Review: Vetri

28 November 2016

I had a rather rough morning in NYC, and not just because of the hangover. A morning meeting brought some extreme unpleasantries and I sat in Penn Station waiting for my train more disappointed than hungover. A final Guinness later I boarded the train to Philadelphia.

And it being Amtrak, it was of course delayed. What usually takes just over an hour ended taking nearly two. Government efficiency strikes again. If it wasn’t for that wonderful Japanese duo dinners last night (and the long drinking session) I’d probably be banging my head on the window for all the times we were going about 5mph…

Got to Philly down to the SEPTA to my hotel. Had a busy afternoon as there were a few things I wanted to get done early on this short stay. But then I got back to my hotel and got ready for dinner. I walked through City Center and made my way to what has been the best restaurant in Philadelphia for over a decade, Vetri.

I’ve not been back at Vetri for many years, so it was good to return. A nice corner table and we were off. I went happily with the pairing and chilled out as they brought out some prosecco. The night started off soon in the already-vivacious dining room with the antipasti-ish plate.

01-antipasti_edited

A large assortment of items, from crispy slices of apple, nicely cured duck, buffalo mozzarella to the humble celery. Not bad, a pretty relaxing start with the kitchen’s nuanced antipasti set. Next up, the beef carpaccio.

02b-carpaccio_edited

Honestly it was so dark in the dining room it was hard to see where meat ended. And to be perfectly honest, it was not very good. Very bland and boring. Nowhere near the excellent quality meat I had at a(MUSE.) in Delaware. A bit of a letdown here. Next up a larger item, Spanish mackerel…

03-spanish-mackerel_edited

I had mentioned I really liked Spanish mackerel early on so it was nice to see it here. Honestly this was not very good… The fish was really dried out, which is extremely hard to do with this usually oily fish. And the sauce…my goodness, they tried to create this horrific tartar-ish sauce that just didn’t even come to the quality of the Filet-o-Fish sauce. Awful… I was honestly getting very worried now about this dinner…

The wine service has been very good and the front of the house is still running fabulously like always, but what is up with this kitchen? They had brought out the next item in whole, and then presented the slice for my consumption — the “tortellini pie”.

04-tortellini-pie

I wish I could say this was good, but very under-seasoned and bland. Often kitchens over-season, but tonight was the opposite. Everything tasted so bland except for the antipasti. Fine if nuanced right with spices, but this was just boring — again. This has been so disappointing so far… Was hoping the trend would change with the next dish as we move to heartier items…

05-gnocchi

Nope! This swiss chard gnocchi dish was basically floating in butter. And you’d think it was full of flavour? Nope! Another bland, boring dish — this time with the addition of liquid cholesterol. What is going on here? I was really, really starting to wonder if I should cut this thing short, but I was tired and the wine has been flowing very nicely, so…I tolerated this.

The food has tried my patience but the FoH has done a fabulous job, with good pours — sometimes even a double, unexpected pairing. That kept me from abandoning this tasting menu, to be honest. Then the next item appeared, another pasta dish.

06-zucca

Well, it’s the season for zucca, but finally…FINALLY…the dish was seasoned right. What happened the previous dishes? Not too fond of this autumn ingredient, but finally a dish that was executed right after a string of what I’d call “noiosi e insapore” items…

Is this an uptrend? Let’s hope so. The FoH was still running fabulous, so I’m being optimistic here. Next up, fettuccine with wild boar ragu.

07-fettuccine-wild-boar_edited

Well…I was being too optimistic. Seasoning is again okay, thank goodness, but this was just bland. The chestnut was a nice touch but the ragu was really boring. It’s like an after-thought in the kitchen, to do something with the leftovers. Or perhaps it’s the “farmed” wild boar that makes dishes such as this so boring compared to real wild boar you get in Italy. This is one of those dishes that US laws screw up…

Can we stop calling non-wild boar “wild boar” when they are put on US restaurant menus? Sigh…

Thank goodness the big pours of wine, including several double pairings, are keeping me going from this really boring food. Then the next dish is something I’ve had here before, and it was amazing back then. Will this win or lose tonight with this seemingly-challenged kitchen?

08-capretto

Win! The capretto has always been a hit here, and finally they did this meat right and nearly perfectly! Wonderful flavours, seasoned just right to bring out all the flavours of this kid. Maybe not worth sitting through all that tedium, but this was excellent!

They asked me if I had room for more, as there was one more savoury planned, and after that excellent capretto I said why not. Then this showed up, manzo…

09a-beef_edited

To be honest quite boring once again. The seasoning was right (again, finally) but the meat itself was odd. Parts were excellent, parts were really poor. I really find modern kitchens prepping beef poorly, especially when they get too fixated on exact temperature. If you get good, pasture-raised grass-fed beef, each animal is far more different than the corn-manufactured stuff. Need more nuance. Something like this I would expect to see in a kitchen of a newer restaurant, not in a veteran star kitchen like this.

Well, I am rather disappointed in this entire dinner. My mind was pretty much zonked from this poor dinner, despite the best efforts of the FoH (especially the wine service). So I went through the cheese…

10-cheese

…the dessert…

11-dessert_edited

…and the nibbles in a blur…

12-pf_edited

I just wanted my coffee and grappa and that made me happy. I was then very unhappy seeing the huge bill for this mediocre dinner. I’m happy to pay for the wine pairing, but when the cooking is so unexpectedly disappointing, it’s always unpleasant to shell out enough money compared to an expensive night in Tokyo.

S.I.G.H.

Vetri
1312 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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3 thoughts on “Review: Vetri

  1. Pingback: Review: Perla | melhuang1972

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  3. Pingback: My 10 Best Meals of 2016 | melhuang1972

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