Restaurant Review: Village Whiskey

>> Monday, January 18, 2010

Since Jose Garces opened his first restaurant Amada in Philadelphia 5 years ago, he has made a big impact in the culinary scene here. With every new restaurant he opened, people has fallen head over heels from its innovative variations on Latin cuisine. Of course his fame rose even further after he became the Iron Chef. So when we heard that the Garces Restaurant Group got a new restaurant in its bag, my ex-colleague and I named it the next destination for our monthly luncheon.

Village Whiskey is meant to be a burger joint, a burger joint with 150 different whiskeys available to choose from. I have checked on their website and read the menu before going there. The menu was very interesting; It's making itself known as higher end burger joint with an iron chef backbone, so you can find items that you would expect with a few renovated ideas. The french fries are duck fat fried, there's a pickle platter that serves with a whipped ricotta, olive tapenade and sour dough, there are raw oysters and clams, there's a lobster roll and there's a whiskey king burger that has a piece of foie gras on top. I thought since the place is a bit out of my way and I might not go back often, I made up my mind that I'm gonna go all out and order the Whiskey King burger.

The restaurant decor reminiscent of an old time saloon bar, the walls were adorned with faded mirrors, white mosaic tiles, looks quite classy but it was shockingly cramped. After a 20 minutes wait in a waiting area the size of a phone booth, we were led to a leather plushed corner nook that I almost have to jam myself inside. You pull the tables out and still you can barely get comfortably seated, it's horribly awkward.

Going to the luncheon with my ex-colleague has some limitations, she's a vegetarian and usually we'll have to make sure there are vegetarian items on the menu for her to choose from, subsequently I tend to order vegetarian items just so we can share and taste a wider variety of food. But this time, I felt selfish. While waiting for our table, a lady in a mink coat came in the waiting area and placed an order of the duck fat fries to pick up 45 minutes later. That's all she wanted and it got me curious, even the tater tots on the menu sounds more appealing to my childish fixation, I decided the duck fat fries might really be that good.

So I ordered the $24 burger and the duck fat fries, my colleague got the lentil, black bean vegetarian burger, the deviled eggs and the home-made cheese puffs. Home-made cheese puffs, you ask? I asked. "What is this cheese puff, is it like Cheetos?" I didn't think it would be like Cheetos, but the definition of cheese puffs was variable. Turns out, they were buttery, spongy choux pastry with melted cheese and chives on top served in a skillet. Best cheese puffs I've ever had! It's so good, I'm about to test the word homemade in its descriptions. The deviled eggs were well made and perfectly seasoned but not memorable, run of the mill vinegar, cayenne pepper, onion, celery kinda deal, I think I had too many of those in church picnics to really care.

When the burgers arrived, I was gobsmacked by the large piece of foie gras on top. I have rarely seen a piece of foie gras so blatantly put on top of a burger where it looks, at least, out of place. The waitress had to come by to reassured me that it is a 2-oz piece of foie gras for me to believe my eyes. In another instant, I noticed the oil saturating the entire sandwich. There is the oil from the foie gras, the juice from the 8-oz burger, two strips of applewood bacon and its grease, the melted oily blue cheese and the maple bourbon glazed cippolini onions which is like a marmalade. I know people craved a truly juicy burger but this thing is drenched in oil and juice. While the combination made it into a complex taste with pleasant notes of foie gras and marmalade, the beef itself got covered and as much as the marmalade tried, it cannot cut through all the fattiness of it. I imagine if I had a glass of bourbon, everything might be in harmony but alas I don't drink.

The duck fat fries itself was not as great as I would hope. Even after rinsing my mouth with water, I could not taste the duck fat. The salt and spices overpowered any trace of the duck fat's sweet smokiness. After going through the whole cup, I think I've only truly taste the duck fat once, not something I would recommend. In a rare occasion, my colleague and I share a strawberry shortcake, which is more of a coffee cake with cinnamon crisp topping and strawberry jam, a strawberry whiskey sauce and whipped cream. The cake is a bit too dense for us to finish but it tasted good. Don't get me wrong, the food is good, but if I go back next time, I'll try the other offerings. Anyone who's going should definitely order the cheesy puffs though, best thing of the entire meal.

It's possible that I will come back for a date with the boyfriend, the space is not really as crowded and tight as some other restaurants I've been, namely the claustrophobia inducing Kanella down my block. Though one major factor is that one will have to wait 30-45 minutes just to get a table, we were there at 1:30pm for lunch and it was packed until about 3:00pm, I imagine dinner will be even busier, maybe there would be outdoor dining in warmer days so nobody have to feel like they are packed inside a can of sardines.

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