Reviews a-many this week, here in Philly. Both Craig LaBan and Jason Sheehan paid separate visits to SouthGate, each of them seeming to have had decent experiences over-all. Sheehan gushed all over the SouthGate burger, calling it "a great goddamn Tuesday burger", and claimed the restaurant had "the best chicken katsu" he's had in a long while. Philly Mag awarded chef Clara Park two stars:
Southgate's burger—which by all rights ought to have been a throwaway, some terrible fusion-y mess of Korean-American nonsense ruined by the strictures of a Korean-inspired gastropub concept—was awesome. Perfectly medium rare, the patty marinated before its trip to the grill and then floored with green leaf lettuce slicked with that spicy orange ssamjang mayo and sweet house-made pickles, it was, just like I told the man, a great Tuesday burger. Not the burger you're looking forward to, not the one you know going in is supposed to be good, but a surprise burger.
LaBan, on the other hand, gave it the one-bell treatment, which, don't forget, means "hit or miss". The Korean fried chicken came across as "Korean fried crust" because of it's "armor"-like consistency, and the bibimbap, a Korean staple, was a stand-out LaBan labeled "outstanding". The take-away of the write-up, though, was summed up right here:
SouthGate's success will ride on its ability to fine-tune its menu, a tricky task for anyone pioneering a fresh mainstream interpretation of traditionally powerful and pungent flavors. And SouthGate's first instinct has been to tone the cuisine's intrinsic funk and spice too far back. Accessibility does not have to equate with indistinctive. A dusting of gochukaru chili powder atop the french fries alone is not going to cut it.
Sheehan then dropped in (a few times) on Sam Jacobson over at his British pie and mash shop on East Passyunk Ave, Stargazy. Jacobson's pies, pudding, and tarts came away with three stars from Sheehan, with notable mentions for his traditional pie, and especially the sausage roll.
Jacobson is a genius with pie doughs. His are never anything less than ideal. His fillings are like a master class on how not to get in the way of your ingredients. I dig into the mash (thick and starchy) and run everything through the puddle of slightly bitter, bright green parsley liquor, and it is delicious.
South Philly Review's Phyllis Stein-Novack had her heartstrings pulled at the Navy Yard's Mercer Cafe. Memories of her childhood were evoked by Mercer's turkey club, chocolate milk, and tomato soup, establishing itself as a reflection of "old-fashioned or rather classic luncheonettes" of yesteryear.
The Mercer Cafe builds a fine turkey club ($8.50). The cooks use Le Bus bread, which is a plus. I like the bakery's Pullman white and wheat. Roasted breast of turkey formed the base for my sandwich. It was real turkey, nothing salty and processed. After the bread was lightly toasted, a schmeer of mayonnaise became essential. Crisp bacon, hearts of romaine and ripe tomatoes were piled onto the toast after a generous layer of roast turkey breast.
Three tips of the toke from the South Philly Review.