This week in reviews sees Brick and Mortar off to a solid start in the Loft District, as Inquirer dining critic Craig LaBan has granted an optimistic two bells to the newcomer with the draw and potential to be "the neighborhood's most visible and polished hub." His positive experiences could not be marred even by eating one of his review meals within sniffing distance of a group of 75 sweaty joggers, which is really saying something.
LaBan does find room for improvement and evolution, noting that chef Brian Ricci's menu "still feels somewhat like a rough sketch" and that the crowd in the emerging neighborhood "still feels like a blank slate." Already, some dishes and portion sizes have been tweaked in response to feedback, and LaBan found a few more that could have used some work: Namely, a dish of oysters served "flaccid and not very cold," a "skimpy" vegetable platter, and a cheese plate that impressed but was marred slightly by a steep and surprising surcharge for extra bread.
That's about the extent of the critique, though, as the kitchen impressed and satisfied overall. LaBan's top recommendations include starters featuring heirloom tomatoes or chickpeas and kale, a number of well-executed rotisserie specials, cavatelli cacio e pepe, a burger with "universal carnivore appeal," and the (already widely beloved) sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
Unsurprisingly, Brick and Mortar's bar won the most unqualified raves from the critic, both for its excellent selection of craft beers and "exceptionally made" cocktails courtesy of head bartender Christina Rando.
· City Paper's Adam Erace is brimming over with nice things to say about Southgate, reveling in the "destination-making" Korean fried chicken, bibimbap that ranks as "the city's new paragon," notable drinks, and some killer shortcake.
· South Philly Review's Phyllis Stein-Novack still hasn't made it back to South Philly, but she did have a delightful Sunday brunch at Tria Fitler Square (and helpfully notes which bus line she took to get there). Between notable wine, omelettes, pancakes, desserts, service, and air conditioning, the only thing PSN could possibly quibble over were the smallish portions, and the newest Tria earned an impressive three-and-a-half tips of the toque.
· Philadelphia Weekly's Brian Freedman reviews German cuisine in general for its apparent failure to invent a single sandwich that he could conceivably liken to a cheesesteak. Still, in case you're worried, the ultimate verdict on German food is that it's good.