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Vernick Food & Drink, Chef-Owner Gregory Vernick's Terrific Cuisine on S. 21st. and Walnut Street in Rittenhouse Square

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On 6/16/2013 at 7:44 PM, Choirgirl21 said:

If you'd never been to Philly and only had one night there for a nice dinner, where would you go?

Same question for best cheesesteak (consensus seems to be Tony Luke's), pre or post dinner cocktails, anything else can't miss including tourist activities?

Vernick Food & Drink

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We ate at Vernick on our one dinner out during a trip to Philadelphia.

Everything we had was excellent. 2 of us shared a bunch of small plates and toasts. Particularly notable

Romaine w figs

Brussels w ancho caramel

Tagliatelle w duck

Beet soup amuse bouche

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Had a very good (and expensive, thanks to the wide array of dishes we tried) dinner here.  Some of the creativity and blending of inspirations evoked aspects of Rose's Luxury, as did the high level of quality control and overall deliciousness.  Favorites included the sea urchin, yogurt, and shirred egg dish (where they cleverly used sherry and shrimp oil in the egg to accentuate the sea urchin flavor); chili-glazed octopus; black pepper pappardelle with lamb shoulder ragu and fava; and the crispy potatoes/shishito peppers.

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Had an excellent meal at Vernick Food & Drink last night on my way out of town. It was the best meal I had in Philly this weekend (and probably the best I've had in all of my trips to Philly).

Everything we had was thoughtful, seasonal and very delicious. It was not overwrought or over-thought.

Just for comparison's sake, I would say it reminded me of Mintwood Place or the old Palena Cafe (when you could order off both menus); but with more polished service and slightly younger/hipper atmosphere.

Just really solid cooking, classic flavors (with a twist or two) and great execution all around.

Ordered:

Two Toasts (Beef tartare and Spinach/Fontina)

Asparagus, Romesco, Crispy Egg

Pea Ravioli with Rabbit Ragu

Date Cake with Coconut Ice Cream, Orange and Cardamom

And petite brownie a la mode ($3.....who sells $3 desserts?!?)

No misses. Will be back. And will recommend enthusiastically.

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Liked but didn't totally love our second visit here.  I think they changed the sea urchin and shrimp flavored egg prep from our last visit but it's quite good.  I would prioritize High Street over Vernick on a future trip.

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"Early look at Vernick Coffee Bar at new Comcast tower" , Michael Klein, The Inquirer, 9-25-18 

I have been following the development of the the coffee bar that is  soon to open to the public on Oct 19th. Employees of Comcast that are employed in the tower exclusively, have access to the bar currently, prior to their opening to the public. Lucky ducks. Later this year, according the article, Vernick Fish is scheduled to open in Spring of 2019, along with the opening of the Four Seasons as well.  Vernick happens to be one of the more difficult reservations to secure, unless you want to dine at 10. 

Has anyone dined recently at the Vernick? If so what do you recommend? I may plan an outing in Philly to include both breakfast at Vernick Coffee, then a dinner later at Vernick.

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On 10/10/2018 at 7:58 AM, curiouskitkatt said:

Has anyone dined recently at the Vernick? If so what do you recommend? I may plan an outing in Philly to include both breakfast at Vernick Coffee, then a dinner later at Vernick.

I had dinner at Vernick last weekend. Everything was fabulous, but the one dish I wouldn't miss is the sea scallop and black truffle butter toast.

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On 10/10/2018 at 7:58 AM, curiouskitkatt said:

Has anyone dined recently at the Vernick? If so what do you recommend? I may plan an outing in Philly to include both breakfast at Vernick Coffee, then a dinner later at Vernick.

Pleased to be of service. We rolled the dice on a 6 PM walk-in at Vernick last Thursday, and got two perfect seats at the bar (the last two seats available in the entire restaurant). 

Based on this meal, Vernick should be #1 on your list of restaurants to try in Philadelphia if you've never been: I've certainly been to better restaurants in my life, but this meal was very close to faultless - not perfect, but faultless - with every single thing at least "very good," and several things "outstanding"; there was only a mild fade in the final course which could have also been because we were positively stuffed.

My dining companion compared Vernick favorably to Woodberry Kitchen (where we've been twice this summer), noting that they were somewhat similar in style, but that Vernick was operating at a much higher level of execution - in terms of style, I thought of Palena, but my guess is that Vernick may be stronger with fish, Ruta with darker meats and clarity of presentation.

These menus aren't exactly the same as what we had, but they're close - I suspect as we grow more deeply into autumn, they'll become even more focused on root.

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Our bartender made me a perfect Gimlet ($12), asking me if I wanted it up (yes) or rocks, and sheepishly saying, "Gin?" I gave her something of a modified stinkeye, and she took us seriously from that point forward. DIShGo got a Low Commotion ($13) with Cocchi Americano, Alta Verde Amaro, lavender, lemon, and tonic, and these two drinks - as well as the eye test - were enough to convince me that Vernick takes its cocktail program very seriously. We also got a bottle of Strehn Blaufränkisch Rosé ($52) which escorted us through the entire meal.

