Saturday, September 7, 2013


Amada is Chef Jose Garces' iconic first restaurant. Since opening in 2005, the gorgeous rustic-chic restaurant and bar has embraced the rich traditions of Spanish gastronomy while incorporating avant-garde cooking techniques. Amada's dining room features a six-seat chef's counter overlooking the open kitchen, a comfortable second dining room and lounge area, an intimate private event space and a spacious bar area reminiscent of a typical Spanish bodega, complete with hanging jamòns, a display of whole cheeses and shelves brimming with imported canned goods for sale. Located in Philadelphia's historic Old City neighborhood, the restaurant is steps from public transportation and easily accessible on foot or by car.

Chef Garces is the owner and operator of more than a dozen wildly successful restaurants, plus a thriving catering division, in five cities. He is a 2009 winner of the James Beard Foundation’s prestigious “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic” award and one of only a few chefs in the country to hold the coveted title of Iron Chef, appearing regularly on Food Network’s hit series Iron Chef America.  Naturally after dining at the other iconic Iron chef's restaurant, we also had to visit this one's restaurant while we were in Philly.

We arrived a few minutes earlier than our reservation and were asked to wait at the bar until our table was ready.  The bar area was crowded with couples and groups all mingling, sipping on sangria or beer, and sharing tapas.  I could see how Amada is a popular spot.  Soon enough we were shown to our table.

Our server greeted us, quickly mentioned the tasting menu option, or suggested we order a la carte recommending 3 to 4 tapas per person.  After picking several tapas to share with a bottle of red Spanish wine, Keith and I sat in the dark bustling dining room and waited for each dish to arrive.  The lighting was very dim, so most of my photos did not come out that great.  As a complimentary starter, we were presented with Spanish tuna and flatbread crackers.  The tuna spread tasted great and was a unique alternative to a plain bread basket.

One of the first tapas we picked were Piquillos Rellenos - sweet red peppers stuffed with crab and topped with shaved almonds.  The crab meat was seasoned well and this was one of my favorite baked dishes.  Next, we shared Almejas Con Chorizo - clams with chorizo.  The clams were puny and the broth was briny and metallic.  The chorizo added a spicy bite, but overall this was a disappointing dish.  To pick things back up again, we then ate the Alcachofas y Setas Flatbread with artichoke, wild mushrooms, black truffles, and Manchego cheese.  A glorious marriage of mushrooms and cheese!  I could have eaten an entire pizza like this with a glass of red wine and be totally happy.

Next, I picked a couple vegetarian options to try.  Amada's Empanada was filled with spinach, Manchego, and artichoke and came with pickled peppers.  The sliced peppers added a little more substance, but the empanada itself was too small to share in my opinion.  The Queso de Cabra was baked goat cheese, tomato, basil, and almonds and had much more traditional Italian flavors than Spanish.  It came with slices of baked bread, but I would have liked the dish to be hotter in temperature.

suckling pig head
We also ordered a couple tapas from the grill - Shrimp a la Plancha and Chicken Brochettes.  The shrimp came simply prepared with lemon and herbs and with the heads on that added even more intense shrimp flavor.  I really enjoyed the tender meat.  The chicken were also simply prepared skewers that were nicely cooked so that the meat was still juicy.  Keith ordered an additional meat dish to try: Costillas -Berkshire pork ribs with shaved fennel, spiced yogurt, and paprika glaze.  The ribs were very tender and the sauce had a great sweet, spicy, and tangy combination.  The shaved fennel slaw also had slices of green apple that brightened up the dish.  While we were almost done, a large party near by had ordered a whole suckling pig for the group.  The servers came out to carve it table side and as they removed the head, I tried to get a zoomed in shot.  The other patrons nearby were also "ooohing" and "aaaahing" while camera flashes were going off.  It was not an every day sight you see at a restaurant.

Finally, for dessert we shared the Pastel de Chocolate - chocolate cake with caramel sauce and banana malt ice cream.  While it was not a memorable finish, proceeds from the purchase of this dessert benefit the Garces Family Foundation and its worthy causes.  Overall the food at Amada was flavorful and the ingredients used were decent.  I am glad we were able to dine at another Iron Chef's restaurant while in Philadelphia.  I am curious to see how different Chef Garces' other places are.

Total Rating: 4.18
Food: 4.5, Price: 4, Service: 3.5, Ambience: 3, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Piquillos Rellenos
Crab Stuffed Peppers

Almejas Con Chorizo
Clams, Chorizo
Photo via Amada's website
Alcachofas y Setas
Flatbread with Artichoke, Wild Mushrooms, Black Truffles, Manchego

Amada's Empanada 
Spinach, Manchego, Artichoke
Photo via Amada's website
Queso de Cabra
Baked Goat Cheese, Tomato, Basil, Almonds

Shrimp a la Plancha

Chicken Brochettes

Pastel de Chocolate
Chocolate Cake, Caramel Sauce, Banana Malt Ice Cream

Plus Keith ate:
Berkshire Pork Ribs, Shaved Fennel, Spiced Yogurt, Paprika Glaze

Amada on Urbanspoon

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