An Amazing Meal in Philly

June 5, 2014

Mushroom 1

9:30 on a Monday night and the place is packed, people still pouring in the door. And this is Philadelphia?

A few bites in, and I understand why Fork is so popular.  This is, from the very first taste, truly exciting food. 


These look like ordinary oysters. They're not. Chef Eli Kulp has chilled them to the perfect point of iciness, then topped them with his own personal mignonette, which adds the crunch of celery to the mix. The result is a textural dream.


 A couple of amusing little bites. Dandelion greens slashed with miso and dried to crackling flakiness. The counterpoint is radishes transformed into a soft vegetable leather, a stunning surprise to the mouth: robbed of their brisk crispness, the flavor of the humble radish takes a new turn. 


Radishes, again, this time buried in a "soil" made of various seeds. "Soil" in its many incarnations, seems to be the dish of the moment. 

This was followed by a couple of amusing little twists on rolls: first clam madeleines, which would have made Proust think twice.  Then square little pretzels filled with mustard, a new take on a Philadelphia classic. And wonderful little bialys, filled with homemade (Philadelphia) cream cheese.



Spring served in a bowl. Rhubarb consomme with tender greens, a bit of almond and then, singing loudly in the middle, a single perfect strawberry, the flavor resonating on and on.  Stunningly delicious.  



A single stalk of asparagus with a granita made from the fremented roots of broccoli rabe, ricotta and bee pollan. Just a few pungent little bites, the opening act for the brilliant dish that followed, pictured at the top.

Bite into that elegant little circle of mushrooms and you find this:

Mushroom 2

filling of sweet potato and cashew cheese, with a sprinkling of citrus.  An hommage to a dish invented by Pascal Barbot of Paris' L'Astrance, it would make a vegetarian out of the most recalcitrant meat eater.



Another new way to look at Philadelphia cuisine. Pasta made from rye and caraway.  A sauce of pastrami and mustard. A bit of dill. Deli food has never been so elegantly reprised.




Another  Philadelphia dish – the classic pork sandwich – lovingly remade. The sweetness of this gorgous pork makes a fine contrast to fermented broccoli rabe, while its soft juiciness is teased out by those sharp little shards of dried provolone.

There were many desserts, all interesting, including elements like caraway rye ice cream and root beer tea.  I regret to confess that I'd been so completely seduced by this splendid meal that I'd forgotten all about my camera at this point in the evening.

Mea culpa. But it was, after all, around midnight.


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  • Sshhaauunn says:

    no comment on the bread? their bread is one the main attractions.

  • philafood says:

    “And this is Philadelphia?” It’s so easy (and lazy) for any writer to dump on Philly. I thought you were above that. The fact is that, while we are not NY and never will be, we’re serving some great food in this town. Peter Serpico is doing some great things on South St., Greg Vernick’s food in Rittenhouse has received national acclaim, and Nick Elmi is offering one of the most special food experiences at his small BYO on Passyunk. Oh and in addition we’re blessed to have the likes of Marc Vetri, Michael Solomonov and Jose Garces cooking in this town. I would place their food up against any served in NY.
    Maybe you haven’t been paying attention, but much of NY has gotten so price prohibitive that young talented chefs can’t afford to live there anymore. Philly is cheap. Rents are low and young chefs can afford develop their careers in an industry that pays very little. I’m happy that you’re writing about Fork and Eli Kulp’s food is truly amazing but please don’t underestimate what’s going on here.

  • Ruth Reichl says:

    philafood: No disrespect to Philadelphia; everyone who cares knows that the food there is terrific.
    My comment was about the timing of the dinner. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find late meals in America? Having just spent a month in a different city almost every day, I’ve struggled to find places to eat when I was done with my events. Weekends were no problem, but finding restaurants willing to serve me dinner at 9:30 on a weeknight was usually difficult. And Monday night is usually the slowest night of the week.

  • Ruth Reichl says:

    Sshhaauunn: I did mention the impressive clam madeleines, the pretzels rolls, the bialys. Sadly, my pictures of them were all awful.

  • Phicklefoods says:

    This was truly a special meal, especially because we had the opportunity to eat it with you! Thanks for joining us and thanks, Chef Eli and Chef Sam for a stunning meal!
    Your write-up is a fabulous way to relive this meal.