey-roasted and grilled to hit the sweet and earthy notes to nicely complement the main. 

Buttermilk Panna Cotta [$9]
Pistachio crumble, strawberry sorbet

Walnut Street Cafe - Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Walnut Street Cafe has a force in Pastry Chef cum Babka Queen Melissa Weller. You'll swoon with Weller's panna cotta. It's set with a light acidic tang from the buttermilk, nutty texture from the pistachio crumble, tart sweetness from the strawberry sorbet, and gorgeous blackberries that were seemingly macerated in a bit of honey. Beautifully plated and a light way to end a wonderful meal.

The kitchen was clearly on point, especially considering it had just opened. Service was also exceptional all-around. Our server Amanda was affable, with great recommendations and knowledge of the menu. I know I'll be back again soon not just for dinner. In fact, they've got patio dining so pretty sure we have our new go-to for when we take Porter on his morning walks by Cira Green.

FTC Disclaimer: Thanks to Walnut Street Cafe & Gloss PR for hosting us. Regardless, my opinions are mine alone and, therefore, unbiased. 

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