September 20, 2012

First Visit: Tuesday Nights at Will

1911 E. Passyunk
 Dinner: Tuesday-Sunday 5:30-10 pm.
Last night I was due to head South-to Baltimore- but the weather made me nervous. After much deliberation I decided to stay. Then another decision needed to be made. What's for dinner?  A reminder of Will's Tuesday night one-ingredient tasting menu kickoff came my way. A very reasonable $45 for five courses.
 Ingredient of the evening: Shellfish. Lance approved.  Reservations made.

It was drizzling as we started our walk south from Bella Vista area. Right around the time we got to the 1600th block of E. Passyunk the drizzle turned into downpour. I could literally ring water out of my dress by the time we got to Will.

We were the first to arrive to Chef Chris Kearse's 3 week old byo. Serving duo Emily and Mario were ready for us and immediately put our soaked selves at ease.

Then then the magic show began.  No white rabbit- although I can totally see rabbit as the "one ingredient"  for a future Tuesday night ... but kitchen wizardry that puts  Kearse at the top tier of chefs in Philadelphia.

I am not a critic. I simply eat out twice a day. Some choose to spend money on clothes and electronic gadgets, I spend mine on food and drink (and parking tickets).

I had one of the most memorable dining experiences of my life at Catbird Seat in Nashville, TN.
The chefs also practiced molecular gastronomy.  In addition to the culinary art that they were exhibiting that April evening, they had the perfect music to complement it.  We were in the South- so some alt-country like Deer Tick and Avett Brothers was  appropriate.

Last night at Will it was the likes of Fleet Foxes and Magnetic Fields. I got goosebumps when I heard Rilo Kiley's "Handle me with Care," because I actually used the cover as my "Two Track" of the week- a post I wrote 15 hours prior.

Shelter from the storm, interesting music, excellent service (ipod belonged to our server), and great beers were all ours....

We knew we were in for a study in crustacean- so we went with a bunch of wits and saisons from our fridge. (Boulevard Tank 7, St. Feuillien Grand Cru, New Holland Witbier, Allagash White).


Oyster en Gelee
Apple | Ginger | Champagne
The tasting menu commenced with Oyster en Gelee. There was no concrete oyster to swallow. It was in a foam atop of the apple gelee. You were hit with such a burst of fresh apple- that the typical show-stopping character of the ginger was slightly restrained.  It was beautifully complemented by the citrusy Tank 7 saison.
Bread service was a rustic bread served with a nori and citrus butter. 
They were generous with refilling it if guests desired so.

Degustation of Mushrooms
Lobster Jus | Lemongrass
A variety of mushrooms in a lobster jus. Beautiful dish. 
It was only the second course and  my Will freakout was underway.

Chatham Cod Brandade
Pickled Mussels | Parsley | Potato

This was my first Brandade. What's a brandade?
A French specialty involving Salt cod, and potatoes.
The creamy layer below is all whipped potato. Then there was a layer with the cod, pickled mussels and parsley.  This was rich.  One bite and I knew I was running a few miles the next day.
 It was absolutely perfect with the St. Feiullien Grand Cru.

Braised Calamari
Lamb Neck | Eggplant | Squid Ink
With this dish, the lamb neck was encased in the squid. 
Both the lamb and squid were perfectly cooked-
which I think is  a pretty impressive feat. 
 But then again, Chef Chris Kearse is nothing short of impressive.

Pot de Crème
Burnt Bread | Chocolate | Pistachio

 Lance was in charge of photography for this dinner and he blew it by forgetting to take a picture 
of the best dessert I have had in Philly all year.  
The base of the pot de creme was burnt bread- which tasted like coffee.
I recently gave up coffee- so this was a special delight.
The pot de creme was garnished with a "Pistachio powder"
I wonder what would happen to me if this is all I ate for the rest of my life. 

This coming week- the "one ingredient" is DUCK. 
I'll be at Iron Hill for a beer dinner- but if I wasn't- I would gladly be here two weeks in a row.

The dining room is on the smaller side.  It's a clean design.  Simple, green plants in the window.  I enjoyed sitting at a two-top looking out the window onto a rainy Passyunk Ave watching people fail at parallel parking for two hours.  The street was busy for such a rainy night. People were entering and exiting Noir next door, another newbie to the South Philly's ever-evolving culinary row.

There were no failures on the inside.  Not behind the kitchen curtain where the tasting menu executed was borderline flawless. I wonder if Chef whispers the word Abracadabra as he plates these progressive dishes.  I had never been to Pumpkin,  where Kearse was Executive chef for 2 1/2 years because I  can't/don't often dine at Byos. Thus, I haven't seen Kearse hone his craft through the years (also worked in kitchens of French Laundry, Alinea, Lacroix, and Blackbird). I just had this one meal. One memorable meal focusing on one ingredient. Five courses and I am most certainly under his spell.

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