Saturday, February 19, 2011

Best Philly!?!

Ah Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Boy do I love me some Philly! Last night I was part of an amazing culinary experience and did I ever get some brotherly love! Let's not get crazy now. I didn't switch teams. I had one of the best tapas to date and in Philly nonetheless!

Tinto is where it's at. It's in the heart of Philly around Rittenhouse Square. When you walk in, you feel warm and cozy. It's dimly light, there's a bar with barrels of 3 different types of sangria and a vast collection of wines. Tinto's decor and menu is Basque inspired. It's a great place to meet up with friends and to go on a date.

Since we didn't have reservations, we are asked to wait for about 10-15 minutes. By the time we walked to the bar and ordered our drinks, our table was ready. I had the Tinto sangria. I started off with just a glass since not many places or people can make a great sangria. I have to say it was great! The other place where I have had amazing sangria was in Saigon, Vietnam! My friend ordered the Estrella lager. She wasn't too happy with it. I didn't have any flavor. I recommended the Alhambra Negra and she wasn't dissappointed. It's a dark beer that's not too heavy & it's packed with flavor. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it.

Once we quenched our thirst, we started off our culinary experience with Ensalda de Arugula (Arugula salad). (As a side note, I am allergic to almonds. Once I told my waiter this, he was deligent in keeping me from ordering anything with almonds. Dos Caminos Soho should take note!) The Ensalda de Arugula had pieces of Serrano ham, mission figs, 3 fried goat cheese balls and all drizzled by a Sevilla orange vinagrette. It normally comes with spiced almonds, but like I said my waiter was awesome on keeping them out of the salad. The salad was crisp, fresh, light, flavor, not too citrusy and the figs were just the perfect touch. I am not a big fan of figs, but when I tell you that it made the salad complete.
Next up at bat were the tapas. Our first serving was the Montaditos de Pato (Duck Canapes). Do I have to tell you that I had reached the 1st level of culinary heaven? Oh, the duck confit was meaty, soft and melted in your mouth. The curing and the spicing of the duck leg was superb. I've had duck confit at other places and right now Tintos has become #1. We were served the duck confit over a slither of serrano ham which was placed over a piece of some sort of baguette that was covered in la peral spread. On the edge of the bread, was one solid braised black cherry. Once you cut a piece of the black cherry and added it the duck confit, serrano ham and the toasted bread covered in la peral spread, it was a symphony of flavors in my mouth. You could taste each individual flavor, but at the same time they all melted in your mouth in harmony. How could you top that? By washing any remaining flavor simmering in your mouth with some Tinto sangria. Wow!

I was ecstatic about the Pulpo being brought in as we finished the duck. Esthetically, the dish was beautiful. The pulpo was served with smoked roe, truffle espuma and brioche. It also came accomopanied on the side of the plate what tasted like lemon powder. I have to say the dish was ok. The first time I tasted it, I wasn't impressed. I thought the flavor combinations were too overpowering and confusing in my mouth. I tried it again and again I felt the same way. The one thing I have to say is that the pulpo was grilled to perfection. It wasn't rubbery or hard at all. This would be the only dissapointment for me.

Wild Mushrooms was next.  They were cooked and served in our own little cast iron pan. They were cooked with shallots, roasted potato and parsley.  The mushrooms weren't oily or overcooked. They were delicious!
With the exception of the pulpo, everything was absolutely heaven. I could not imagine that our final tapas would be Chef Jose Garces' piece de resistance! Revueltos. That one word makes me want to run back to Tinto. The Revueltos is a soft and I mean soft scrambled egg, with lobster, goat cheese and spinach. This was my favorite dish hands down. The minute I tasted all the flavors, the lobster, the goat cheese and spinach in my mouth, I had to bang on the table. It was PERFECT! I hadn't had a tapas, no let's say dish that inspired me to run to the nearest airport and buy a ticket for the Basque country. Who knew? Who freakin knew that this was going to be not just an amazing night with one of my bff's, but a heavenly culinary experience? If my life ever flashes before my eyes, I hope this particular moment, the Revuelto moment is one of them. Once we finished the Revuelto, I did not even want to order dessert. I didn't want to get rid of the flavors in my mouth.

Yet we had to order dessert! How could we not?!! We opted for the Gauteux Basque which is a traditional Basque cake with black cherries and pastry cream. When our server brought it to the table, she explained the dessert and then said "almonds". I explained to her that I was allergic and that my waiter was aware. She apologized and asked us to order a substitute. We ordered the Baba Au Rhum since we didn't want to do the cliche flourless cake. The Baba Au Rhum was delicious. It was accompanied by crisp apple confit and serrano vanilla ice cream.

Hands down Tinto is where it's AT! La Insomnia highly recommends this place. If you are in Philly, you definitely have to make your way here. What sealed the deal for me is that Chef Jose Garces is a paisano!! He's of Ecuadorian descent just like yours truly.  Mi raza makes me so proud! Go Ecuadorian Iron Chef!!

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