To be a true dining destination, a city must be an epicenter of four-star, global, culinary delights. Certainly, Philadelphia has forever embraced great and internationally renowned restaurants serving French and Italian fare. It is only recently that this city has achieved an ethnic totality that allows visitors and Philly locals alike to enjoy the fruits of all lands. Here’s a great sampling of global eats.
Abe Fisher (Jewish Diaspora)
You’d think that with its award-winning Zahav and recently opened hummusiya Dizengoff, Philadelphia’s CookNSolo team would have completed their trek through the Israeli/Jewish Diaspora. Not quite. They’ve gone the extra mile with Abe Fisher (1623 Sansom St., Phila., 215.867.0088) where chef-and-owner Michael Solomonov and co-chef Yehuda Sichel cook Jewish food from around the world with roasted salmon belly gravlax, sweet and sour meatballs, and the by-advance-order-only Montreal-style smoked short rib are among their specialties. Wash it down with a “Sherry Bobbins,” made with Corralejo Blanco, honey and celery, or a signature “Abe Fisher Cocktail” of Beefeater 24 and dill pickle juice.
Le Chéri (French)
Chef Pierre Calmels and his wife, Charlotte–the team behind the homey Bibou in South Philadelphia and the tony Le Chéri at Rittenhouse Square’s Art Alliance building–understand that great French cuisine is as cozy as it is cosmopolitan. Le Chéri (251 S. 18th St., Phila., 215.546.7700) focuses on the sophisticated end of the spectrum with adventurous, classicist fare such as lapin (rabbit ballotine with pickled red cabbage and chestnut), choucroute (a hearty sauerkraut, home-made sausage, braised pork belly blend), and escargots (snail and chicken oysters fricassee with green cauliflower).
Circles Contemporary Cuisine (Thailand)
In this town, Alex Boonphaya is king of Thai cuisine with the recent opening of South Street’s Thai-Mex mix Tuk Tuk Real and an upcoming Mid-Town Village restaurant. But Circles Contemporary Cuisine (812 N. Second St., Phila., 267.687.1309/1514 Tasker St., Phila., 267.687.1778 ) in South Philly and Northern Liberties is where it started for Boonphaya. The menu is focused on rich, zesty dishes such as lump crabmeat Rangoon, pumpkin curry—which pairs perfectly with crisp autumn air—a young peppercorn and white ginger-based Pad Ped stir fry and noodle specialties galore.
Brauhaus Schmitz (Germany)
Brauhaus Schmitz (718 South St., Phila., 267.909.8814) is Philadelphia’s only true German cuisine-haus, complete with waitresses dressed like native maidens. Chef Jeremy Nolen’s killer menu features dense Kartoffelpuffer potato pancakes, Wolfbarsch seared branzino, caramelized onion späetzle and the best wursts on the East Coast. For a truly authentic experience, be sure to pair dinner with a strong German beer, such as Paulaner Hefeweizen, Schneider Weisse Original or Wurzburger Festbier.
With Japanese cuisine, honor and tradition is one thing, but making it modern and keeping the flavors clean is this Rittenhouse Square restaurant’s specialty. While that is certainly true for Zama’s (128 S. 19th St., Phila., 215.568.1027) sushi, maki, and sashimi specials, it is the grilled fare—the small plate Hibachi Scallops, the Black Cod Saikyoyaki and the rare mixed ethnic treat, Miso Boulibase with fennel as the central flavor—that give Zama its reputation.
Pub & Kitchen (England)
Though Chef Eli Collins advertises his darkly colorful corner tavern Pub & Kitchen (1946 Lombard St., Phila., 215.545.0350) as having distinct European flair, his meals—be it brunch or late night bites—sound the brass for Great Britain—be it the roasted Lancaster chicken with smoked mushroom barley, Berkshire pork chop with artichokes or the roasted squid with grilled celery. Cheerio.
Midtown Village’s Lolita (106 S. 13th St., Phila., 215.546.7100) holds its own amongst the authentic Mexican eateries found in the South Philadelphia Italian Market area. Chef Marcie Turney and her partner Valerie Safran—the doyennes behind restaurants Barbuzzo, Little Nonna’s, and more—serve up large portions of their take on Mexican flavors, including slow-roasted pork shoulder Cochinita Pibil and crispy fish tacos with blue corn, both of which go great with cocktails like the bourbon tamarind sour and cucumber margarita.
The darkly sensual IndeBlue (206 S. 13th St., Phila., 215.545.4633) in Midtown Village is a more intimate experience than its sister salon in Collingswood, NJ, but its tastes are equally as imaginative and alluring. While happy hour fanatics will be happier still about its Drums of Heaven (battered wings with blue cheese crumble), gluten-free fans will feast upon items such as poppy-seeded Chukander lamb chops with beets and red chili, seafood moilee of crab and shrimp with mustard seed, coconut and curry leaf over lemon rice and a handsome vegetarian selection featuring tandoor roasted eggplant mash.