102 Rector Street
Philadelphia (Manayunk), PA 19127
I have a lot of love for The Couch Tomato Cafe, so I was interested to try their newish addition, the more upscale Tomato Bistro.
Its kind of confusing to figure out where to go. There are also a couple of tables outside reserved just for bistro customers.
The menu looked pretty good, with pizza, sliders, and small plates.
They brought out complimentary tomato soup and garlic bread, which was delicious. Unfortunately it was by far the best item of the meal. I was constantly bombarded by an overly assertive server blatantly trying to up-sell just about everything. We were also the only other people in the place for the first half of the meal. It was early (about 6), but this led to more uncomfortable interactions with the pusher. Another questionable practice is making customers give first and last names to get a table. I would simply have withheld, but my dining partner gave theirs. For a walk in meal, in an empty restaurant, first AND last name is overkill. Let's face it, it's NEVER necessary.
The chicken and waffles had potential, but they were lacking a critical component, fried chicken. They contained lager braised chicken, apple butter, bacon and maple syrup on a Belgian waffle. There was also some wilted greens on top. This would have been pretty good as a sandwich, and if there were some type of crunch, a la fried chicken. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't quite right.
After the chicken and waffles, things went downhill. The Mediterranean plate sounded great, but was pretty awful. Which is kind of hard to pull off. The olives were fine, the grilled vegetables, however, tasted pickled and grilled. They were mushy and acidic, I was not a fan. the caper berries (with stems below) were a new one for me, and were pleasantly delicious. They were like a cross between an olive and a fig. The hummus was bland, the cucumber salad was terrible (old soft cucumber and WAY too heavy on the Greek oregano), and the ricotta salatta (or feta?) was inedible. It was supposed to have orange zest in it, but there was so much zest that it tasted like what I imagine Orange Glo would taste like. Me not finishing cheese is unheard of – I could not shake the chemical taste, and left it alone. Also, the house foccaia, which has always been terrific down stairs, was too sparingly dealt, and less than fresh.
The sliders were the last order of business. Now, I know that sliders suck. I am pretty sure it is common knowledge (think to yourself the last time you had a truly good slider, ever?) but I wanted to give them a chance.
The lamb slider was adorned with cucumber and tzatziki. Despite what looks like an abundance of sauce in the first picture, this was quite dry. Possibly because the meat to wheat ratio was way askew. Typical of sliders. This entire offering dripped of mediocrity.
The Kobe beef slider was another let down.
The meat was over cooked, in stark contrast to the medium rare lamb on the last mini burger. Much like the lamb, it looked really good from the side, but the cut away showed its true nature. There was not even a hint of truffle on this one, and the "fondue" served with it was not enough to make the dry bites enjoyable. Look at the bread!
The house made potato chips served with the sliders were pretty good, along with the balsamic drizzle, but unfortunately were not enough to make up for the variety of mishaps.
I wished this place was as good as their pizza shop downstairs, but I would never venture back up those stairs, given the choice between the two.