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The Hungry Nomad: Alla Spina- Fairmount (Philadelphia, USA)

September 28, 2012

Alla Spina- Fairmount (Philadelphia, USA)

It is always a good thing to read reviews before planning to go to a restaurant. I didn't read the reviews of Alla Spina and assumed being a Vetri restaurant that the food would be remarkable. So last Saturday night a group of four of us headed to Alla Spina, mostly so I could check it off of my list of places to eat in Philadelphia. We did not have reservations but were told that room was available at the bar facing the open kitchen. Amazing. This is a foodie's dream: to actually watch step by step how the food you ordered is being prepared. 

We were quickly seated and greeted by our not so friendly server. Oh well, too hungry to care at this point we quickly reviewed the menu and made our orders. The menu offers a little bit of everything including a few comfort foods such as fried chicken which looked extremely tempting. 

My friend ordered the deviled egg served with porcini on top. It came in a small plate of three. The table liked it and though the porcini added an extra touch. Perhaps the best food on the menu that we tried were the $5 pretzel balls served with a cheese dip. In fact, that was the best and only good dish of the night. 

Next was the Kale salad. Kale salad is meant to be a healthy substitute but as I watched the line prep cook pour in the olive oil and take samples with his hand to his mouth and back to the large bowl it became less and less appealing.  The result was an olive oil salad with kale, provolone cheese and red peppercorns. The kale was drowned in too much oil which really took away from the rich and crispy flavor of the kale. 

Our entrees came out next. Two orders of the beef tenderloins, veal carpaccio and burger. 

I'll start with the burger. How can you go wrong with a burger right? However, this burger was bland. It was lacking in salt, was undercooked and just generally flavorless. The chips were the best part. Having no salt and pepper at the bar the Count added the salt and vinegar chips to his burger in order to make it edible. 

The beef tenderloin came out practically raw. In fact when taking our order the server never asked how we would like it done. I didn't tell him assuming there was a certain way these were cooked. Some parts of the meat were actually red raw (see photo below). One bite and we both had to send it back to be cooked properly. As the others ate we waited for our meat to come back. 

It came back cooked. The meat was tender and melted on first bite. However, what I found was that it was lacking a side dish to combine the meat with. The few arugula leaves were not nearly enough to balance the meat. I would have liked to see a side of potatoes or something else with this dish. At this point, I just went back to eating the pretzel balls and left the meat to the rest of our table. 

I don't eat veal. It is one of the few things that I refuse to eat after I watched a video on how the young calves are kept and slaughtered. So I can't really give an opinion on this dish but based on my friends review it was also drowned in olive oil and tasted quite different from your regular beef carpaccio. 

Dessert? Based on what we had for our appetizers and entrees we decided to skip dessert and head on out. It is a shame that such a great restaurant would serve such mediocre food? The restaurant is in a really great space next to Osteria and it has so much potential but based on reviews I've read it seems little has changed since it first opened.

Alla Spina on Urbanspoon



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