Saturday, November 24, 2007


Opened for nearly four years, Matyson has held its own on Philadelphia’s BYO scene for two main reasons -- its interesting take on seasonal preparations and, perhaps more importantly, its charm. And so far, the sale of the restaurant by Matt and Sonjia Spector (the combination of names that supplied the restaurant’s name) hasn’t hindered its personality.

After dutifully calling when it was clear traffic would prevent our timely arrival, I gave up on subsequent calls advising of our progressive tardiness. When we walked through the door, and offered our excuse, the host chidingly accepted it and seated us, with a comedic aplomb that struck the perfect note of appropriately grudging accommodation. Charming.

As for the take on seasonal preparations, the pan seared Hudson Valley foie gras garnished with pumpkin and pumpkin seed emulsion appetizer offered superb ingredients perfect for the pre-thanksgiving season. The sweetness, stopping short of cloying, was the right counterbalance to the savory succulence of the foie gras. Having recently been served “foie gras” out of can that bordered on tasting like nothing at all, I realized my gratitude for this preparation. The seared tuna, served with broccoli rabe and anchovy almond sauce, was done to perfection. The tuna floated atop the sauce and although I couldn’t pick apart the elements, the synthesis of the saltiness of anchovy and the smooth savory almond worked well together.

Did I mention our waitress? She was someone I would want to befriend, although she rather professionally withheld true personality details, trust me, I could tell she was a good person. Really.

The grilled pork chop, served with herb spaetzle, caramelized apples, bacon and cider demi glaze, offered a strong smoky flavor cooked to a perfect tenderness, a tough order for a three inch chop. The smoky flavor threatened overpower, but was offset with the sweet apples and glaze. TPB ordered the steak frittes, a grilled new york strip , wilted greens and parmesean truffle fries. The steak was a generous cut, with an excellent flavor. Matyson avoided the common mistake a dressing a good cut of meat in a “sauce,” and instead wisely opted to let the flavor of the meat stand on its own. The truffle fries had the most pronounced taste I’ve experienced in a dish claiming to be flavored with truffle. Paired with a sprinkling of good parmesean cheese, the fries invited much more than the “do you want a taste” first helping I got.

Having ogled them being passed by in the small space, desserts were high on our list of things to try. Disappointingly, however, the chocolate hazelnut truffle tart, served with brown sugar ice cream and caramelized bananas, fell short of the promise of its description. Its most major flaw was the overpowering chocolate density of the tart, which was a bit bitter and quite thick. The small scoop of ice cream and bananas did little to balance the bitter taste. I should add that I like dark chocolate, and more complex chocolate flavors, but this particular combination didn’t work. Nor did the brown sugar ice cream stand on its own; the brown sugar flavor simply was not articulated enough to detect. The caramelized bananas were a bit over-torched, leaving it hard (literally) to combine the banana with the rest of the dish. TPB’s coconut cream pie with chocolate ganache and macademia crust fared far better in terms of subtlety of flavor and good combination.

Upon retrieving my checked coat, our host assisted me with my coat. After several glasses of wine, I commented on his kindness, to which he dryly responded, yes, it’s quite classy. Prompting giggles on my part, to which he rejoined, “classy with a K.” I left laughing, happy and full.

Matyson is located on 37 S. 19th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103, (215) 564-2925. Although BYO, it does accept credit cards.

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