South Philly Review critic nonpareil Phyllis Stein-Novack filed this week on a notable breakfast at Dante Espresso Bar and Cafe, an unassuming neighborhood spot on East Passyunk that started off this spring with breakfast and lunch, but recently expanded into dinner service.
Dante reeled in an impressive three-and-a-half tips of the toque (out of four possible toque-tips) on the strength of a "piping hot" omelette flaunting an "almost lava-like cascade of semi-melted cheddar cheese" and some surprisingly not-too-sweet French toast crusted in Frosted Flakes. (You may opt for Cap'n Crunch if you prefer, Stein-Novack notes, though the paper refers to him more formally as "Captain Crunch.")
But one of the meal's greatest strengths is even more surprising, for an Italian-sounding cafe in South Philly:
Omelettes come with roasted potatoes, but I asked if grits could be substituted for them. I received a medium-sized bowl filled with the creamiest stone-ground grits I have ever tasted since I first ate them 25 years ago on Shem Creek outside of Charleston, S.C.
These superlative grits "arrived in a hot bowl and should get an award," determines Stein-Novack, who is already looking forward to her next visit.
Meanwhile, Philly Weekly's Brian Freedman wrote this week's review of recent LaBan three-beller Abe Fisher in the form of a letter (or perhaps, given the curious art that accompanies the review, the content of a holiday card) to his mom. The affectation was derived from guilt, apparently — guilt that Freedman might have to publicly admit to preferring Abe's renditions of Jewish classics to the home cooking he grew up with.
So, I came up with a strategy: From the entire intriguing menu, I would order only the dishes that no one typically loves, in order to show you the respect you deserve and reaffirm your Jewish-cooking supremacy.
But if you'd read the headline, which proclaims that "even the most unloved Jewish food is amazing at Abe Fisher," you'd probably suspect that Freedman's plan didn't work. From the chopped liver to the kasha varnishkes to the gefilte fish, Freedman waxes rhapsodic about it all before waddling out of the restaurant weighed down by both an excess of food and some emotional baggage.
Finally, City Paper critic Adam Erace hit Chinatown to warm up over a bubbling cauldron of kimchi broth at Simply Shabu.
Erace purports to have been "paralyzed" by the hot pot restaurant's extensive menu, though it sounds like he was stunned just long enough to down "two orders of golden-fried dumplings" (highly recommended) before moving on to consume a dazzling array of dunkables.
From beef tendon balls to surf clams, "the family next to [his] table openly stared" (in what we assume was awe) as he made his way through. Though both broths in his split pot "could have used some salt," Erace was ultimately pleased and/or delirious enough to drop this final pronouncement:
Not too shabu.