Friday, February 3, 2012

Past Philly RW: Haru, Amada, Valanni (Pic Heavy)

Since Philly's Restaurant Week is still happening (until this Sunday!), let's take a look at a few more restaurants that I've tasted in the past years (after Estia).

Fall 2010- Haru 
(update: closed)

Where are the fun rolls?

That's a whole lotta whipped cream! 

Have to be honest here, I don't remember Haru all that much. It was just another modernized Japanese restaurant. There was nothing special or memorable about it. Actually, I do remember whispering about how cute (and nice) the young waiter was... but besides that, nothing on the Restaurant Week menu stuck out to me or my friends. In fact, only a few of us participated in RW's $35 for three courses at Haru, everyone else just ordered sushi from the regular menu. That never happens! They might have good food (since Yelpers give them such high ratings), but their RW menu was just very average and not worth $35. Also, I just found out they've closed the one in Old City, so now I'll never know. 

Winter 2011- Amada

[photo taken by LL]
Escalivada: I prefer Greek spreads

[photo taken by LL]
Garlic shrimp was garlic shrimp

Sad to say, but Amada was a night of regrets for me. I was so excited for my first tapas experience and since it was a Jose Garces establishment, I thought it would blow me away! We had a party of 8 and I kept saying, "We can each get something different and then we'll try everything!" Was there a lot to choose from? Yes. They even give you two choices for the first and second course, which was one of the reasons why we were so interested, but their big list was quite overwhelming (and the food was underwhelming). I remember choosing the escalivada, which consisted of roasted peppers, eggplant, onions, and tomatoes (pictured above). My first regret. I'm not sure why I ordered it because I don't like the taste of eggplant. The only thing I liked about it were the four little pieces of bread with goat cheese spread on top. The roasted vegetables did not agree with my tastebuds, so I barely touched it. It was disappointing, but I blame myself for ordering a veggie spread dish during Restaurant Week. Next I got Gambas al Ajillo, which was garlic shrimp (surprise!) and I believe Yelpers helped me make that decision. I love shrimp and garlic,  but there wasn't anything special about to trigger a memory of it. I do remember some dishes from the first course that I tasted from my friends' plates that made me think, "I SHOULD HAVE ORDERED THIS!" I recommend the ham croquettes, green salad with asparagus and all the fruit/cheese plates for the first course. 

[photo taken by LL]
Beef shortrib, bacon, parmesan flatbread 

[photo taken by LL]
Madre e Hijo did not disappoint

[photo taken by LL]
White bean & ham stew

As for the second course, I ordered the shrimp, chorizo & garbanzo flatbread and Madre e Hijo (chicken & egg). The photo of the beef shortrib flatbread above was my friend's order, and we both agreed neither flatbread was a favorite. The bread was too hard and the cheese was a bit greasy. It was not the amazing flatbread that I was expecting. It just tasted like, dare I say it, regular pizza. Another regret. Needless to say, I didn't finish it. I must be joking because I'm a foodie that finishes everything. But this is no joke, because just like the escalivada, I didn't enjoy it enough to bother finishing it. My mother (the human trashcan) would have beaten me with anything in sight if she saw me wasting food like that. The good news is, I did not regret getting the Madre e Hijo (finally, something I liked). It was the only thing that I ordered that I was truly happy with, so I can highly recommend it. It was nothing crazy or weird, just good ol' chicken and egg. If you want something more exciting, I recommend a dish that two friends ordered that looked rather cool (sucker for presentation) and was pretty tasty: Esparragos con trufas (grilled asparagus, poached egg, mahon crisp and truffles). It was fun watching them break the egg and the yolk spilled down a long plate covering the asparagus with yellow goo. As entertaining as it was, it didn't seem like a lot of food compared to my chicken & egg dish. Another friend got a plate of wild mushrooms that I also enjoyed, but again, not a lot of food. Yeah, I understand that's what tapas is all about, getting small portions of a big variety of dishes... but some of the plates had really small portions! 

[photo taken by LL]
Wish I got chocolate for dessert...

