fork in philly

kirk and i ate at fork (306 market street) in philadelphia on our recent long weekend getaway. it came recommended highly by philadelphia magazine in their “best 50 restaurants” issue, and a few egullet people liked it as well, so we said what the heck, and tried it.

not too happy.

for a restaurant that purports to be destination dining, there’s a lot wrong here. i’ll try to stick to criticism of my own meal, since i only had bites of kirk’s food, but i think he was even less happy than i was.

i started with ceviche. ceviche is supposed to be raw fish marinated in a citrus-based liquid that “cooks” it. what i got was pretty much sashimi in sauce. it wasn’t marinated long enough to have the flavor of the marinade penetrate. and one of the items was a raw oyster, which i’m pretty sure isn’t ceviche. to top it off, it was served slightly warmer than room temperature, which is not how i want my ceviche. at least room temperature, please. did it sit under the heat lamp? warm raw fish. ugh.

my main course was ahi tuna with vegetables. the vegetables (potato, fresh sliced heirloom tomato, slightly cooked fennel, and probably more i can’t remember) were nice in a very light and flavorful sauce, and the ahi was top-grade. the menu description mentioned cayenne, but boy did i get the cayenne. the ahi tuna was rolled in it, it got everywhere, and totally obliterated the subtlety of the rest of the dish. once i cut the outside of the tuna off, things got better, but i ended up with a little pile of uneaten tuna, which i should not have had.

dessert for me was a cheese platter. there was a nice selection of various cheeses–i like starting with mild, soft cheese and moving toward more pungent and aromatic cheeses, which is how it should be done. there was nothing great on the mild end, but i ended up choosing robiola bosina (a creamy soft cow’s cheese) for the mild end, a blu de moncensio (mildly salty cow’s blue) for the next one, and époisses for the last cheese. époisses is a very very pungent cheese–so pungent that it ruins your taste buds for anything that comes after it. but it is wonderful, in all its barnyard-tasting glory.

but you aren’t eating anything after that, at least not anything that you want to know what it tastes like.

and accompanying my cheese course was a card, listing all the cheeses and noting the ones i selected. a nice touch, if a bit expected at this level of dining. customarily, your choices are checked off, or numbered in the order in which they should be eaten. and the cheese should be arranged in order on the plate as well, from mild to pungent. my cheese was out of order.

someone moved my cheese.

and, worse, they numbered it époisses #1, robiola bosina #2, blu de moncensio #3. wow. i barely know what i’m doing on this level of dining, and i’m the first to admit i’m not a supertaster. but i know not to eat my époisses first.

and, to top it off, we had wonderful service until the waiter inexplicably stopped waiting on us just after the desserts were served. some giggly manager type came over and told us that she’d be our server from then on, except that she had to give tours of the space to some clients, but if we needed anything we should just yell.

ok then. it would have been nice if the waiter had come over himself and told us this, rather than just abruptly disappearing. and the weirdest thing was, he prepped our check and then was just hanging around the place–we saw him around for the next half-hour.

espresso at the end…giggly manager/waiter chick told us it was “on the house”, but i know that she was just too damn lazy to redo the check.

i know this all sounds a bit pretentious, and whiny. but kirk and i are not demanding diners–we’ve both spent too much time working in restaurants to be annoying when eating in one. having worked in restaurants, we have reasonable but exacting expectations, based on the level of restaurant we are in. although we don’t dine out at that level very often, we do occasionally, and we know what should happen, and what kind of food and service we should get.

and we didn’t get it, although we did get a big $200 restaurant check added to the amex, minus two cups of espresso. it’s just disappointing that, for one of the few times we splurge like this, things went so horribly wrong.

my advice to fork?

trust your ingredients. all the ingredients were top-notch quality. don’t feel like you have to drown them in more and more spices and geegaws and thingys. i’ll let kirk tell you about the fleur-de-sel on the chocolate cake in the comments, by way of further explanation.

train your waiters. i was the world’s worst waiter, and even i knew that you didn’t leave until your last table left the restaurant. the unannounced departure of the waiter was inexcusable, even if we had been a difficult table, which we weren’t.

sweat the details. on this level, you present the cheese correctly. the waiter stays. the crumbs get swept. the ceviche isn’t really warm. i don’t ask for anything–you anticipate it. i don’t get told to “yell if i need anything”.

loved philly. hated this restaurant.