Well, it's only Monday, but so far, so cheery as far as restaurant reviews go. Craig LaBan filed a bit of mole-induced ecstasy courtesy of Ninth Street's Mole Poblano for the Sunday paper, while Trey Popp's feel-good reviews of The Fat Ham and Pizzeria Beddia both dropped online today.
Not surprisingly, a central figure in LaBan's two-bell review of Mole Poblano is the eponymous mole, whether smothering a platter of chicken or striping the masa in "some of the city's best tamales." But he doled out hefty praise to just about everything he tried, giving a special nod to the many weekend specials, including lamb barbacoa. Still, amongst the delirium of all this food smut, there's one thing in here that very seriously raises the question, "Should people be allowed?":
Papá Pedro Ríos, 53, and his wife, Ynes Sandoval, 50, had already made a living plying the streets with his signature carnitas and her handmade tamales, selling to Mexican workers at a West Philly meatpacking plant, restaurants in Center City, and many other spots.But neighbors had complained about the cooking smells of pork and chiles emanating from their South Philly home.
Luckily, people get a pass this time, because Ríos and Sandoval opening their own permanent place made for a very happy ending.
Meanwhile, Popp goes crazy over white bread soaked in ranch at Kevin Sbraga's Fat Ham, which earns an impressive three stars. And while he gives the famous hot chicken sitting on top of that bread its due, the better story lies with the restaurant's Southern take on hummus:
I didn't need [the affable, knowledgable servers] to lead me to the one that clinched this restaurant's hold on me: a light-bodied hummus that jettisoned tahini in favor of boiled peanuts. Those must be the most authentic — and divisive — thing here. I can't think of baseball or summer without conjuring a gloriously soggy brown bag of boiled peanuts, but I've never met a non-Southerner who could abide the things.
"I don't care for them either," Sbraga told me.
Popp rounds out the double feature by handing two-and-a-half stars to Pizzeria Beddia (star of the Eater National Pizza 38 and this interview we love so much). Of course, there's much made about the shop's peculiar way of doing business and a Jersey-tomato sauce that could stand to be a touch more sweet, but who cares:
...the truth is that Beddia's crusts are so far up my alley that he could cover them with brick dust and I'd still swoon.
After that, the rest seems almost (almost) superfluous.