Snagging three bells from Inquirer critic Craig LaBan is a tough task, and doing it twice in a row is a feat. But Nick Elmi, Philly’s most recent Top Chef winner, is no stranger to big achievements — and ITV, his new Passyunk Avenue wine bar and small plate restaurant directly next door to his three-bell, French-American 22-seater Laurel, won the critic over — a three-bell restaurant "expanding the boundaries of Philly's already deep bar-food scene."
ITV’s wide-ranging drink list includes "outstanding" beer, sake, and cider options, but it was Heather Sharp’s wine list that stole the show:
But the wines are a worthy focal point at ITV, chosen by Heather Sharp to complement the food, a Eurocentric list that leans toward "minimal-intervention" producers like the biodynamic Albert Mann from Alsace (a stone fruit-vivid Auxerrois), or an earthy Beaujolais-Villages from Jean-Paul Dubost, or the juicy rosé of German pinot from Hexamer. Sharp has a special fondness for minerally Austrian wines, and I loved the sparkling dry grüner from Szigeti against the oceanic gush of happy hour oysters, roasted just until warm beneath sweet peppers, fennel, and almonds.
While Laurel enjoys a more serious, coursed-out, tasting-only approach, ITV is there for casual diners looking for a more-accessible menu by one of our city’s best chefs. The chef was able to incorporate a certain playfulness to his menu, without "dumbing down the food." Take, for example, the "potato ruffle", an item akin to funnel cake, which LaBan called "the kind of magnetic hot potato thingy you simply can't stop grabbing, ripping, sauce-swabbing, and devouring until it disappears." Dutch-inspired stroopwafel cookies came stuffed with chicken liver mousse and "jammy plum agrodolce." Even the menu’s most luxurious indulgence, caviar service, didn’t take itself too seriously.
But you'll want to step up to a rare glass of premier cru "grower champagne" from Aubry if you splurge on the caviar. And I suggest you do. Elmi charges far less than the industry standard food markup for an ounce of hackleback ($60) or sturgeon roe ($110). But it's the presentation that delights - a deconstructed riff on nachos from chef de cuisine Kyle McCormick that presents an ounce of roe on a gorgeous ceramic "cafeteria" tray (crafted by Port Richmond's Felt + Fat) laden with made-to-order blinis, potato crackers, and an elegant "seven layer dip" of thinly spread avocado and crème fraîche dotted capers, shallots, dabs of gelled vodka, and herbs.
Elmi, by the way, recently launched Happy Hour at ITV. Check the menu below, and reserve your seat through Reserve.
Happy Hour menu