A surprisingly sophisticated newcomer to the Philadelphia restaurant scene, R2L may be getting overlooked in its hidden perch above the city. Maybe it was a Monday night, maybe it was the negative side to the LaBan Inquirer review, but R2L deserves more of a crowd than it's getting. It raises the bar in Philadelphia and most importantly of course, it made my birthday just a little bit better.
Located on the 32nd floor of Two Liberty, R2L offers no guarantees in getting one of the leopard print banquettes that face out on the cityscape. Here was my view. (If you look carefully, you can see me, my father and stepmother).
Later, there were fireworks over the zoo that seemed magically arranged.
Speaking of extraordinary, our server was both professional and personable, setting the tone for feeling like we were getting VIP treatment. The food followed suit. I was foregoing the lobster as an entree, so I indulged with the lobster roll appetizer. A buttery fresh roll cradled lump lobster meat lightly dressed in a lavender-infused dressing. I confess I didn't detect the lavender, nor did I miss it, I was too busy scooping up lobster. The fish and chips hit the right note of moist crisp fish and fries. On our server's recommendation, we ordered the grilled truffle flatbread, with parmesan and arugula over a thin crusted bread. Glad we took his advice, the dish was lusciously balanced between ingredients.
Without fail, I like appetizers more than entrees. While I appreciate the effort of R2L into my striped bass dish, the separate portions of scallop, bacon, and bass were not unified, but instead offered three standalone tastes on the plate. The scallops were amazing, but the other tastes were a bit dry and further inconsistent with the citrus salad in the middle of the three. My father's veal signature dish featured three small dishes again, this time more melded -- tenderloin, brisket and meatloaf. Forming a loose stew, it rated highly in terms of done-ness and flavor. The shitake mushroom fries, while interested (pureed mushrooms deep fried into fry shapes), were almost too rich to eat.
Because I view desserts as almost effortlessly good, I rarely judge a restaurant more favorably based on its desserts. After all, how hard is it to make sugar, flour, and fat taste good? Yet R2L surprised me with its donut ice cream. Apparently, dozens of glazed donuts are sacrificed for this concoction; more importantly, you can taste every one of them, blended to perfection into a rich ice cream. This is one that I will crave in the future. Also worth mentioning is the warm vanilla cake, a vanilla version of the popular molten chocolate. Very good, but don't miss the donut ice cream. Topping it off were fun complementary root beer macaroons and decadent bergamot truffles.
Ushered back down into the exclusive elevator and bid goodbye by the friendly hostess on the ground floor, I began thinking of future special occasions or even my next available happy hour that would allow a return trip. While I love how down to earth the Philadelphia restaurant scene can be, I hope more restaurants follow R2L's lead take on fine dining.
R2L is located in Two Liberty, 37th floor, with an entrance on 50 S. 16th Street. http://www.r2lrestaurant.com/