Monday, February 13, 2012

Philly RW 2012: Tinto

I finally took the dude out for his first Restaurant Week experience in Philadelphia! Can you believe he's never been before? Me neither! I wanted to give Jose Garces another chance, and picked Tinto, which was superior to Amada (review here), in my opinion.

The restaurant is quite dark, like Amada, and the tables for two are all very close in proximity on the first level. In fact, it was more narrow than Amada, like a hallway with rows of tables placed on either side against the walls. When the waitress first took us to our seat, we walked past all the occupied tables (the place was packed) and towards the kitchen in the back. I held my breath as I was overcome with fear that we would have to eat next to the kitchen, especially when we dressed up fancy! What would the dude say? "This was my first time trying RW and we eat next to the kitchen!?" Luckily, we made a sharp turn and went downstairs where there were plenty of empty large tables and couches. It was more private and quieter downstairs, even when all the tables were filled with foodies. Still very romantic.

Before we get to the food, I would like to mention that Tinto had fast service. They did not keep you waiting at all after you order, so you don't have to sit awkwardly and participate in small talk when all you're thinking about is where your food is. Kidding, I don't always do that. The dude's only complaint on service was that the waiter never refilled his drink. There's always something. His other dissatisfaction was towards the food, apparently nothing REALLY stood out to him. Overall, he enjoyed his first restaurant week experience and was happy with my choice of restaurant. 

First Courses: Out of all the ones we picked, I liked the Arugula salad the best. The dude couldn't get enough of the chicken brochettes.

Arugula salad: "The goat balls were nut your pants good!" -the dude
(*Serrano ham, mission fig, fried goat cheese, spiced almonds, sevilla orange vinaigrette)

The first thing we tried were the two fried goat cheese balls on the plate and after that, the dude dug around the salad looking for more. We were both sad when we realized we ate the last (and ONLY) two cheese balls in the salad. There was also two pieces of a fig on the plate that we devoured in half a second. Why did they only give us two of the best parts of the salad? The arugula and serrano ham by themselves were nothing special, but mixed with spiced almonds, it was delicious!

Chicken Brochette was just chicken on a stick, but the dude loved it!
(*chicken, garbanzo puree, truffle jus)

Jamon Serrano was disappointing.
(*Andalusian mountain cured ham, egg salad)

I normally do not order ham, but a reviewer on Yelp quoted her boyfriend saying, "I want to take this serrano ham home and have sex with it." That intrigued me to try it, but sadly neither of us thought it was good enough to take it home and do anything to it. The egg salad on the other hand, was the bomb diggity (yeah I said it, it's just that good). I wish we ordered the ham wrapped figs instead.

I love olives! There's so many!!!
(*marinated mantaquella olives)

Second Courses: We liked all of our picks except the meatballs...

Albondigas: "The meatballs followed the law of diminishing returns" -the dude
(*spiced meatballs, piperade, poached egg)

For those who have never taken a Finance class, this basically means that every bite after the first was less and less satisfying. The poached egg definitely anchored the dish, but still wasn't enough to make this exciting. I say skip the meatballs, and try something less familiar. 

Organic Chicken, this ain't no ordinary chicken!
(*Catalan spinach, pine nuts, foraged mushrooms, herb jus)

I really enjoyed this dish. They gave you two decent sized pieces of chicken, just the way I like it: slight touch of crispy skin on the outside, juicy meat on the inside! It may seem like any other chicken, but there's more. The mushrooms were perfect, and underneath the chicken was a rather unique salsa concoction of minced green apple, beans, pine nuts, and something else. I loved the complexity of all the flavors, it was like a party in my mouth. The dude was not so excited for this "fun" party, instead left confused and overwhelmed by all the different flavors. He preferred the simple taste of chicken on a stick from the first course, so he let me finish most of the dish.

Duck Montadito... and we thought we didn't like duck!
(*duck confit, serrano ham, black cherry, la peral spread)

Neither of us are fans of duck, but we wanted to give Jose Garces' famous duck confit a try. I was so happy I ordered it because to miss out on something this special would have been a shame. They even paired it with a black cherry on toast. At first, the dude had no idea what it was, but when he bit into it, it was like art. It was a sweet combination with the duck. If you decide to try Tinto, and only want to get one thing, get the duck! Or the octupus below.

Pulpo, why so beautiful?
(*Spanish octopus, spicy tomato, green olive aioli)

Not only was this a beauty to look at, it was also wonderfully delicious! It is up there with Estia's chargrilled octupus that I mentioned here, but it was prepared differently. It wasn't chewy like most sea creatures with tentacles (squid, I'm looking at you) and served with two different sauces. We both agreed the green olive aioli was the better one out of the two. I highly recommend this if you've never tried octupus before!

Desserts: Highly recommend the one that's not a chocolate cake!

My choice of Chocolate was okay
(*chocolate mousse, flourless chocolate cake, passion fruit sorbet)

Torrijas: "I picked the better dessert" -the dude
(*toasted brioche, caramel mousse, creme fraiche sherbert, orange)

This dessert was really good, but there was a mystery ingredient that was not listed on the Tinto menu and is hard to even see because it's just a few pieces of clear gelatin that sat next to the toasted brioche (fried dough). I thought it was jello, so the dude ate a piece to confirm my assumption. He had no reaction (or maybe I wasn't paying attention) and insisted I try it. He didn't say it was good or bad, so I saw no harm in putting it in my mouth. It tasted like nothing at first and had the texture of jello, but I made the mistake of biting into it because it changed from a solid to a liquid. A burst of bitterness exploded in my mouth and my face contorted into the ugliest expression because it was so awful! "Omg, that was gross! Why would you let me eat that?" So he could laugh at my expense... well played dude. Whatever that was still remains a mystery, but we're certain it's liquor, which would explain my case of the giggles for the rest of the night. 

114 S. 20th St.
Philadelphia, PA
*Descriptions taken from Tinto's website
Have you ever tasted something that was a pleasant (or unpleasant) surprise?

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