Philadelphia restaurants make the holidays bright with decadent tasting menus, family-style meals, traditional Chinese dinners, and a few Feasts of the Seven Fishes. Don’t forget to order a to-go dessert to leave out for Santa, assuming you made his nice list this year.
Expect the majority of restaurants and bars in Chinatown to be open (and they aren’t all Cantonese or Sichuan specialists: Look for restaurants serving Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Burmese, Thai, and other cuisines).
The spots below have special menus planned. Several more will be open on Christmas Eve with their regular menus, including Barclay Prime (hit up the front bar if a full steak dinner isn’t in the cards) and Michael Schulson’s Double Knot, Sampan, and Harp & Crown (try the Addison Street cocktail with gin, cranberry cordial, star anise, and rosemary). Bring a six-pack to Sate Kampar or head to King of Prussia to the new Founding Farmers. Pizzeria Vetri will be open until 3 p.m. and Walnut Street Cafe is serving brunch only.
Christmas Eve means the annual suckling pig roast at Amada (217-219 Chestnut Street). The succulent oinker is served family-style for $60 a person and comes with appetizers (salad, croquetas), sides (potatoes, white beans), and a puff pastry cake with on-theme bacon ice cream for dessert. Kids 12 and under eat for $25.
Only a few dozen diners will get to experience Ambra's (705 S. 4th Street) Feast of the Seven Fishes because the petite Italian restaurant can only host a few dozen people a night. The $115 dinner includes crudo, lobster, skate wing, pork belly and clams, swordfish, and sfogliatelle (a layered Italian pastry) for dessert. Seatings go from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The bar at neighboring sister spot Southwark will be open starting at 3 p.m.
The star of the Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner at Fine Palate (231 S. 15th Street) is a blue lobster flown in live from Brittany, France, and served alongside celery root puree, Du Puy lentils, and a 100-year-old balsamic gastrique. Also on the menu ($99 and $89 in advance) is caviar, oysters, octopus, and sea conch.
A few hor d’oeuvres start the $45 holiday meal at Hungry Pigeon (743 S. 4th Street): shrimp cocktail, a camembert tart, and butternut squash bisque. Diners then choose between roasted beef with potatoes or vegetarian lasagna for dinner. Chocolate lovers will be happy when dessert — a slice of black forest cake — hits the table.
Lacroix (210 W. Rittenhouse Square) at the Rittenhouse hotel will serve a special holiday version of its five-course tasting menu ($135) that features Maine lobster, guinea hen with foie gras, caviar, oyster, and chocolate for dessert. Want even more caviar and oysters? No judgement here. Both will be available a la carte. The hotel’s Library Bar has a fireplace perfect for cozying up with a Novel Tea — Suntory Toki, matcha, and yuzu.
Mission Taqueria (1516 Sansom Street) is planning a Mexican family-style dinner for a steal — just $35 per person. The prix fixe menu includes chips with guacamole and three salsas, tuna ceviche, grilled octopus, roasted pork with mole verde, roasted turkey with a Oaxacan-style mole, green chili tamales, and “Impossible Cake” which is a dense chocolate cake with flan baked on top. Reservations are recommended.
Ocean Harbor Restaurant
Every year, the Gershman Y throws its Christmas-alternative Moo Shu Jew Show: a marrying of Chinese food and Jewish comedy at Ocean Harbor Restaurant (1023 Race Street) in Chinatown. The stand-up lineup includes Moody McCarthy, Marla Schultz, and Brad Zimmerman. The event usually sells out, so get $82 tickets in advance or risk it at the door for $92. The menu isn’t kosher, but can accommodate vegetarians.
Into the idea of the Seven Fishes, but not up for the expense and long meal? Go for an affordable alternative with Slice’s (multiple locations) annual holiday pie, Pizza of the 7 Fishes. The pizza ($19 for a small; $26 for a large) is topped with mozzarella, clams, mussels, shrimp, tuna, crab meat, sardines, anchovies, fresh lemon, and basil. It’s available all month long, including Christmas Eve, at all four locations.