Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Common Wealth

319 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 372-7581

I was asked to check out a tasting of the menu at Common Wealth in Old City, a "Lowcountry" style bar/restaurant I had not heard of before. As I LOVE Lowcountry food (and living), it did not take much coaxing.

I was offered a drink ticket for myself and a guest. Which was a little strange. Usually if you are invited to review a joint, they at least get you a couple of drinks. Get ya nice an liquored so the food tastes better, right?

Well, unexpectedly, this event took almost three hours and one drink ticket didn't cut it. So I ran up a healthy bar tab drinking some beers after trying some signature cocktails that were recommended. The Queen Anne’s Revenge is on the left – Bulleit Rye, sugar cube, squeezed citrus and bitters and the Travelers Passage on the right – house infused pineapple vodka. I was a bigger fan of the Queen Anne, because I love bourbon and don't particularly enjoy sweet cocktails.

The pork belly with citrus salad and hoisin glaze was first up. It was probably one of my favorites of the night. Although when isn't pork belly? It was crispy on the outside and succulent in the middle. Plenty of fat, though maybe a bit under salted. All in all, not a bad pork belly.

The hush puppies were likely my favorite of the evening, though I am not sure they are still on the menu. The tender interior was contrasted by the crusty fried shell, and the creole style sauce was delicious.

Next up, chicken and waffles. Usually one of my go-to's, can you tell what my complaint was with these? Yo waffles, where's the chicken? They should have been open faced, and served with a spicy/sweet side sauce. It was DRY. But the chicken was delicious. The honey-sriacha aioli was good, but those waffles needed a drizzle!

Open faced was more realistic, but I was left wanting for sauce.

You can see in the cut-away shot the chicken to waffle ratio is way off.

The oysters "Bienville" were next, in a roasted shrimp sauce with Creole butter. I thought these were okay, but they were so rich, they needed some acidity to cut the fat. Also, an oyster on the half shell, which gave me the zing I was missing with their heavier counterparts.

The oysters were fresh and the sauce tasty.

A lot of care went into these, but they were a bit heavy.

The shrimp gumbo was a disappointment. The roux was under developed for my taste, and lacked heat (and flavor).

I mean, almost every course had shrimp in it.

Fried green tomatoes with pickled shrimp were another highlight. The "pimento" was a sauce rather than a cheese spread (as I had hoped when I squealed with delight when I saw it on the menu), but the dish worked.

Crispy, well fried green tomatoes, and tart shrimp, with enough greens to cut the grease. But the tomatoes themselves were not great. Mealy. not even worth showing you that photograph.

Seared scallops on hoecakes with collards and a bacon cream sauce were, again, okay (who doesn't love scallops), but not all that memorable. This could be that I already ate about eight courses (doubles and triples of some), but it was just scallops.

Definitely cooked the right way, but under-seasoned.

Least favorite of the night (and biggest disappointment) was the shellfish and grits. The shellfish sauce lacked a discernible direction, and the subtleties of the lobster etouffee were not enough to save it. The texture of the Anson Mill Grits were great, think pastina but needed some more salt and punch to carry the dish.

The fried bread pudding dessert was well executed, but it was a lot of filler to eat after a meal.

All in all, this was a pretty okay spot, but I don't know that I would be rushing back. It was filling but lacking that lowcountry depth of flavor all around.

No comments: