1776 Reasons to Love Philadelphia

Well, we’re back from Philadelphia, and John, Eric and I made it back alive, and left Philly somewhat intact. We had a great time and hopefully this will become the start of a new travel tradition.

After an easy and quick (and cheap – thanks Southwest) flight, we were in downtown Philly by noon on Friday. We headed straight over to the Reading Terminal Market for lunch. John started off his Philly experience with an authentic Italian hoagie, Eric had "the best mac and cheese in America" (according to Oprah) from Deliah’s, and I had the best goddamn (if only the Mennonites who made it saw it described that way) bologna sandwich I’ve ever had. Not your normal bologna, it was sweet Dutch style bologna served with smoked cheddar cheese on Rye. Damn good. We spent a little bit of time walking around the Market, taking in the sights, sounds and smells (all of which were good).

We had tickets for 2:30 for the Salvador Dali exhibit at the Philadelphia Art Museum, so we headed over there. Of course, we walked down Ben Franklin Way, and went up the stairs and did the Rocky thing at the top. Hey, we’re tourist, why not???

The Dali exhibit was fantastic, providing great insight into Dali’s artwork. Most people are familiar with his Surrealist pieces like Persistence of Time, but the work from his earliest and latest parts of his career are just as impressive, if not more so. Later on he combined the surrealism with an interest in science, nuclear physics and religion, which made for really mind-bending art. Forget melting clocks… try Jesus being crucified on a FOUR-dimensional cross!

Alas, viewing such intense artwork while shuffling around an art hall is taxing both mentally and physically and after two and a half hours of being immersed in culture, it was time to go. Plus, Eric’s gastro-intestinal system was in disarray after holding in gas for all that time.

Back to the hotel for a little bit before heading over to Morimoto’s for dinner. Ahh… Morimoto’s…. it lived up to its own hype. A totally different, exciting dining experience, and a very expensive one, though well worth the money. We got there a little before our 8:00 p.m. reservations, so we had drink in the upstairs lounge (which I still contend reminds me of the Corova Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange). Eric and I had a Kyuri martini made with Hendrick’s gin and Yuzu Juice. Now, in case you’re wondering what the hell Yuzu juice is as well, its a Japanese citrus fruit that Morimotos uses in several sauces and drinks, except that they take the Yuzu juice and steep some peppers in it, to add some spice. It was damn good, let me tell you. John had an "MC2", made with champagne, Midori lemon liquor, and a splash of lime juice. Of course, we tried each other’s drinks and everything was great.

Then came the meal. We ordered an appetizer – "Yosedofu" which is fresh tofu that was actually made at the table and served with two dipping sauces: one soy-based and a snow crab broth reduction with small pieces of crab in it. to make the Yosedofu, one of the chefs brought a ceramic bowl full of steaming hot soy milk to the table, stirred it, and then added a sea water reduction, then covered it and left it. Ten minutes later, someone else returned with the sauces and when the cover was removed, the soy milk had solidified into fresh tofu! Crazy! The sauces were so simple but so good. The soy sauce was NOT like the soy most people are used to getting in Chinese restaurants or in the supermarket, but a rich, flavorful concoction whose lighter brown color belied its deep taste.

Eric couldn’t resist having an additional appetizer of Japanese blowfish sushi, both for the uniqueness of it and the whole Simpsons reference. He said it was some of the best and most mild sushi he had ever had.

For the main course, John indulged in some California rolls tuna rolls. Eric had Chilean Sea bass served with black bean sauce, and declared it worth eating a nearly endangered species. I went for the single most expensive thing on the menu, a combination of Kobe beef short ribs and Yuzu-poached lobster with Red Miso jus. The lobster was great, but couldn’t even come close to matching the short rib, which was literally so tender that you didn’t need a knife. I don’t know what was in that sauce, but I think I’d give up my firstborn to know. We had some Junmai Daiginjo Morimoto Saki to wash it all down with. Then we moved onto dessert.

Dessert was as indulgent as the rest of the meal: John tried the milk chocolate praline tart made with praline ganache with milk chocolate-praline ice cream and roasted hazelnut-min pesto. I had the chocolate pot de creme bittersweet chocolate custard, with Kahlua cream and Amaretti cookies. Eric ended his meal with an equally adventuresome dish as he started with: a Wasabi tiramisu vanilla biscuit soaked with espresso and cognac served with wasabi mascarpone cream and chocolate sauce. We paired them with some Suntoro scotch, a dessert champagne and some muscat wine.


Oh yeah… and the restaurant itself is as outrageous as the menu and the food. The interior is the absolute definition of modern interior design. One would think that plastic benches and tables would be cold and uncomfortable, but they weren’t at all. The booths are separated by white acrylic dividers that actually change colors as the night goes on. The shiny wood ceilings and floors reflected the changes in color and made the entire mood of the room change, creating an exciting atmosphere when glowing red and other warm colors, and a relaxing one when blue and green. Also, the booths are only at shoulder level, so that you feel like you’re dining in a more communal experience than your usual booth seating in most restaurants.

It may have cost us a pretty penny, but it was well worth it.

After dinner, we made a quick pit stop at the hotel (where we had our second of numerous room key issues) went over to Chris’ Jazz Club on Sansom street, just down the street from our hotel. We stayed for a set of some great jazz, although the bar selection left us wanting… apparently the bartender quit and he was the only one who knew how to make some of their signature martinis, including the ginger martini that John and Eric wanted. Then they ran out of ginger ale… but the music was good.

We left there and went to Mahogany on Walnut, Philly’s only true cigar bar. While not the cheapest place – $100 with tip for three good cigars and four good drinks – its well worth it. Well appointed, nicely busy, had interesting music and a great ventilation system that keeps it from getting too smoky. Basically a perfect way of ending our first night in Philly. It was also interesting to see the hooker hanging out with the businessmen. Clearly an escort, she was the least dressed (and yet best dressed…) woman in the room and looked so out of place with everyone and was way too gorgeous to be with anyone there without getting paid $300 an hour…

That was day 1 of the Philly trip… more on day two coming up soon.