Thursday, January 29, 2009
Vetri, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways...
It's restaurant week (er, weeks) here in Philly, and what do I do?
I have a surprise birthday dinner at one of the few restaurants not participating in restaurant week.
What could I possibly say about this four-bell restaurant that hasn't already been said? As such, I'm going to try to highlight the details of my dining experience that set this restaurant apart from everyone else in Philadelphia.
This was my second visit in the past year, and it did not disappoint. From start to finish, from food to service, Vetri is near perfection. It lives up to the hype, and is worth every penny.
And so, Vetri (the restaurant, not Marc), how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...
1. If making a reservation online, you call me within 5 minutes to confirm. It makes me think you pay someone to stare at open table all day long. And, hey, if you're okay with that, so am I.
2. Your phone etiquette. You want to know how my day is before we move onto the typically more important details.
3. You have a cheese trolley in your vestibule. If I ignore the press on the walls, cheese is the first thing I see. And that, is most excellent.
4. You take my coat without handing me a coat check tag. And, you're the only restaurant in Philly I trust with my hat and scarf.
5. I love your server's uniforms. While I'm not a huge fan of uniforms, I love black pencil skirts paired with neatly pressed solid colored button-downs, black stockings, and black Dansko clogs. No aprons necessary.
6. Your small, 40-seat dining room is gorgeous; Venetian plaster above wood paneling. Your ornate hutch, complete with espresso machine and grappa display, makes for a beautiful focal point.
7. Your water situation. Whether sparking, or still, I get a whole carafe on my table. While I never have to pour it myself, it's nice to know it's there.
8. Your grand tasting menu. Sometimes, I don't want to think at dinner. I trust you to present me with whatever you want, in whatever order you want.
9. 3 oz. wine pairings with the grand tasting menu: even less thinking. Your wine list is fantastic. But, I don't want help picking one or two bottles to pair well with unknown dishes. I want to taste something different with each dish. These pairings truly brought the meal to a new level of perfection.
10. Your sommelier. I wish I knew your name. No, not Jeff Benjamin. You have an incredibly unassuming table side manner. You temper your level of information based upon guest interest, repeat the crucial information twice, and convey your passion for wine, all at the same time. Not to mention that your selections are fantastic.
11. Three amuse-bouche. Unheard of. Three tastings of homemade charcuterie, prosciutto wrapped beignets, and house-cured foie gras pastrami with fruit mostarda. Really Vetri, you had me at amuse-bouche.
12. Spinach gnocchi with shaved Ricotta Salata and brown butter. While they have become larger in size and smaller in number than my last visit, they are still just as heavenly. Their light and airy texture is truly unparalleled.
13. Golden sweet onion crepe with white truffle fondue. When you tell me its really truffle shavings, I believe you.
14. Rigatoni with veal sausage and bitter greens. I'm in awe of your homemade pasta. I don't care about portion size, it's about quality.
15. Chestnut fettuccine with wild boar ragù. Fettuccine bolognese will never, ever, be the same again. And I'm okay with that.
16. Local veal cooked on a stone. "If you'd like your veal cooked more, you can simply turn it over on this very hot stone." Rare is fine by me, but the stone presentation is awesome.
17. Dessert. Okay, so my note taking ended sometime before dessert. The best part of dessert was actually the wine pairing; a glass of Brachetto D'Aqui. Slightly sweet and lightly carbonated, I'm in love with this fresh, fruity, strawberry flavored after-dinner beverage.
18. Homemade petifores that I am inevitable too full to eat. But, I can take them home, eat them at 2 in the morning, and remember this amazing meal all over again.
Vetri is truly an incredible dining experience. Moving beyond the food for just a moment, it's the service that sets this restaurant apart from the rest of Philadelphia. It's no surprise that they were nominated for a James Beard Foundation Outstanding Service Award in 2008.
As birthday dinners go, unless I spent 26 in Napa, or Catalonia, this one will be hard to match.