June 5, 2014
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:
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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