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In the Kimmel Center, Volvér’s eight-course tasting menu includes a chickpea gordita
Volvér [official]

9 Philly Restaurants With Tasting Menus Worth Making Time For

Set aside two hours or more for a decadent multi-course meal

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In the Kimmel Center, Volvér’s eight-course tasting menu includes a chickpea gordita
| Volvér [official]

When it comes to fine dining, the tasting menu is often king. Unlike a traditional a la carte menu, which offers a wide variety of dishes to order, each priced individually, or a prix fixe menu, which usually includes a few choices per course for a set price, the tasting menu gives the chef complete control over the meal. Typically, it includes several tiny- to medium-sized courses and lasts significantly longer than your average dinner. The whole table is expected to eat the same meal (unless someone has an allergy or dietary restriction).

Tasting menus are known to change often — sometimes dishes are available for one week and never seen again, while others become classics that remain on the menus for years. Some are big splurges, while others are on par with a regular night out. Here are nine of the best.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Lacroix

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In the swank Rittenhouse hotel, dinner at Lacroix means a tasting menu that focuses on a single, seasonal ingredient. The spotlighted ingredient at this sophisticated restaurant changes mid-month and recently featured menus highlighting potatoes and citrus. Upcoming dinners will focus on carrots and herbs. The tasting menu, served Monday to Saturday, includes several courses for $115 with optional wine pairings for $90 or $150.

Volvér

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Inside the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Jose Garces’ Volvér has gone through a few conceptual changes in the last five years, but it remains one of the most interesting dining experiences around. These days, the stylish, glass-enclosed restaurant serves as chef Garces’ test kitchen to develop new menu items for all of his restaurants. Hamachi tartare, ramen with Iberico ham, veal hanger steak, and an eggshell filled with chocolate custard and salted caramel are a few of the dishes on the latest version of the eight-course, $95 tasting menu. The wine pairing is $65. An a la carte menu is also available.

Volver [official photo]

Vetri Cucina

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In the two decades since Marc Vetri opened his eponymous fine dining restaurant, it’s become a destination for both locals and visitors. Inside a charming Center City townhouse, Verti Cucina serves rustic Italian dishes paired with rare Italian wines. Some dishes have a permanent spot on the menu, including the swiss chard gnocchi with ricotta salata and brown butter and the capretto (young goat) with house-milled polenta. The rest changes seasonally and is tailored to guests’ preferences. The tasting menu is $165 and the wine pairing is $135.

Vetri [official]

One of Philly’s most acclaimed restaurants, Zahav from star chef Michael Solomonov offers two tasting menus in addition to an al la carte menu. The tayim and the mesibah tasting menus both include the Israeli restaurant’s lauded hummus, a variety of vegetable plates, mezze, a grilled dish, and dessert. But the mesibah, which isn’t printed on the menu, adds something special: the famous Zahav lamb shoulder, a massive hunk of meat braised in pomegranate molasses and served with crispy Persian rice and chickpeas. Prepare to be impressed — and to take home leftovers. The mesibah is $60 and the tayim goes for $48, and the entire table is asked to participate.

Michael Regan

After working in some of Philly’s top kitchens, Marina de Oliveira and Chris D’Ambro opened Queen Village charmer Southwark and then their cozy Ambra. The intimate restaurant serves a modern take on traditional Italian food to only a couple dozen lucky diners each night. The seven- to nine-course tasting menu changes completely every two months and no dish is ever repeated. Dinner goes for $92 with an optional wine pairing for $65.

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Royal Sushi & Izakaya

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Reservations for Jesse Ito’s Royal Sushi fill up fast. Sushi lovers clamor to book one of just a dozen seats at the serene bar in the back of the rollicking Royal Izakaya. Ito, whose family has been in the sushi business for decades, is a perfectionist when it comes to sourcing, knife skills, and garnishes for his 18-piece nigirizushi omakase. The fish he serves changes regularly, but a few highlights make regular appearances: live scallop with black truffle and gold leaf, Hokkaido uni, and torched king salmon belly. Expect to pay $130 for this sought-after experience. Fans of sake have a wide range of options to pair with the meal.

Though Bibou is located a stone’s throw from South Philly’s Italian Market, the petite restaurant helmed by Lyonnais chef-owner Pierre Calmels is Philadelphia’s most genuinely French dining experience. Calmels’ menu changes every week, based on seasonality and availability, but two courses always remain: foie gras and a souffle. Expect upscale French-style service: an amuse-bouche starts the meal, dishes are sauced tableside, truffles get shaved over plates, and wine is poured from decanters. Speaking of wine: Diners bring the best bottles they have to this BYOB. Follow suit and take a bottle of bubbly, Burgundy, or Bordeaux — or maybe all three.

Top Chef winner Nick Elmi, whose tenure in the Philadelphia restaurant scene stretches back to Georges Perrier’s famed Le Bec-Fin, showcases his trademark style at Laurel. It’s here that he combines French and American techniques, avant garde with classic cooking, and unlikely flavor combinations that consistently wow diners. A meal in the intimate 22-seat dining room on East Passyunk Avenue is $85 for six courses and $125 for nine courses. Supplements are often available and, while expensive, are often worth it, especially if the melt-in-your-mouth A5 Wagyu beef is available. Bring your own bottle or choose a wine pairing for $75 (six course) or $100 (nine course).

