My friend, Linda, really wanted to partake in Restaurant Week where various restaurants throughout the Philadelphia area offer 3 or 4 course menus for $35 per person. She suggested that we go to Tinto, a Jose Garces restaurant. Now I have been a little low on funds but I did receive that Homestead Rebate check not too long ago and still had a little extra hanging around, so I opted to go.
Jose Garces is the king of tapas in Philadelphia with his restaurants Amada, Distrito, and Tinto. A co-worker of mine (Rafael) is friendly with the chef and while we were in Chicago for business, we ate at Garces’ tapas restaurant, Mercat a la Planxa. They gave us the royal treatment. If you want to know more about Distrito, you can check out Mac & Cheese’s post here.
Tinto is located just off of Rittenhouse Square practically on the corner of 20th and Sansom, just down the block from The Adrienne Theatre. With its dark brick exterior and dark sign, it practically disappears into the block much like the Leaky Cauldron does in the Harry Potter books. Linda is posing in the above picture with some unknown menu-curious diners.
The restaurant is divided into two dining areas both of which are long but not very wide, but this is very common of Philadelphia architecture. The entire restaurant is rather dark, with dark wood tables and very dim lighting. The second dining area includes a bar to the left and an open kitchen area in the back. Bar tables and stools replace regular dining tables.
We were seated in the second area near the end of the bar. Because of the dim lighting, I had a hard time reading the menu, but Linda had a little better lighting so she read it to me. We could choose two items each from the first and second courses and one each from the third. I decided to let Linda choose the first course.
Idiazábal cheese – pressed cheese made from unpasteurized milk that usually comes from the Lacha and Carranzana ewes breed in the Basque Country. It has a somewhat smokey flavor, but is usually unsmoked.
Jamón Serrano – a type of dry-cured Spanish ham similar to the Italian prosciutto served with egg salad.
Aceitunas Maceratas – marinated verdial olives, which are thick-skinned, medium to large-sized olives normally grown for their oil. I apologize for the blurry picture.
Gazpacho – heirloom tomato, avacado
I’d have to say our least favorite was the olives but only because everything else was so fantastic. The best was the gazpacho. A cool and creamy concoction including bits of avocados and what I believe to be, green peppers. It was served with a duo of warm, roasted jalapenos. It was THE best gazpacho that I have ever had. I wasn’t sure if I should eat it or rub it all over me–it was that good!
By the way, our server was fantastic. (and quite a cutie too) I asked him his name several times and he even spelled it. It’s Hawaiian and the for the life of me, I can’t remember it. He was friendly and knowledgeable yet not overbearing. I love a server who is attentive yet not up my butt (so-to-speak) the whole meal. In fact, the whole staff was attentive and friendly. Everyone was professional yet they seemed to enjoy themselves and this set a very pleasant tone for the whole restaurant.
Linda and I collaborated on the second course.
Hongos a la Plantxa – wild mushrooms, roasted potato, shallot, parsley
Alubias de Tolosa – black beans, pork belly & chorizo, braised cabbage
Merluza en Salsa Verde – sea bass, cockles, salsa verde
Pollito – poussin, truffled pochas, shaved carrot escabeche
Picking a favorite from this list was near impossible. Linda finally decided on the mushrooms which were balanced perfectly with the potatoes and truffle oil. My favorite was the Alubias de Tolosa. The beans were tender and sweet with the meats and cabbage mixing nicely. There was only one small problem. The dish only had one tiny piece of pork belly. When Linda and I cut it in half to share, the pieces didn’t even equal a bite. A little bit more would have been nice. The other two dishes were impressive themselves. The seafood was perfectly cooked and when Linda ate the poussin (very young chicken), she exclaimed that she never knew chicken could taste so good.
Since there were only two desserts on the menu, we opted for one of each.
Gateaux Basque – traditional basque cake, pastry cream, black cherries. This was Linda’s favorite. I think the black cherries made the dish.
Bananas y Azafran – chocolate cake, caramelized bananas, saffron crema. A decadent, flourless chocolate cake that when added to the bananas and cream created a symphony in my mouth. I now know how Remy the Rat from Disney’s Ratatouille felt when he mixed foods in his mouth.
Overall, our dining experience was exceptional. If you like tapas and are looking for foods that will excite and arouse your palate, then Tinto is your place. Tinto is located at 114-116 South 20th Street in Philadelphia. Call 215-665-9150 or visit opentable.com