I hope Slate stays open. Ever have that feeling that you really like a restaurant, but you look around sheepishly and realize no one else has really "discovered" it (i.e., no one's there on a Saturday night)? Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the summer weekend when so many go to the shore, but I hope Slate sticks it out. Because Slate hits the mark in atmosphere, service and, most importantly, food.
Slate is located on 21st Street on an odd block between Walnut and Chestnut. It's beautiful though, with a pleasant green exterior and a blackboard out front announcing the specials. A merry group of older gentlemen sat out front, sipping drinks, as I arrived. Chef Eric Paraskevas and owner Laurentiu Muras (who look a lot like brothers, thanking to matching goatees and bald heads) were behind the bar (thanks to Inquirer reviewer Craig LaBan for the review and pictures, allowing me to recognize them). The bar itself is fairly expansive and would make for a good pit-stop during a long evening. Everyone was friendly without crossing the line into T.G.I. Friday's lap-dog-like friendliness.
I always love a menu where I find it hard to decide among many great options. I'm not sure I could classify the food, however, although some dishes had a uniquely Mediterranean slant, it was mostly global eclectic, if I can make up a genre. Slate made choosing among options tough, but we decided on the BBQ pork spring rolls, pictured below, for an appetizer. Filled with perfectly cooked pork, they had a kick to them that was nicely balanced against the cole slaw.
The entree options offered even more choices, made more difficult by the glowing reviews of the lamb gyro. We ended up straying toward the less messy, higher end offerings. Shocked at a restaurant offering dark meat in the form of chicken thighs with "israeli cous, raspberry-apricot glaze, cucumber chive chutney," I tried it (because I generally only eat dark meat and dark meat is generally only found in low-end take-out).In a word, amazing. Tender meat (well of course, it was dark meat), interesting "cous" and an unexpected savory sweet sauce balanced nicely with the cucumber relish. My dining companion went with the duck - not only a favorite of his, but also, as he astutely noted about duck, "it's all dark meat."
The duck may have surpassed the chicken. A jus surrounding the duck provided that enhancement of the duck's inherent goodness that every sauce should, an indescribable embodiment of the meaty flavor and subtle seasoning. It's been a long time since I've tasted a dish so well executed and unique at this price point (entrees around $20).
We passed on dessert, not feeling the thought of a lavender creme brulee, but I should note that LaBan liked the desserts. Which is to say you should try Slate -- from its inviting space to its scrumptious food, it's worth a stop.
Slate is located at 102 S. 21st Street, Philadelphia, Pa, 215-568-6886.