Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's Good to be Jose Garces

With Jose Garces' latest venture, Chifa, opening on Tuesday, I thought a quick homage to one of his earlier successes might be in order.

Don't we all remember when Amada was his only restaurant? Way back before his second hit, Tinto, before his Chicago debut, Mercat a la Planxa, before the cookbook, Latin Evolution, before his third Philly success, DISTRITO, and definitely before his appearance on Iron Chef. Maybe some of you even remember him from his Stephen Starr days at Alma de Cuba.

But how our Philly star chef's career has blossomed. His restaurants have always seemed to me like Stephen Starr "concept" restaurants with really excellent food. His food informs his concept, rather than the reverse.

Tuesday night I stopped at Tinto for a quick bite. Their food was spot on, as always. I don't know how they manage to do it, but their food is spectacular. I have to give their chef de cuisine credit. As Garces continues to open new restaurants, I keep waiting for the quality of his older restaurants to decline. However, this has not been the case. As such, he must do an excellent job selecting his kitchen staff.

Having been to Tinto many times, I always try to pick new things. This evening I enjoyed the Arugula salad with Serrano ham, persimmons, goat cheese croquettes, pine nuts and a sevilla orange vinaigrette. It's amazing how he can turn a boring salad into something memorable. Presentation matters.

I also tried the Kobe Beef Montaditos with pisto bilbaina and romesco sauce. The meat was cooked perfectly, the bread toasted just right, and the sauce nicely piquant.

It seems as though Philly hasn't yet had their fill of Garces. And I certainly can't wait to get to Chifa...

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