You Can Never Go Wrong With Jose Garces
The one thing that would certainly get me blogging again was a good meal and a good meal, to say the least, is always waiting for you at any one of Jose Garces’ restaurants. So when Linda and I planned to eat out during Philadelphia Restaurant Week, we decided to eat at Amada. Now we’ve eaten at five of Jose’s 6 excellent restaurants and I’ve blogged about two: Tinto and Chifa. Although I’ve eaten at Amada before, I’ve never blogged about it. Till now that is.
Linda and I arrived a few minutes before our reservation and were told that our table was not quite ready. We were directed to the bar to wait. This gave me a chance to survey the restaurant. Simply put, the noise level is high. If you are looking for a quiet dinner for two, I suggest you look elsewhere. BUT if you are looking for an innovative dining experience with electricity in the air, you need look no further. The restaurant brims over with smiling faces, laughter, and high octane conversations from casually attractive people who are there for the food and the fun and not because they want to be seen. The servers frenetically glide through this mish-mash of organized chaos yet never seem to bump into anyone. It was exhilarating…
Within five minutes, we were seated at our table. We were greeted by our server Shelly who proceeded to wow us throughout the night. Shelly is one of those rare finds: Friendly but not overbearing, knowledgeable yet not smug, attentive when needed but inconspicuously missing when not, but above all that, she was genuinely nice. Shelly completed our dining experience by taking an excellent meal and making it even better. The staff at Amada should consider themselves lucky to have her on their team.
Linda and I started off with a dirty Ketel 1 martini. It was perfect. At $12, it better be. As we reviewed the menu, we decided we’d each order different items and share them all. Since Amada is a tapas restaurant, we had two selections each for the first course, two selections each for the second course, and one selection each for the desert. Where else can you sample ten different dishes during one meal…and all for only $35 per person?
We started off with a Garrotxa Cheese with a Garlic Dolce de Leche. I had no idea what it was and it turned out to be a lovely semi-hard cheese served with green apple and baguette slices and a side of garlic caramel. Yep, I said that correctly–Garlic Caramel. It was amazing. Had we been served more of the Garlic Dolce de Leche, I’d have rubbed it all over me. It was that good.
Next we sampled the Caldo Gallego, a white bean and & ham stew topped with a potato foam. More like a soup, this dish was amazingly light and rich at the same time. The sliced greens laid on top of the foam gave this dish a little extra texture. I’m actually drooling thinking about how lovely this was.
The Enselada Verde was supposed to be a green salad with Asparagus and Avocado but Linda and I both agreed there was no avocado in this salad; however, there were plenty of fava beans. (I thought they were lima beans but Linda insisted they were not.) Regardless, the salad was fabulous. The light dressing completely covered the salad yet allowed for all of the flavors to come through. You can see that it was a huge serving and if you look at the left corner of the picture below, we totally housed it. (Believe it or not, this was my favorite dish.)
The final dish of the first course was Linda’s favorite, Melon Con Jamon, Serrano ham and melon. The sweet green melon perfectly complimented the slightly salty thinly sliced ham. A true treat, simple yet delicious.
The first meal of the second course was the Beef Shortrib Flatbread with Horseradish, Parmesan, and Bacon. It was a large portion, and while the meat was tasty and tender with just a hint of bar-b-que sauce, it was not amazing. It seemed somewhat plain and uninspired. Had this been served at any other restaurant, it would have been a hit. Unfortunately it paled in comparison to the other dishes. It was our least favorite.
Next we enjoyed Amada’s version of fish and chips. The Black Cod was cooked perfectly with a crunchy-skin top. The meat was tender and flaky, yet almost creamy. Served with flat, potato squares, the homemade ketchup and tartar sauce complimented this dish well. I would someday love to have a much bigger portion of that fish.
The grilled asparagus with poached egg, mahon crisp, and truffles was another amazing delight. The crisp reminded me of cheese that oozes out of your grilled cheese sandwich and gets grilled in the pan on its own. The asparagus was grilled perfectly and along with the cheese, eggs, and truffles provided for a truly amazing taste experience. Linda scarfed up most of the truffles, which she vehemently denies. She countered with that she let me eat my portion from the plate it was served in therefor I got all the residual truffles.
The chicken breast with truffles and fried egg was another culinary delight. Don’t ask me what those things are on each side of the chicken, cause I have no idea other than they were delish, especially with the slightly overcooked egg and truffles. (I believe the egg was intentionally cooked that way.) Of course, Linda again scarfed up the truffles which she vehemently denied once more, countering with that she gave me a bigger portion of the chicken and that there were more truffles hidden under the chicken. There were not. Of course, I did get some truffles and one of the pleasures of dining with Linda is watching how much she enjoys good food. And she sure enjoyed those truffles.
There were two desert choices so we opted for one of each. The Chocolate Lavender Spanish Custard with Strawberry Gelee and Grand Mariner whipped cream was placed in front of Linda and the Warm Brown Butter Cake with Seasonal Fruit Escabeche and Almond Ice Cream ended up in front of me. The butter cake was deliciously warm and sweet and perfectly balanced by the fruit and almond ice cream. I almost ate the whole thing. The Spanish Custard reminded me of Flan and perhaps that is what it was. Lightly chocolate with just a hint of lavender, it was nice but no competition for the Butter Cake, which Linda and I both decided was the winner hands down. We washed it all down with a nice cup of decaf coffee. In fact, the coffee was so good we almost thought she made a mistake and gave us regular.
Altogether we had a totally amazing dining experience, from start to finish. If you live anywhere near Philadelphia, you need to get your butt over to Amada, restaurant week or not. You will thank me for it. (Gift certificates to Amada are appreciated.) Amada is located at 217-219 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. For reservations or more information, visit their website at www.amadarestaurant.com or call them at 215-625-2450.