So my last regret of the evening... my dessert choice. I ordered a non chocolate dessert, but I wish I got the chocolate cake that's shown above! It wasn't as sweet as the creamy flan looking thing that I ate, which I actually prefer as I have no sweet tooth. I believe everyone liked both the desserts, but for me personally, the chocolate was the better of the two. I have to say that the highlight of my evening at Amada was the long hallway with candles that led you to the bathrooms. For those that don't know me, I have an obsession with stupid things like cute decor, crumb scrapers, and BATHROOMS. And how fitting, because at home, I spend the most time in the kitchen and the bathroom (my two favorite rooms)! If you've been to Amada, you'll know what the magical hallway that I'm talking about. The inside of the ladies' room was very rustic and dark, but I loved it! Beware, this place has too many tables in a very small space so you feel like you're in a maze when walking around. If you have a big group (like we did), they have large tables in the back room so you won't feel so claustrophobic. Before dining at Amada, I definitely hyped it up for myself by reading such good reviews on Yelp and OpenTable. My suggestion to them for their RW menu is to cut the selection of tapas by half! I'd rather them focus on a few amazing dishes during one of their busier times of the year, than offer so many average, mediocre dishes. Having said that, Tinto (click for review) is much better than Amada if you like or want to try tapas during Restaurant Week!

Fall 2011- Valanni

So hip, trendy & pretty

After the last two duds, we finally picked a good one last September, Valanni! It was a fun, hip bar/lounge/restaurant that really tickled my fancy. I loved the purple lights around the bar in the middle of the restaurant. This was definitely a young, trendy place to be after hours, and we certainly didn't mind the noise level. We felt like the girls from Sex in the City eating at a trendy lounge in NYC, except in Philly. 

Gyro Skewers

This is another place that has a huge list of appetizers, but everything we got picked were delicious. To start off, I ordered Spicy Chicken Empanadas and they were really good (not too spicy). I ate them so fast before I remembered to capture their wonderfulness with my camera. The shell was crispy and the filling inside was hot and tasty. The Gyro Skewers were really good, the meat was very flavorful and the pita bread, warm and soft. The "Fiery" Potatoes, in the background from the picture above, weren't bad either. The paprika, cayenne pepper, and chipotle/horseradish aoili all blended really nicely together and added a bit of spiciness to the potatoes. 

Chicken that's not on their menu anymore, why not?

Crusted Porcini Day Boat Scallops (aka LOVE)

Seafood Paella

Sesame Crusted Yellowfin Tuna 

Everyone was happy with their second course, except Blade, who got the seafood paella. I believe I steered her in that direction because many reviewers recommended it. There was too much sauce and it was watery, so it was almost like she was eating seafood rice soup. She wasn't a fan, and on top of that, they charged more for it (which was not stated on the RW menu) because it was one of their special dishes. Sorry Blade! One of the dishes, the first one, doesn't seem to be an option on their RW menu anymore, nor can I find it on their online menu. I'm almost positive it's chicken with asparagus and couscous. I remember trying a piece of it and LB said it was rather good. Enchante and I both got the scallops on mashed potatoes and we loved it. I know it doesn't look like much, but there were four big, juicy scallops that were nicely fried on both sides, but so soft and sweet on the inside. They were so good, I didn't mind getting only four! On top of the pile of mashed potatoes, they added asparagus, mushrooms, and crab meat! I was happily satisfied. Cto got the exciting entree, the Yellowfin Tuna. I'm a sucker for presentation, so when I saw all the colors and textures, I wanted to take pictures from every angle! It had a lot of Asian inspired ingredients and flavors like back choy, ginger and wasabi, but Valanni did it well. 

Dessert Time: Oreo Beignet and Creme Brulee

Lavender Orange Creme Brulee

Blade's mystery dessert

Who's ready for dessert? I am, for once! We each got something different, so I can't speak for the other desserts, but the Oreo Beignet blew my mind! I don't like eating oreo cookies by themselves, but I love crushed oreos with vanilla ice cream. The fried pastry drenched in caramel was hot and soft on the inside and when I added the cold ice cream with crunchy oreo cookie bits, it was like orgasm in my mouth. I know the phrase is overused nowadays, but this dessert really is that explosive in your mouth! Order it and you'll know what I mean. Just do it. Cto said the creme brulee was missing the lavender and orange flavors that she was hoping for. That's not a bad thing, but if it says lavender and orange on the menu, it should taste like it, no? There is a mystery dessert I'm still scratching my head about. All I know is that there was a lot of whipped cream on top and Blade eventually swapped it with Cto because she found it to be too sweet. 

I really hope everyone attends Restaurant Week at least once this year! It's one of the few times where you can wine & dine at five star restaurants without paying their five star prices $$$$$. If you're late in the game, you still have today and Super Bowl Sunday to participate until it starts again in September (more info).

Where would you like to go for Restaurant Week? Let me know!


  1. Yum Sushi.All of the desserts look delicious, especially the chocolate cake. I haven't participated in Restaurant week in so long, so I wouldn't know where I would go.

    But great reviews. I probably should start this again. Kind of miss it now.

    1. Oh you should go!!! They come around twice a year. It's just nice to try new restaurants that you never thought about trying before =D


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