Monthly Archives: February 2015

Winter at Junto BYOB

Last night we enjoyed another excellent meal at Junto Restaurant and BYOB in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.  We first dined at Junto last spring and decided to sample the winter menu, which continues to showcase local ingredients.

Some favorites from our first visit remain on the menu.

  • “The Roots” salad of pickled kohlrabi, sunchokes, radishes and beets is a fresh and pleasing alternative to a standard green salad.
  • The wild mushrooms served in a pea consommé with Crowder peas and goat cheese toast is a light yet satisfying starter.
  • The beef cheek still melts in your mouth but it boasts some wintery accompaniments – “Sugarkraut”, currant, capers and saffron potato chips.  We enjoyed the range of tastes in this dish, from the sweet to the salty.
  • The grilled sturgeon is alder wood smoked and served with romanesco, fermented celery root (instead of wax beans) watercress and a lemon verbena emulsion.  It’s no wonder that this unique preparation is still a star on Junto’s menu.

There were also several delicious new additions.

  • The “Duck Pocket Pie” is a generous envelope of flavorful, shredded duck.  The perfect bite included some shredded ginger fermented root vegetables, onion crème fraiche and caraway.
  • The smoked chicken croquettes were an elegant version of the diner staple.  The apple snitz, green tomato jam and sorrel gravy were a perfect complement to the crunchy yet delicate rounds of chicken.
  • The simple root beer float featuring Bassett’s Philadelphia vanilla made for a homey dessert after a meal full of deep and varied flavors.

a. kitchen is the kitchen

a. kitchen is more than a kitchen.  It is a dining destination in Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square neighborhood where Chef Eli Kulp (also of Fork and High Street on Market) creates modern and elegant cuisine.  My husband and I recently enjoyed brunch, lunch and dinner (not all in one day, of course!) at a. kitchen.  All three meals were delicious.  The service was outstanding, and the setting is pleasant and cozy.  The open kitchen with a chef’s counter also provides for a unique dining experience.

For brunch, we started with a charcoal biscuit with house made butter.  The kitchen boasts a custom made grill using natural hardwood charcoal.  Nearly all of the dishes prepared in a. kitchen, including this tasty biscuit, reach the grill at some point.  For my main course, I ordered the grilled prawns with creamy grits paired with a salad of baby kale, basque pepper and radish.  The preparation of pepper and radish provided a nice kick.  My husband enjoyed the steak and eggs of American Wagyu, over easy eggs and blackened “frenched” onion.  The beef was grilled to a medium rare perfection.  We chose a light ending – the trio of ice cream and sorbet.   The current icy offerings are milk chocolate, caraway-rye and cranberry-apple.  Our favorite was the caraway-rye – a very creative flavor for a winter sorbet.

For dinner, we were encouraged to share several small plates followed by a main course.  We decided on the grilled, shelled quail eggs with pickled beets and onions.  The quail eggs had a soft yolk, and their richness balanced out the tanginess of the beets.  We also selected the hamachi crudo, which was served over crispy rice cakes and spicy mustard.  This dish showcased the Asian influences on the menu.  Another highlight was the Caputo Brothers burrata floating in a golden beet soup accented with dill and trout roe.  The roe provided a “pop” to the silken soup and rich cheese.

Our final small plate was the grilled octopus salad of spiced sweet potato, peanuts and winter greens.  The octopus was the tenderest that I have tasted, and the Asian spices were superb.  For the main course, we selected the special Dover sole with a side of grilled leeks with green chili romesco and smoked Marcona almonds.  This sole was grilled on a. kitchen’s centerpiece, providing it with a smoky flavor while still retaining its buttery taste and tender texture.

The wine list is impressive and includes some of my favorite French reds, including those from the Rhone.  We enjoyed a Bandol, which complemented the earthy spices.

For lunch, we enjoyed the deviled skate with sambal and grilled bok chou – another plate that demonstrates the kitchen’s talent with spices.  To balance out the seafood dishes enjoyed at a. kitchen, I decided to try the Creekstone Burger with cave-aged cheddar, mayo and pickles.  The burger proved that a. kitchen should be a destination for those in the mood for red meat as well.  As a finale, we enjoyed the sunchoke custard with black walnut brittle, hopped apples and maple.  This delicious savory sweet was the most creative use of a root vegetable that I have encountered.

Plan a visit to a. kitchen for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner and their new addition – an adjacent bar (a. bar) – which serves oysters and seafood specialties.  We will look forward to a lobster roll in the near future!