Sunday, September 8, 2013

Amis

Marc Vetri’s Amis is on the top of every Italian restaurant list in Philadelphia (and arguably the country) and of course was on my list of places to try during our weekend trip to the City of Brotherly Love.  Marc Vetri was nominated earlier this year for Outstanding Chef and Brad Spence was nominated for Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic for his efforts at Amis.  After dining at Amis, I see why they've earned those nominations.

I also understand why Anthony Bourdain made a point to dine here on a quick trip to film an episode of The Layover. To quote Tony from an interview he had with Eater last year: "I was told how great Italian food was here, but it's like, so what? Lots of people do great Italian. But, Marc is doing just flat out amazing Roman Italian right here in this restaurant. If you took a Roman osteria and just dropped it in Philly, this would be it. It's a focus that you can't find anywhere else."

After another full day of sight-seeing, I was hungry and looking forward to one more great meal in Philly.  The restaurant itself is small, akin to the rowhouse-style restaurants in DC.  We sat a table right next to the kitchen's opening, so I could see the chefs hustling away.  Again, the lighting was quite dark in the restaurant so I did not get the best food pics to share below.  Our server was incredibly knowledgeable about the menu and very detailed with all the ingredients used in each dish.  We ordered a carafe of the house white wine to share and it was very nice and crisp.

For an appetizer, we shared eggplant caponata with grilled rustic bread.  The eggplant was cut in perfect half-inch cubes and roasted with olive oil, garlic, and herbs.  The grilled bread gave an extra touch to this delightful starter.  We also shared swordfish meatballs with creamy polenta and pinenuts.  The large balls had great fish flavor, yet the texture was identical to a traditional meatball.  I didn't really care for the polenta that came with it, but the pinenuts added a different dimension to the dish.  Additionally, Keith got the adventurous grilled veal tongue served with a sweet pepper mostarda.  I thought it looked like a piece of thickly cut bacon, but Keith said it did not taste anything like bacon.  Rather, he said it tasted clean and was tender, but not really comparable to any other meat he's had before.

After the appetizers, we shared a pasta course.  I picked the Tonnarelli "Cacio e Pepe" with pecorino and black pepper.  Literally meaning "cheese and pepper", this minimalist pasta is like a stripped-down mac and cheese and was absolutely amazing.  I could have eaten an entire bowl of this pasta, and as I write this, I have requested that Keith recreate it someday at home.  The simple preparation truly reminded me of the authentic dishes we had in Rome.

For our main entree, I chose Seared Scallops that came with a summer vegetable salad consisting of corn, tomatoes, and zucchini.  The scallops were perfectly cooked and the salad was light and refreshing, especially after the pasta course.  Keith ordered the whole fried fish of the day that came with bitter greens.  Tonight the fish was porgy - a meaty sea bream that was simply prepared with lots of fresh lemon.

More than the food, I was impressed by the service throughout the night - straight forward, not stuffy, completely warm and genuine.   These great qualities make this Italian trattoria stand out among places I've dined at, both in and out of Italy.  We had a great dinner at Amis, and I hope to return again.  Next time, I will certainly save room for dessert as they each sounded amazing.

Total Rating: 4.38
Food: 4.5, Price: 4, Service: 4.5, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Eggplant Caponata

Swordfish Meatballs
with creamy polenta and pinenuts

Tonnarelli "Cacio e Pepe"
with pecorino and black pepper

Seared Scallops
with summer vegetable salad

Plus Keith ate:
Grilled Veal Tongue
with pepper mostarda

Whole Fried Fish of the Day
with bitter greens

Amis on Urbanspoon

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