Townsend

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Chef Tod Wentz’s first restaurant is his most elegant. Set in an renovated rowhouse on East Passyunk Avenue, Townsend puts diners in a fine dining state of mind with white tablecloths, proper glassware, and composed dishes. The tasting menu changes quarterly — sometimes more frequently to keep it hyper-seasonal — and pays homage to French cuisine with creative and modern techniques. The tasting menu is $85 with an optional $65 beverage pairing.

Lacroix

In the swank Rittenhouse hotel, dinner at Lacroix means a tasting menu that focuses on a single, seasonal ingredient. The spotlighted ingredient at this sophisticated restaurant changes mid-month and recently featured menus highlighting potatoes and citrus. Upcoming dinners will focus on carrots and herbs. The tasting menu, served Monday to Saturday, includes several courses for $115 with optional wine pairings for $90 or $150.

Volvér

Volver [official photo]

Inside the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Jose Garces’ Volvér has gone through a few conceptual changes in the last five years, but it remains one of the most interesting dining experiences around. These days, the stylish, glass-enclosed restaurant serves as chef Garces’ test kitchen to develop new menu items for all of his restaurants. Hamachi tartare, ramen with Iberico ham, veal hanger steak, and an eggshell filled with chocolate custard and salted caramel are a few of the dishes on the latest version of the eight-course, $95 tasting menu. The wine pairing is $65. An a la carte menu is also available.

Volver [official photo]

Vetri Cucina

Vetri [official]

In the two decades since Marc Vetri opened his eponymous fine dining restaurant, it’s become a destination for both locals and visitors. Inside a charming Center City townhouse, Verti Cucina serves rustic Italian dishes paired with rare Italian wines. Some dishes have a permanent spot on the menu, including the swiss chard gnocchi with ricotta salata and brown butter and the capretto (young goat) with house-milled polenta. The rest changes seasonally and is tailored to guests’ preferences. The tasting menu is $165 and the wine pairing is $135.

Vetri [official]

Zahav

Michael Regan

One of Philly’s most acclaimed restaurants, Zahav from star chef Michael Solomonov offers two tasting menus in addition to an al la carte menu. The tayim and the mesibah tasting menus both include the Israeli restaurant’s lauded hummus, a variety of vegetable plates, mezze, a grilled dish, and dessert. But the mesibah, which isn’t printed on the menu, adds something special: the famous Zahav lamb shoulder, a massive hunk of meat braised in pomegranate molasses and served with crispy Persian rice and chickpeas. Prepare to be impressed — and to take home leftovers. The mesibah is $60 and the tayim goes for $48, and the entire table is asked to participate.

Michael Regan

Ambra

RSC Visuals

After working in some of Philly’s top kitchens, Marina de Oliveira and Chris D’Ambro opened Queen Village charmer Southwark and then their cozy Ambra. The intimate restaurant serves a modern take on traditional Italian food to only a couple dozen lucky diners each night. The seven- to nine-course tasting menu changes completely every two months and no dish is ever repeated. Dinner goes for $92 with an optional wine pairing for $65.

RSC Visuals

Royal Sushi & Izakaya

Reservations for Jesse Ito’s Royal Sushi fill up fast. Sushi lovers clamor to book one of just a dozen seats at the serene bar in the back of the rollicking Royal Izakaya. Ito, whose family has been in the sushi business for decades, is a perfectionist when it comes to sourcing, knife skills, and garnishes for his 18-piece nigirizushi omakase. The fish he serves changes regularly, but a few highlights make regular appearances: live scallop with black truffle and gold leaf, Hokkaido uni, and torched king salmon belly. Expect to pay $130 for this sought-after experience. Fans of sake have a wide range of options to pair with the meal.

Bibou

Though Bibou is located a stone’s throw from South Philly’s Italian Market, the petite restaurant helmed by Lyonnais chef-owner Pierre Calmels is Philadelphia’s most genuinely French dining experience. Calmels’ menu changes every week, based on seasonality and availability, but two courses always remain: foie gras and a souffle. Expect upscale French-style service: an amuse-bouche starts the meal, dishes are sauced tableside, truffles get shaved over plates, and wine is poured from decanters. Speaking of wine: Diners bring the best bottles they have to this BYOB. Follow suit and take a bottle of bubbly, Burgundy, or Bordeaux — or maybe all three.

Laurel

Top Chef winner Nick Elmi, whose tenure in the Philadelphia restaurant scene stretches back to Georges Perrier’s famed Le Bec-Fin, showcases his trademark style at Laurel. It’s here that he combines French and American techniques, avant garde with classic cooking, and unlikely flavor combinations that consistently wow diners. A meal in the intimate 22-seat dining room on East Passyunk Avenue is $85 for six courses and $125 for nine courses. Supplements are often available and, while expensive, are often worth it, especially if the melt-in-your-mouth A5 Wagyu beef is available. Bring your own bottle or choose a wine pairing for $75 (six course) or $100 (nine course).

Townsend

Chef Tod Wentz’s first restaurant is his most elegant. Set in an renovated rowhouse on East Passyunk Avenue, Townsend puts diners in a fine dining state of mind with white tablecloths, proper glassware, and composed dishes. The tasting menu changes quarterly — sometimes more frequently to keep it hyper-seasonal — and pays homage to French cuisine with creative and modern techniques. The tasting menu is $85 with an optional $65 beverage pairing.

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