Friday, May 18, 2012

Sbraga: Art on a Plate

The Eggplant Terrine was a good looking number

Wish I'd tried the scallop with pork belly, watermelon and tabouleh!

Keri and I wanted to treat our menfolks to an upmarket dinner.

The timing was perfect.

The meal became a four way celebration of one wedding anniversary and three birthdays: two of the four of us are Pisceans while one other is guided by the dynamic star sign, Aries -- so this was a belated birthday treat for the majority of us!

We tried to get a reservation at Vetri.  No joy.  Had heard the buzz around Sbraga, and thought we'd give that a shot.  We got a table but waaaay early.  We secured a 6.15pm seating, which wasn't ideal.

Sbraga occupies a curious location.  It's a bit of dead zone for pedestrians, straddling the corner of Broad and Pine and many a restaurant has failed in this particular spot.  Still, it's been nominated for the Best New Restaurant in Philly, so we wanted to see whether it lived up to its PR...

The decor is muted.

The walls sport slabs of reclaimed wood while the wallpaper complements this with its discrete woodland theme.

The focal point of the restaurant is a sizable open kitchen with real wooden fires that burn dramatically.

The menu is a four course fixed price meal, with an option to pair your dishes with libations chosen by Sbraga's own experts.  Three of the four of us went this route.

Nice touch for openers...instead of the obligatory bread basket, we were each served our own truffle-infused popover.

This was a good start - in lieu of bread we had a popover made with truffle oil

I just had to run with the foie gras starter.  It came accompanied with wafer thin slices of melon, an almond crumble and guess what...?  

The plate was finished with a gentle melon sorbet.  It worked - beautifully.

I loved the presentation of my cod second course.  It looked like a flower growing off a stem.  The leaf was indeed a solitary bok choy leaf that had been caramelized to a crisp.  

The cod was cooked to perfection, but it lacked a certain something; it looked spectacular but seemed dull after the foie gras opener.

The lamb belly was certainly an unusual cut...

My husband had the Bronzino, which came with a crispy crust

The chocolate tart: the pistachio ice cream swayed our decision

We finished with the obligatory cheese course....
Our overall impression of Sbraga was good.  We had to wrestle with the wait staff to get a decent sized glass of wine to accompany the food.  (Unlike when you've bought the bottle yourself and the wait staff keep topping your glass up to encourage you to drink it as quickly as possible.)  Some of the drinks pairings were decidedly odd.  I'm not sure that we'd repeat that part of the meal again.  However, the food was delightful, innovative and surprising.

I'm planning a repeat visit when next my family is in from the U.K.  It does feel like a special occasion restaurant.

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