We were worried about over-ordering, but our wonderful bartender told us (incorrectly, I will add) that we'd be fine. While sipping our cocktails, a delightful surprise: an amuse-bouche of sunchoke soup with a rye gougère - the first time I've ever had a non-wheat gougère, and it was a winning combination:

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And then after that, a second amuse arrived which was even more impressive: two generous cuts of Madai with a slightly sweet, slightly citrus sauce - this dish alone would have cost $10-12 as sashimi (my memory is a bit disturbed because I don't see any pink on the edge of the fish, but I'm pretty sure this was Madai).

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After these two amuses, there were clear signals that Vernick wasn't afraid to fuse countries, as well as mild sweetness and acidity, into his courses. Then came the consensus favorite dish of the night - not necessarily "the best" dish, but our favorite dish: Sea Scallop and Black Truffle Butter on Toast ($24 and worth it). Do not let grim thoughts of truffle oil invade your tortured mind - this dish was so good that it was cruel to have it cut into thirds for two people. These scallops are the same level as the Hokkaido scallops we've enjoyed at O-Ku, and they're highlighted by the truffle butter and wonderful homemade toast, neither of which drowned out the delicacy of the scallops - just a wonderful plate of food. Served with the scallops was a delightful Chanterelle Mushroom Tart ($15) which had a perfect texture, and essence of chanterelles on the palate. Do not let the darkness of this dish fool you - although it tastes of the earth, it's very light on its feet, and quite moist and texturally appealing (I refused to use a flash, based on where we were sitting). Our bartender took our order, and made the pairings for us, and they all came out in a logical progression - with this course, as so often happens in great restaurants, each course made the other even better by being a complementary opposite (sea and earth, light and dark, raw and cooked - just a delightful pairing).

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Next up was the Smoked Trout Salad ($14) with poached pear, crispy egg, and buttermilk dressing. This featured a generous portion of trout, and everything was in proper balance - we cracked the egg (that orb in front is a runny egg) just after this picture was taken, and you should certainly do that before attacking this salad. I'm a little surprised they called this "buttermilk dressing," as it came across as more of an easygoing vinaigrette - there was some flavor of buttermilk, but definitely don't think "ranch dressing" - this is far-more sophisticated, both in assembly and execution. The pears, too, were subtle and only mildly sweet, and didn't interrupt any of the other flavors in the dish. I suppose if we were "ranking" the first courses, this would have fallen short of the previous, but taken as a small part of a large whole, it just seemed to fit (although in my perfect world, I might have served it one-course later).

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This is about where we looked at each other and realized we had three more things coming, with some sense of dread, as the edge had been taken off our hunger. But this next course, which we feared, was mercifully medium-sized and light on it feet. A house-made Fettucine with Tuna Bolognese ($17) which we had to try just because it sounded so original and intriguing. This may have been called a Bolognese, but was clearly a fish-based sauce, mild, and made with a surprisingly light hand, the tuna being the primary flavor but the consistency of the sauce being something almost like a Vietnamese Larb - it was primarily minced tuna, extremely moist but not at all watery, and seasoned with a confident, restrained touch.

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If there was a weakness in this meal, the next course can only be termed "a weakness" relative to the courses that preceded it. The Fire-Roasted Squash ($10) was probably cut from a cake pan, being light and somewhat neutrally seasoned in the middle, with a lovely char above, and roasted pepitas atop with two cipollinis alongside. This dish would have been perfect for lunch the next day, or on an empty stomach, but we were stuffed at this point, and needed something either light and airy, or heavy and rich; this was somewhere in-between. However, we did get our "heavy and rich" with the Foie Gras on Toast ($19), a very similar concept to the first course (the Scallop on Toast), but loaded down with silken foie gras terrine - so much of it, that as far as I can remember, this is the first time in my life that a good Foie Gras course remained only partially finished - we just couldn't do it, even though this was a tremendously satisfying dish that had a *lot* of foie gras on it, with a similar texture to chicken-liver parfait, but unmistakenly foie gras and only foie gras as the base. It was a classic case of "too much of a good thing," and I'd long-since passed the "pain" phase of this meal when the white flag was raised, and we begged for the check. My one knock on this dish is that Vernick got a little "cute" with a layer of confiture spread on the toast, and chopped peanuts on top of the course, mimicking peanut butter and jelly - about the thousandth time I've seen a restaurant do something like this: It's tiresome, and would have been better without the peanuts (why a restaurant takes expensive ingredients, and tries to conjure up memories of an inexpensive childhood dish, is beyond me - it's like describing a Romanée-Conti as having a bouquet of "boiled beetroot," which you can get at your local greengrocer for a couple of dollars). Okay, I'm being harsh, and I do get it, and it was fine the first x-number of times I saw it, but please - and I'm talking to every single restaurant - curtail your urges to play around with comfort food for kids, or at least be more subtle about it.

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Vernick served up the best meal I've had in Philadelphia in several years, and I urge people to run, not walk, to this restaurant - make sure you either arrive when it opens, to get a bar seat, or to get a reservation well in advance, as this 2017 James Beard winner remains as popular as it has ever been. The culinary highlight of the entire trip!

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Thank you @DonRocks for the exemplary review. I certainly look forward to my trip to Philly. I was hoping on going this weekend, but my tasting ability is not quite 100%. I will wait till I feel better cause I want to be able to savor every bit of this meal. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a extraordinary one. I enjoy sitting at the bar, so I will plan on being there just before opening. 

This may turn into a weekend treat, cause my reason for visiting is to try Vernick Coffee Bar. I will report back once I have indulged in both. 

Philly bound,

kat

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