Just recently Phili Magazine did their ranking of the 50 Best Restaurants in Philadelphia. I was very pleased to see that I had worked at 3 of the top 4 places, but as I further scanned the list, I began to question the credability of the ranking. Rae, a restaurant I had barely heard of was ranked number 5. I was pleasantly surprised. I thought that I had been to all the top restaurants in Phili, but I was happy to try a new place.
My mom and I decided to go a few weeks ago. We got an 8:30 reservation and were seated immediately, however, not in the main dining room. We were seated in a section that was more the Cira Center Lobby. Now before I go and talk badly about this restaurant I just want to add a little disclaimer and say that criticizing restaurants is not my favorite thing to do, but I can dish it out when necessary. Ok so sitting in that section away from the dining room felt like sitting in a frikin airport, and my server was the anxious flight attendant who's tired of dishing out cokes.
Our server came over and gave us bread and two types of butter and a bean spread. I will say that the bean spread was absolutely delicious, and caused me to finish my roll rather quickly. I wanted to go out with my friends, and my mom wanted to watch a movie, so we told this lady that we were ready to order. She responded by telling us that our server would be out shortly. A minute later the same lady came back and took our orders. I thought this was quite funny and I tried, but was unable to surpress a giggle. Both the server and my mom looked at me. I felt like I was in school, when I would laugh at one of my teacher's corny jokes, and I would get stares from everyone in the classroom. So my mom and I ordered the truffle pizza to share, which was quite good, however I can't get over that synthetic taste of truffle oil. We then asked for more bread. I broke off a piece but only the outside came off. IT WAS FROZEN! Come on! I was hype for that white bean spread and then I get frozen bread!
We informed our waitress of this and she said she would bring some more right back out. In the meantime we were brought our second course which was short ribs with a pancetta dressing, BEFORE OUR OTHER PLATES WERE CLEARED! Come on I feel bad for you guys! Does the 5th best restaurant in Phili do that? The short ribs were delicious and the pancetta dressing had amazing body, yet that was all that was there. The 5th best restaurant in Philadelphia gives you a "composed" plate of Short Ribs and Pancetta Dressing for $32. Where are the glazed root veggies? The sauteed chantrelles? The braised onions? Hell, I would eat some KFC mashed potatoes with that, just give me something please.
So a while later our waitress finally came back and said, they are defrosting the bread now. It will be out in a minute. It's a saturday night service! How do you run out of bread! That's like when you're sleeping out, and it's only 12 and your friend runs out of the Tombstone Pizza. It can't happen! You have to prepare for these things in advance. Technical details like this seperate a good restaurant, from a better restaurant (not necessarily a great one). Finally we got our bread. This time it was not frozen, it was too hot to touch! I had to wait for a minute for it to cool down before spreading the remaining bean spread. We passed on dessert but asked for a menu to take home. We waited 8 minutes before asking anothing server who got one immediately. We left, not so happy with the dining experience.
5th best restaurant in Philadelphia? Doubt it but I can't answer definitively. My rating would be highly subjective. I came at 8:30 on a Saturday night, I only came once, and I only tried two things on the menu. Such mistakes however, seem unlikely at a restaurant ranked as highly as this one, and I therefore am a bit unsure of this "50 best restaurant" ranking. Though the words clearly say 50 Best Restaurants, maybe Phili Mag is referring more to the hottest or trendiest restaurants. Anyway, this experience taught me one thing. Just like you don't want to judge a car until you get a carfax history report, don't judge a restaurant until you've been there for yourself.