Adsum Collab Dinner with Kevin Sbraga

There are so many things I love about Twitter. One of them is the ability to connect and communicate with people with whom you might not otherwise know. Another is that it allows one to be a voyeur, of sorts, watching others interact with one another. This brings me to my  most recent meal. A few months ago, Adsum chef, Matt Levin and Top Chef Season 7 winner, Kevin Sbraga were chatting on Twitter.  As their online (and very public) conversation unfolded, they made plans to cook a collaborative dinner at Adsum. As an Adsum and Top Chef fan, I thought that sounded neat and tucked it into the back of my mind. Soon thereafter, I caught sight of the details, once again on Twitter, and booked a reservation for four knowing nothing about the menu or pricing but banking on Chef Levin’s top notch cuisine and Chef Sbraga, well, dude won Top Chef.

The day of the dinner, my best friend called out sick from dinner. She’s a huge Top Chef fan and I knew she had to be in bad shape to miss the dinner. Nonetheless, I was sad to see her go. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find another pair to join us and we had to change our reservation at the last minute. I hate doing that.

As we prepared to leave the house, Twitter provided us with a sneak peek as my friend, Amy, had the earlier seating. From her reports, we were in for a fantastic meal. We left the house with intentions of taking the bus and ended up taking a cab whose “meter didn’t work.” Oh well, better deal for both of us.

We walked in the door of the light and airy restaurant and were seated immediately. We were even lucky enough to have my friend, Jason, as our all-star waiter for the evening.  We  browsed the menu and I was immediately a little nervous for the pig tails. For someone who doesn’t eat much pork, pig tails seemed to be just a bit, um, adventurous.

Although I didn’t realize there would be a wine pairing, we both opted for it upon Jason’s suggestion. We were almost immediately bestowed with some bubbly in champagne saucers (which my husband just adores.) My wine recollections for the night will be poor as I’m belated in my blogging, but each one paired nicely with the dish, especially the bubbly and the sparkling rose with dessert.

The first course was a variation of eggplant (crispy, charred and marmalade.) I wasn’t sure what to expect from this as eggplant isn’t exactly my favorite veg.

Much to my surprise (ok, I wasn’t actually that surprised) this dish was quite enjoyable. Although I was especially a fan of the marmalade, the three variations played off of one another nicely–and I always enjoy a nice crunch which the fried version so nicely provided. This was also one of Winston Justice’s favorite dishes, as he told me later on Twitter.

The next course was probably my favorite dish of the evening–smoked mahi with cabbage slaw and green goddess dressing.

While smoked fish can sometimes have a very strong flavor, this mahi had such a subtle smoke that it was almost undetectable. The fish was cooked perfectly and had none of that overly fishy flavor. This dish as a whole was clean, light and refreshing and was paired with a white that was just as crisp and drinkable.

Uh oh, the pig tails were up next. We received our third wine and first red of the night. It was robust and matched the strong porky flavors nicely.

Pork cheeks adobo are on the top and the crispy Korean-style pig tails on the bottom. Both of these were phenomenal and packed with flavor in their own unique way. The pig tails felt almost like chicken wings (which made me feel a little better) and the pork cheek was fork tender. I could have eaten either one of these all night, but I was especially partial to the pork cheek adobo.

We ended the night with a chocolate moelleux with a beetroot ice cream paired with a sparkling rose. The moelleux tasted like a brownie but the star of the plate was the ice cream. I literally felt like I was eating liquefied beets. The flavor was so fresh and prominent.

Chefs Levin and Sbraga were in and out of the kitchen throughout the evening, mingling with guests and quite obviously having fun with one another.  My husband and I had the opportunity to chat with Chef Sbraga for a bit and then we snapped this photo on the way out the door. Pardon the sunburn–those are the downfalls of being a softball coach. Check out these two four-eyed cuties!

Adsum Restaurant

Adsum opened a few months in the space at 5th & Bainbridge that formerly housed Coquette. Owner and Executive Chef, Matt Levin, has a resume that reads like a Who’s Who in fine dining. He spent time at Le Bec Fin, Brasserie Perrier and Lacroix, among others, refining his skill set in fine dining. Adsum displays this attention to detail and fine dining with a little more personality. Chef Levin (@ChefLevin if you’re the Twitter-type) has taken Adsum and made it some weird yet phenomenal fusion of fine dining (and drinking, of course) and just plain fun!

