Saturday, January 26, 2013

Valanni 1229 Spruce Street

Whenever there would be an awkward lull in a conversation during rush, and after I had exhausted talking about my love of Wharton, I would just start babbling about how excited I was for restaurant week.  And now the time has finally come.  While I have been to all the must-sees in Philadelphia, like Parc, Fogo de Chao and Distrito, I decided to venture to a restaurant that is not as well known, Valanni, but I’m shocked that people aren’t beating down its door.  The décor, food and service were all exceptional.  The restaurant has a very sleek and urban feel, patent leather furniture and dangling lights everywhere.  It makes for the perfect location for a girl’s night out or for an intimate but edgy date.  
Valanni Interior
Valanni did not make the best first impression. It took us 15 minutes to be seated after our reservation time. And you know us financiers don’t like to be kept waiting.  Time is money and money is time. Valanni prides itself on being a Mediterranean restaurant, but only had one classic Mediterranean dish, hummus.  Also, it was awkward to be looking at the menu in my swanky seat with Rick Astley playing in the background.  The restaurant week menu is structured in such a way that you think you can get four courses, but you can only get three.  However, the incredible dining experience made up for these initial off-putting errors.

For the first course, I ordered the buffalo chicken croquettes, which were similar to mac and cheese balls, except stuffed with buffalo chicken tasting yumminess.  It was plated over blue cheese and paired with a sweet-tasting celery stick that complemented the slight spiciness of the buffalo crocket bites.  My friends enjoyed the quesadillas, fried goat cheese and shrimp scampi appetizers. The only dish I would not recommend is the baked brie.  My friend said it was bland in flavor and too heavy of a dish.  The appetizers are very bite-sized, but probably for the best, given the size of the next course.

For the second course, I ordered the filet.  
I order my steak very well-done (despite that it’s a sin in the foodie community).  I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to send the steak back at all and they cooked it completely through.  A butter sauce was drizzled over the steak, which added a delicious sweetness to it.  The steak was paired with onions, portabella mushrooms (they were cooked to perfection; no sliminess) and asparagus, which were all sautéed wine sauce – enough to give the vegetables a little tangy flavor without being overpowering. 

Kobe Beef Burger
My only complaint was that I would have liked a starch to balance out all the food groups (aka make sure you’re friends order the kobe burger so you can steal some fries).  My friends raved about the kobe burger, which was loaded with blue cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomatoes; while my friend enjoyed the vegetable paella; however, from the one bite I tried, I thought it was quite bland and a bit too spicy.

For desert, you must order the Oreo Beignet, which consists of a deep fried Oreo served with vanilla ice cream; it’s reminiscent of those deep-fired Oreos during spring fling. Stay away from the bread pudding.  They secretly infuse it with alcohol, which overpowers the natural flavors of the apple, cranberries and almonds.

Oreo Beignet
Granny Smith Apple, White Chocolate, Cranberry and Walnut Bread Pudding
As we like to say in finance, Valanni was in the money.  Make sure to check this one out during restaurant week or for their Valentine’s day special.

-Nicole Pollack

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