We recently took a quick jaunt up to Philadelphia and had the chance to try Vernick Food & Drink off Rittenhouse Square. The verdict? Good food, fun drinks, lively atmosphere in a quasi-hipster setting. Worth a visit. The cooking was fresh and lively, a good balance of flavor and texture that showed off the ingredients.
The decor was modern industrial chic, with the open staircase and dining room upstairs. The bar was very popular, crowded with seeming regulars in shorts and flip flops, as well as couples out on date night (Philly uniform = women in ubiquitous maxi-dresses and wedge heels).
Our meal started with an amuse bouche, a floral melon soup with a few dots of chili oil, giving the sip a nice kick – this was a recurring theme in the meal. The arctic char crudo was drizzled with a similar chili oil. The chili oil, dill and crisped skin were a nice complement to the char’s richness. Although G’s verdict was “too much heat” or his actual words might have been something along the lines of: too Bobby Flay.
The beef tartare on grilled sourdough bread was terrific, fresh bites of raw beef textured and layered with bits of cheese, on top of slightly wood smoke tasting crisp bread. I’d recently (re)discovered beef tartare, so I liked this one a lot. Very rich dish.
My favorite of the night was the pappardelle with rabbit. The pasta was light and slightly eggy (in a good way), and the broth was light yet infused with rabbit flavor. The pieces of braised rabbit were out of this world, very rich, very flavorful, and not gamey. While I’m usually not a fan of rabbit, I could have eaten an entire plate.
At this point in the night, I was getting full. I’d forgotten how big portions are in Philadelphia compared to DC … And it was a classic case of late dinner impelling us to order more than we really could handle …
The final small plates of the meal all screamed summer. The grilled octopus was dressed with a tangy vinegary sauce that gave a pleasant kick and mouth pucker to the dish. The fresh corn and avocado were nice touches in the salad. emphasizing the seasonality of the dish. Similarly, the mozzerella – both fresh and crisp – with the stone fruit was incredibly summer-y in taste. We finished with a slightly carmelized grilled broccoli rabe – blanched and then grilled, finished with a drizzle of melted pecorino and some chili. The fresh greens a perfect finish to our meal.
Alas, no room for dessert, although it looked amazing. Guess we will save it for next time.