Friday, March 14, 2008
Supper comes close to perfection. It has many of the makings -- accessible but elegant staff and decor, different dishes that are interesting without being trendy, and a menu that takes advantage of seasonal ingredients. But a few dishes miss the mark. And at these prices, I expected better.
Those misses are easy to forget, however, in reflecting on the pleasing introduction we received. Seated at the corner table in the picture, I was treated to a view of the passers-by, always a favorite backdrop of mine. We ordered cocktails; I opted for the blood orange cosmopolitan, which somehow updates my now cliched penchant for the drink into something I'm not entirely ashamed to order. At our request, our server brought the gougeres featured at the bar, small and perfect cheese puffs. Despite not being warm, they nonetheless melted in our mouths.
The menu directs readers to order three plates per person and was divided into hors d'oeuvres, tartines and plates, with one large plate offering. I continue to be a little stymied when confronted with "plate" options. Especially at these prices, which ranged from $7 to $28. Should I aim to hit $50? Or pick the best three? Tough call. A tasting menu would be appropriate here, with this variety of options. Ultimately, unlike a tapas bar where plates are served as they are prepared, Supper serves in the more traditional way, from appetizers to entrees, although all are portioned in small plates.
First came the hits. Arriving first were the beets a la Grecque with orange, a dish I adored for its seemingly simple ingredients that enhanced the beets, providing a tangy tartness to their sweetness. Jealous of another table's selection, we ordered the artichoke and cauliflower fritters, done in a light batter that accented the vegetables perfectly. Next to arrive were Hama Hama oysters, cooked in the shell with pumpkin butter and wasabi, described to me as "amazing." I went for the foie gras special, which was served a bit underdone with a slightly runny center, served with a cornbread cake, amidst a sweet carrot puree. My salad of autumn vegetables, which featured the most amazing brussel sprouts I have ever tasted, along with pearl onions and turnips, was served with a slightly superfluous poached egg, lemon and truffle, the latter of which was a bit difficult to detect. Nonetheless, the flavors were fresh and interesting.
Then the misses. The seared paves of hamachi, with grains of paradise, blood orange and arugula, were a bit flavorless and overdone. Perhaps due to the thin slices (three were served), any "searing" essentially cooked the fish. One piece was handled more delicately and while the rich, raw flavor shown through, the seasoning itself failed to enhance the fish. The "grains of paradise" was served in a gelatinous, seared block that tasted burnt. Interestingly, when asked by the hostess about the meal, I mentioned my lack of enthusiasm for the hamachi, which she agreed got mixed reviews. Unfortunately, my server had recommended it. The ocean trout with brussel sprouts, parsnip and cider miso was promised to taste like salmon, which it did, but was otherwise bland. The sweetness of the cider miso failed to bring the punch of flavor that the underseasoned trout deserved.
The dessert menu was more limited than I expected. I ordered the chocolate souffle with chile pineapple soup, the latter being served in a shotglass, with a miniature shortbread cookie and vanilla ice cream on the side. The souffle was mostly liquid inside, although not entirely unpleasant, the tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream was insufficient to balance the over-rich taste. And the chile-pineapple soup? Tasted like a glass of pineapple juice, an extremely sweet taste that neither complimented nor stood up to the souffle. The rice pudding with Meyer lemon and blueberries was reported to be very good, however.
I wonder if my mixed review of Supper would be quite so mixed if it wasn't for the value/price ratio. Although called "plates," the entrees were served like entrees, priced as entrees, but offered in small portions. A more successful experience would be had by sticking with the lower priced plates, which offered interesting taste combinations and more successful preparations. The bar looked inviting, and although it was full as early as 6:00 p.m., it might be worth a visit.
Supper is located at 926 South Street, Philadelphia, Pa., (215) 592-8180.