2025 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 268-7000

My second notable meal in Philadelphia came after a jazz concert on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Bro, Dudeman and Shrink piled into Bro's car and headed off to the Rittenhouse Square district, which feels like a cross between Gramercy Park and the West Village. In truth, most of Philadelphia feels like a smaller scale version of New York City only with more colonial stuff peppered in. Once we found a parking space, we found the restaurant I was looking for. Our meal at City Tavern highlighted our status as tourists. Real Philadelphians wouldn't eat there any more than real New Yorkers would eat at Tavern On The Green (R.I.P.), Katz's Deli or Pastis. But I digress. We, by which I mean I, chose Noble American Cookery, a small plates restaurant on a street crowded with food and drink options... including a whiskey-centric bar that Bro pointed out that we didn't have time to go to, damnitall.

We sat upstairs on a relatively light night, though the downstairs was lively. This is a bit surprising in retrospect. The food is expensive by almost any standard, but it's so good. Save your pennies, Philadelphia. Save your pennies. Our waiter was clearly passionate about the menu, a rarity in any restaurant, but a good sign. If the staff is gushing about the dedication that goes into each dish, you can bet that the chef does as well. Nice wine and beer list, too.

A cursory look at the menu would make most people think "ah, this ain't too bad", but don't kid yourself. That $15 fish dish is microscopic. When Noble calls itself a small plates restaurant it means it. There is a three course, chef's choice option for $45 and I suggest that you go for it. We, instead chose two dishes each and left a little hungry, despite having had a late (4:30pm) lunch. Bro ordered the Chilled Green Sorrel Soup, a cold soup made from cream and pureed sorrel leaves. I don't usually care for cold soups, but I really liked this one. Very smooth, like... cream. Slightly bitter, but sweet and, after a lot of walking in the Philadelphia humidity, very refreshing. Dudeman ordered the Bibb Lettuce Salad, bibb lettuce, peas, cucumber, pickled camps and a miso-mayo dressing. It was fine. It's a salad. He liked it. I thought it reminded me of salad. Shrink's appetizer was the Peekytoe Crab, a microscopic cylindrical of diced crab over a dollop of rhubarb compote. Don't me wrong, it was delicious, but small and super light. A small breeze will blow away all of your food, and even if you eat it, you'll be hungry. My first course actually came from Noble's "second course" menu and I chose something heavy. To be fair, the waiter did warn us of the small portions. So this was strategy on my part. I ordered the Gnocchi Parisienne, tater tot sized gnocchi under a light creamy cheese sauce with sauteed asparagus. The gnocchi was like heaven. So amazingly good that I felt guilty only being able to offer everybody only one of them. But any more and I'd have been out of food. Even this far heavier dish was light. Though maybe I'm just a fat slob used to over-sized Olive Garden portions. But I don't think that's the case.

The second courses were larger, but only by a fraction. Bro ordered the Wild Rock Bass, a firm but malleable, slightly gamey, but very good piece of bass wrapped in Serrano, atop (three sprigs of) asparagus. Dudeman ordered the Cobia Loin, also a dense white fish, in Korean barbecue sauce with fava beans, grapefruit and wild ramps. Ramps are like a cross between leek and garlic. You can find them growing in the woods of the Hudson Valley, which is where I went picking for some last year. The chef may well have bought these from the son of the woman I went picking with. Shrink ordered the Grilled Spanish Rock Octopus with squid ink crochettas in a blood orange and caper dressing. I didn't eat any. She likes octopus in general and loved this dish. But there was simply too little food to really be able to share between four people. These three most recently described plates were all from the "second course" menu. My second course, however, came from the "third course" menu and, as such, was slightly larger than everyone else's. I ordered the Painted Hills Sirloin Flap Steak. It was insane. A dark au jus with garlic and spinach, this was the most "traditional" of plates and was my favorite of the evening.

Although still hungry, we ended up only ordering two dishes each. Bro wanted to take us to a gelato place he knew of down the block. I would return joyfully, and suggest you do the same. But expect to order at least three dishes here. And bring your wallet. And bring your patience. The wait for the food can be inordinately long. I chalk that up to freshness.

Eight small plates dishes and a round of beers, plus tax and tip came to $190.

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