Sunday, August 21, 2011

Continental Midtown, Philadelphia, PA

Restaurant Info:
1801 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-3712

For our second visit to Philadelphia, we decided to tour the many eateries of the city. We wrote down a list of several places to eat that were famous or popular (we did a lot of yelp-ing). Out of 4 interesting places we listed, we only made it to only one of them due to time constraints and being way too full. This place was called The Continental Midtown, situated in the middle of the shopping district and the Franklin Institute, decorated with a large martini olive.

This restaurant is part of a large association of restaurants called Starr Restaurants. Starr Restaurants also owns Morimoto, Buddakan and other hip Philly restaurants so in some ways it is a given that this restaurant will be popular and perhaps pricey.

We arrived at the restaurant on a Saturday around 12:30 for brunch. We were a bit concerned that we would have to wait since yelp had rated it highly, especially for their brunch which occurs on Saturdays and Sundays from 10-4pm (this info can be found on their creative website). Despite our concerns, we were seated immediately with seating on the second floor, which was loft-style, overlooking the entire restaurant. The bottom floor had a mixture of large diner booths in navy and orange (some snaking through the middle of the restaurant for huge parties) and tables ranging in sizes with perfect view of their multicolored chandelier. But the second floor was the coolest looking, we'd say. Upstairs had its own bar and patrons had a choice of sitting in sliding booths or swinging chairs that hung in the ceiling. (The swinging chairs looked really cool, but not a proper chair to eat in, see in our picture at the top.)

The brunch menu was a bit limited in total number of choices, but many of the dishes sounded very innovative and unique. There were interesting takes on classic brunch items, like the "Liquid" french toast (chocolate-themed) and tiramisu waffle (which I ordered) that sounded absolutely delicious. The tiramisu waffle was the perfect texture, crispy on the outside, and soft through the center. In between 2 halves of a waffle was this creamy mascarpone cheese mixed with nutmeg, sugar, and cinnamon. This waffle "sandwich" - I'd like to call it - was sitting in a plate full of bourbon syrup. The syrup wasn't very strong in alcohol-flavor, but it was sweeter and perhaps smokier than normal maple syrup. You would think that this waffle might be a bit too sweet, but the mascarpone gave it balance and made this waffle one of my favorites. The chocolate they used was in the waffle batter and was subtle enough to add the extra flavor and compliment the mascarpone/nutmeg mix. The only criticism I had with this dish was that it was a bit small.

Siddharth ordered the French Onion soup dumplings with gruyere cheese. When we hear "soup dumplings," the classic Shanghaiese soup dumplings come to mind. So when we heard that this was being combined with the traditional French onion soup (which we both also love), we thought, 'wow, what an incredible idea!' The actual dish was a little bit different in execution than the Chinese-style soup dumplings. Instead of using an actual dumpling wrapping, this dish was created by baking carmelized onions inside strip of gruyere cheese, creating these bite-sized dumplings of soup. The cheese melted perfectly to pull away from the custom-made dish it was served in and maintain the shape of a dumpling.

Overall, this restaurant is attractive, inventive, and cool. Every table we saw had a either an interesting martini or a Bloody Mary (their drinks are equally creative). The only complaint we had were the proportions. However, this is a consequence of the trendy atmosphere that they are trying to keep up (i.e. "upscale diner"). While in the end, we found this restaurant a bit pretentious, it truly does have good food and a good chef, and it is a comfortable place to go, located in a nice area of Philly. We'd be interested in trying their dinner selections at some point, and we recommend visiting this place at least once to see their interesting vibe.


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