A group of us went out for the tasting menu at Vetri in Philadelphia, a favorite of Mario Batali's and deemed by Bon Appetit as probably the best Italian restaurant in the U.S. Because we had 6 people, we were able to sample a multitude of dishes as the chef sent out different plates to different diners. It's hard to do it all justice other than to say just about everything was fabulous and it was one of my most enjoyable dining experiences.
Here's what we had:
First they sent out five different amuse bouche -- goat cheese and caramelized onion on a crispy parmesan wafer, venison terrine with beets, beignets wrapped with lardo, saffron arancini (fried risotto balls), and something (I can't remember now) wrapped with bacon. Whatever it was, I remember that one as my favorite of the amuse. They also brought each of us a glass of prosecco which was generously refilled until we killed the bottle.
First course: 3 of us got a Sweet Onion Crepe, and 3 of us got Crispy Sweetbreads with White Bean Crema. Sweetbreads were spectacular.
Second course: half of us got the Nantucket Scallop Crudo, and half got Bagna Cauda "Scompoto," a warm dip with toasted bread and vegetables. I started with the Bagna Cauda which was wonderful and comforting, but ended up preferring and gobbling up a lot of the grapefruit-dressed scallops as our dishes got passed around -- they had such a wonderful taste of the sea.
Next were two pasta courses: We all got the spinach gnocchi (top), one of their signature dishes - the brown butter on this was amazing - I had to just stick my nose in and smell it for a while before digging in. And the gnocchi themselves just melted in your mouth.
Then 3 of us got Mustard Green Ravioli with Shank Ragu, and the rest of us got Corzetti with Cauliflower Crema and Toasted Breadcrumbs, which was a flat round pasta. Both excellent - I liked the texture of the corzetti, but I think the ravioli won out on flavor and comfort food factor.
Then the meat dishes: half of us got Elk Chop with Braised Dry Fruits, and the other half got Baby Goat. The flavor of the fruit sauce with the elk was superb, but I preferred the baby goat, which was wonderfully crispy on the outside and falling apart on the inside, served on a bed of polenta.
I failed to mention that the four non-designated drivers in the party chose to partake of the wine pairings that went with the meal. A different wine was paired to each dish, so again, different diners had different wines, so the guys got to taste a wide variety. 1000yregg was positively giddy by the end of the meal.
Finally dessert: First they gave us all a palate cleansing coconut gelato. Then they brought out 3 different desserts. The ladies got Chocolate Polenta Souffle, which was like a molten chocolate cake with the texture of polenta. The other two desserts were Whole Wheat Sbrisolona Cranberry Tart with Rosemary Gelato, and Anise Crepes with Apple Marmalade and Zabaione. My chocolate souffle was my favorite. The whole wheat tart has a great crunchy texture and flavor, but I felt the rosemary gelato was a little overpowering. And for the crepes, I could barely taste the anise, though the apples were delicious.
Finally, there was a plate of petit fours that we were all too stuffed for. And they sent us home with eco-friendly reusable goodie bags with copies of our food and wine menus and a cranberry muffin for next day's breakfast.
1312 Spruce St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107