The Vedge team officially has another hit on their hands, now that sibling spot V Street is sporting three bells from Inquirer critic Craig LaBan. The vegan street food bar delivered despite LaBan's general misgivings about kitchens that try to take on too many regions and culinary traditions at once:
But the way I see it from this crispy cloud of a lángos topped with smoked beets, or the weirdly wonderful "carrot asado" I just inhaled, Rich Landau and his wife, cocreator, wine mistress, fellow travel junkie, and pastry chef Kate Jacoby, live in a galaxy all their own on the toothsome Planet V.
There's not a false step to be found throughout the critic's meals at the cocktail bar — his praise is shared by the modern interior, impressive cocktails, and "fantastic" service that conveyed all the crucial details "with a rare combo of charm and authority." And, of course, by chef-owner Rich Landau's apparently flawless menu:
The influences roam globally, but V Street's menu is strikingly concise - and surprisingly coherent - with just 13 savory items, each one finely tuned to the tiniest details.
He goes on to apply notably loving descriptions to just about everything on the menu. So what should you order? All of it, we guess — though he does single out the Korean-fried tempeh tacos (wrapped in tortillas smartly sourced from the Italian Market's Tortilleria San Roman) as "a new obsession." And definitely don't skip dessert, which features "delicious" vegan soft-serve dreamed up by chef-owner Kate Jacoby.
Though not a full review, it's worth noting that South Street West's Southern charmer Rex 1516 was singled out by LaBan in this week's Good Taste column. In particular, it's chef Justin Swain's citywide burger special (a burger, shot, and a beer for $15) that's caught his interest. LaBan praises some of the collaborative specials put up weekly with help from guest chefs and other food enthusiasts — "a rare combination of good taste and questionable puns" — but it's Swain's own house burger (with pimento cheese, bacon, and crispy fried onions) that comes out on top.
City Paper critic Adam Erace checked in this week with Kevin Sbraga's latest, '80s-themed Juniper Commons. And while it starts out with some promise — Erace finds the fun decor convincing enough to be reminiscent of his "great-aunt Lucy's Ellsworth Street basement" and wishes he could buy the housemade wine coolers to bring down the shore — the experience ultimately falls flat as a few tough questions land with a thud:
So why does Juniper Commons feel like it was slapped together over a long weekend? For me, a big part of the answer is the '80s-inspired concept. Sure, there were some technical successes. [...] But it's hard to understand why a chef of Sbraga's level would choose to spend his talents recreating wedge salads and fettuccine Alfredo.
The soups, layer cake, and fries browned in tallow all impressed, but service errors and serious execution errors — eggplant parm was mushy and overworked, prime rib was "tough inside and burned around its chewy fat cap" — marred the meal beyond repair. Despite a few highlights, the final verdict is decidedly bleak:
With more consistency, Juniper Commons might be a place I'd bring my suburban in-laws or my plain-eater dad.
Finally, Phyllis Stein-Novack checked out Dottie's Dinette, the new diner across the street from SugarHouse, for the South Philly Review. Beginning her review with reminiscences of the "simple, tasty and wholesome" food of her youth at places like Horn & Hardart's and Howard Johnson, Stein-Novack finds similar joys in this Fishtown dinette.
So what was it that led to her bestowing three tips of the toque to Dottie's, despite almost burning her finger on some piping-hot pancakes? Simple: Benton's bacon (which "meets [her] standards"), satisfying Green Street Coffee (which she "believe[s] people can purchase in some markets"), and the "nice touch" of a cruetful of real maple syrup that "drizzled out into a small stream."
Also, some bombshells were dropped:
I have become a scrapple lover.
The scrapple was, thankfully, prepared properly, and Stein-Novack looks forward to a return visit that may or may not involve a Cobb salad.