>> Thursday, February 25, 2010
About two week ago, I was walking in my neighborhood on my way to the post office trying to mail a book I sold through Amazon, I stumbled upon a familiar face. Since we're in the gayborhood, I thought maybe he was one of the gays that I should have remember his name so I said "Oh, hi!" and then it dawned on me that this guy in front of me was Iron Chef Jose Garces. Clearly he doesn't know me and I sounded like we were friends, so he might have been a little weirded out but he tried to be nice and replied "Hey, how is it going!". At this point, I was already starstruck and stupidly said "Good, thank you." and walked off. My life is full of these little embarrassing moments that I revisit sometimes and cringe.
Jose Garces has become a big time restaurateur here in Philly. Within a month's time, a new restaurant/food market name Garces Trading Company has opened in my neighborhood and I went to check it out once it opened, it's exciting to have a new nice restaurant being so close to home. Of course I saw Garces there but I tried to hide my face to save myself from the embarrassment. The boyfriend and I went to check it out on it's first Sunday Brunch event and it was quite chaotic.
The space was divided into a tight store which is a corridor surrounding the middle restaurant part. The corridor contains a cheese counter, an oil and vinegar bar, a charcuterie counter, a bakery counter, a beverage fridge and a wine cellar. It usually requires 20-30 minutes waiting time for a table, however there are no waiting space, patrons are left brushing shoulders and wandering the store.
After getting our table, we were waited by a forgetful waiter who asked us our choice of water and then disappeared without bringing the water. We reminded him after placing our order which include our drink order and then he disappeared for a long period without bringing our drinks. We reminded him again and reiterated our food order after being asked and waited for our food to come. After a prolonged period, the quartet seating next to us who arrived and ordered later than us had gotten their food but the boyfriend and I were just munching on bread that comes in a cute box with a small container of sea salt, after finishing our second bread box, our food finally came.
The food was less his usual Spanish fare but more French and Italian. I ordered a vichyssoise that was served with scallop and bacon and a splash of truffle oil. Yum. I also liked the roasted eggplant antipasti with toasted pepper, cherry tomato confit, toasted pine nuts and balsamic vinegar. The boyfriend had a Cubano sandwich that was substantial and the pickled pepper, and chili pepper on the side make the sandwich delicious and I had a small duck salad with a poached eggs, bacon and a mustard vinaigrette that was decent, the running egg yolk made it soul satisfying.
The problem of the place other than the tight space is the staff. Maybe it's the very first Sunday brunch, as the boyfriend pointed out - the most important restaurant rush in our neighborhood, they seemed a little frazzled. There were only 2 waiters for the whole place which is a bit understaffed, the orders aren't sequential, we had to wait a long time for our food, I have to wait for my rather small salad for a long time after finishing every other courses, then the waiter disappeared entirely when it's time for our check. After we finished the meal, the maitre'd came over and asked if everything was okay and she was annoyed when I told her the service was slow. She told me that she'll ensure that it won't happen again next time I come, but I was sure she was just trying to pacify me. After the meal, we went over to the bakery to get some desserts to go, it was a short line and after getting my money, the cashier proceed to talk shop with the other cashier and exchanging money. I had to wait another 5 minutes for them to finish before she slowly put on her gloves to fetch my orders and then she had to ask for my orders again. There is a serious problem with the staff.
On a different occasion, I went back again for lunch during the week. The service was a lot better, even though it was still as busy, the wait staff has changed and work more efficiently. The baby artichoke is served with a lemon-honey vinaigrette with bits of date wrapped almonds and mixed of olives contains 5 different kinds served in seasoned olive oil. I had a taste of minestrone that my friend ordered and it was very tasty, but the best thing is the funghi pizza served on a thin crust, aromatic tallegio cheese, maitake, royal trumpets and black truffles. The food contains a lot of oil and vinegar that is sold in store, so the food is sort of an advertising. After trying some tarts and cake, I'm only impressed by the pistachio cherry bomb and the chocolate croissant, the price of madeleines is only $3 a dozen which sounds great. I will definitely come back during the week or at night maybe try out their cheese plate for $15, the price is sorta affordable. It is said that Garces is showing up every night in this early stage of the restaurant.
Rumor is that Garces signed a 10-year lease in Philadelphia Cira tower to open up yet another restaurant and taking up another space in the gayborhood for another deli, my friend told me that Garces is already happily married and in person he seems shorter than I imagined.
Oil and vinegar bar, the most expensive one is the white truffle oil for $41.50 a slim bottle.
Beverage and wine cellar at the far right, the central sitting looks a little bit like a cafeteria.
The bread box comes with a small container of crunchy fleur de sel.
Vichyssoise Chaude - The seared scallop and bacon were a good match and made the vichyssoise special.
Eggplant Antipasti - The tomato confit elevated the eggplant and made it very pleasant.