I had been wanting to check out Adsum for weeks, especially since following them on Twitter (@adsumrestaurant) and reading about mouth-watering late night specials like fried green tomatoes and mini pierogies. Yum!  Then restaurant week happened. I’m usually anti-Restaurant Week because the restaurants are packed and I feel as if you’re not getting the true experience of the place from a food OR service side. However, when the Center City Restaurant Week (not linking it because I’m being a brat. Google it if you like) decided to bar restaurants lying south of South Street from their Restaurant Week, I thought that was just plain mean. THEN, some of these restaurants like James and Adsum created their own “restaurant week” menus in a renegade restaurant week. How racy!  I checked out Adsum’s menu and thought it looked pretty interesting, but was reeled in by the $12 wine pairing. For $47 you could get 3 courses with paired wines (including a dessert wine. I love dessert wine!)

I asked my friends Joe and Christina to join us and we met them on a breezy Tuesday evening. I hopped out of the car while everyone was looking for parking and ordered a tasty Belvedere martini despite the intriguing cocktail menu.  By the time everyone arrived, I had decided that I was not, in fact, going to order from the fixed menu, despite my initial attraction. I was really, really drooling over two items on the menu–the pierogies and the fried chicken. Now, Rick Nichols LOVES Levin’s fried chicken, naming it the best in the city along with my neighbor, Ann Coll’s, at Meritage. Nichols must really like that chicken, because he was dining at Adsum the night I was there as well.

As I was perusing the menu, I noticed that one of the waitstaff was a dear old friend of mine from high school. Along with an amazing meal that evening, I had the opportunity to catch up with Jay and feel blessed that we were able to reconnect. I asked Jay for suggestions and he immediately pointed out the fried oyster appetizer along with the fried chicken and pierogie entrees (how in the world do you spell pierogi? Spellcheck doesn’t seem to like any of my suggeestions.) Ironically, we had been checking out all of those dishes. It was settled My husband started with the heirloom tomato salad (he’s a tomato junkie) and the fried chicken. I went with the fried oysters and pierogies. My husband loved his salad but I was too busy devouring my oysters to care about anything else.

The oysters were fried with a pickle juice remoulade. Um, YUM! They were a perfect balance of crunchy fried coating encasing each meaty, briny oyster. Sigh. These were SO GOOD!

Looking at that picture makes me want to eat them all over again. Christina ended up ordering the fixed menu and got the tuna carpaccio. I didn’t try any (or get a picture) but she really enjoyed it, especially commenting on the garlic soy flavor. In a funny twist of events, the kitchen accidentally had an extra romaine salad and dropped it at our table for Joe, who had not ordered an appetizer. Apparently Joe does not like green stuff, but the kitchen’s gift was not lost on the others. The rest of us picked at the romaine hearts while he snacked on a few of the polenta croutons.

Then came the entrees. My pierogies, which Jay described as “not your grandma’s pierogies” were stuffed with a creamy potato filling and accompanied with”burnt onions” and a smoky buttermilk cream.

Talk about comfort food. I can see why they make miniature versions of these for the late night bar snack. I loved the cool smokiness of the buttermilk cream while the onions rounded out the doughy pockets. One word of warning–if you don’t like smoke flavor, you will not like this dish. Luckily I like smoke flavor!

Then came the fried chicken. Save yourself some bad writing and cut right to the chase with Rick Nichol’s description that I linked above. This chicken might have been the best thing I’ve ever eaten.

Unfortunately, I took an awful picture. Oh well, go there yourself and just get the chicken. You’ll thank me later.

I didn’t get a photo of Christina’s gnocchi, but Joe went all out and got the burger with farmhouse cheddar, pancetta-onion fondue and, yes, duck fat fries.

Oh right, I forgot the mention the monstrous SLAB of foie gras that can be added for an additional $9 (in case you were wondering, he doesn’t eat green stuff on his burgers either.) I didn’t try the burger, but Joe left a happy and full man. I did snag a few fries and they were perfectly crisp and salty. Much better than the super crisp yet tasteless fries I had in New England this weekend.

Throughout the dinner we had a couple more drinks and lots of laughter (some of it coming at the expense of the person pouring our water who poured it really, really high such that we couldn’t pick up our glasses without spilling it all over. Things like this are amusing to me.)  The wine comes in beakers and is poured into your glass table side–the wine pairing came with smaller pours which was probably a good thing for Christina! My husband and I ended dinner with after dinner drinks that they recommended. My mind is blanking right now but I definitely enjoyed it. Overall, Adsum has a great vibe. I would love to check it out for just a few apps and drinks and it would probably become dangerous to my wallet, liver and waistline if I lived a little closer.

Oh, and we didn’t realize that we were on a pre-celebratory dinner with Christina and Joe who got engaged the next day. Congratulations, friends!