Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guest Post: Matyson

37 South 19th Street
Philadelphia PA 19103
(215) 564-2925

It's probably near 200 times I've passed by Matyson and wondered what it was all about. Often the type to judge a book by its cover, I never thought that it would be a place that I might enjoy. Honestly, from the outside, Matyson looks like a place that would comfortably accommodate my grandmother and her knitting club for tea and crumpets. Or like a place that would be a block's stroll away from the beach in Cape May. I remember seeing seashells sitting on their windowsill many times, and maybe even some fisherman's netting hanging as a backdrop... Today there were clear glass bells dangling from chains, with tassels, ribbon, etc. All judging aside, I was given the opportunity for lunch with some colleagues and decided not to be so quick to discount their cuisine. (My apologies, in advance, for the poor images.)

The interior is not what I had expected, a pastel room with shabby chic re-purposed tables & chairs. It's much like most small, contemporary B.Y.O.B. restaurants - modern and unassuming with low lighting and sprinkled with little indications of the owner's taste for interior design and decor.

The lunch menu is very reasonably priced with a near even selection of vegetable, game, seafood and red meat dishes from which to choose. The server brought out a selection of sliced bread, and offered sourdough or multi-grain to each of us - I denied the offer, after all, this is only lunch.

To start, we had the roasted baby beets, which had both red and gold served with baby arugula, candied hazelnuts, blood orange slices and a smear of explorateur cheese (a French triple-cream with a butterfat content of 75% or more!!! A delectably smooth and subtly rich flavor that was a welcome change from the usual goat cheese that is generally served with beet salads). The overall dish was a bit salty, my lunch mate suggested that maybe the beets were brined? Either way, a little salt never hurt anybody, right?

Because I already had some BBQ beef tips in the slow cooker for dinner, I opted for a "lighter" dish and went with the PEI mussel and chorizo stew, with Peruvian (purple) potatoes and an almond-cilantro pistou (pesto). When the dish came out, the server asked, "are you sure you don't want any bread for the mussel broth?" "No, thank you." Honestly, I didn't need it. It was, as described, a stew. I pulled each mussel out of its shell and commenced eating with the provided spoon. It was heavenly. The broth reduction was thick with chunks of tomato and rich with the flavor of pan-crisped chorizo slices; the potatoes were a perfect softness and contrasted nicely against the bits of chewy (in the best way) Spanish meat. The mussels were like any other, but that stew was packed full of savory flavor, with a fresh and nutty kick - thanks to that fancy pistou.

Other dishes ordered included the BBQ pork sandwich and the wild mushroom hoagie - both of which came with a heaping pile of delicious truffle fries. If ever there's a next time, I'll ask for those truffle fries instead of the bread to go with my stew.

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