Wednesday, August 28, 2013

#16 Sampan

Sampan for Brendan's 26th birthday! First, old. Second, you could say I am not the best at making decisions. I basically deflect most questions that involve decision making that come my way. Brendan highly dislikes this quality, so for his birthday I decided to make all of the plans and not tell him anything.  He highly disliked this as well, he may have asked me 12 times where we were going. It was pretty empowering I must say! So the plan was Sampan for dinner & then R2L for dessert and a drink (blog post to follow). Sampan is a contemporary Asian restaurant located at 13th and Walnut. I loved the decor inside. The bar was packed and there was a pretty large crowd sitting down for dinner as well. I always get weird about going out to eat on a Tuesday night. We passed way too many people walking to the gym on the way to the restaurant. But once we walked into Sampan that guilt was erased. There was a great vibe in there. Plus it is located right in Midtown Village amongst other great bars and restaurants like El Vez, Opa, McGillans, & Barbuzzo, so we were not alone in our Tuesday night outing.

I should also mention that Brendan works with someone who has an in at Sampan. If you're reading this Shannon, THANKS! We got completely treated the entire time. The waitress kept bringing us food we didn't order saying "Compliments". We were confused at first, wondering if everyone gets these complimentary dishes but hey, keep 'em coming. Typical that on Brendan's birthday, that I planned, he is the one getting us hooked up with free food. Among this free food was Edamame Dumplings and Tuna Rice Crackers. The edamame dumplings were amazing, definitely a great combo of two Asian dishes that I love. The tuna rice crackers were a little above our adventurousness. Especially for Brendan, he is not a seafood fan. It was a blob (for lack of a better word) of tuna over warm rice crackers. I guess his hunger got the best of him because he actually ate one! So proud!

Sampan is meant to be a small plates type restaurant. The waitress described the menu like "On the left hand side you have our smaller dishes, and on the right hand side you have our dishes that are more entree sized, but the point is to order 4-6 dishes and share among each other". For no reason at all, this stressed me. So do you want us to order one small dish and 2 entrees? or 4 small dishes? Someone tell me what to dooo! Emphasizing my fear of decision making even further.

 We came to the conclusion to order 2 small dishes and 2 entrees. We started with the Chicken Mustard Satay. So good, had a kick to it, too! We also got the Seafood Lettuce Cups. They were basically lettuce wraps with HUGE shrimp and noodles inside. Also really good.

For the entree portion of the meal, I got the Shrimp Pad Thai. The only other time I had Pad Thai was at a BYOB Thai restaurant in Scranton where my roommates and I brought jugs of wine and basically only went there because we could drink for cheap. (Surprisingly, Scranton was slightly lacking in their BYOB eating establishments.) Anyways, the pad Thai was truly great. The combo of the light noodles (Brendan asked if they were onions.....) and peanut flavor was spot on.

Brendan ordered the Crispy Szechuan Chicken. This dish basically reminded me of sesame chicken. Also delicious and went well with the pad Thai noodles.

The total bill was $79. For all of the food we got I am not complaining at all. We had such a great time here. The menu wasn't huge so I am not going to rush back here, we got to experience mostly everything we wanted to on the menu, but I would recommend to others! I also would like to apologize for my lack of food descriptions. Great & good & delicious can get a bit dull, but all I know is that I liked everything.Thanks Sampan!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

#15: Liberte Lounge at the Sofitel Hotel

If I was meeting a friend for dinner and drinks on a Tuesday night, I would most likely not choose to go to a hotel bar. There are enough great restaurants and bars in the city that I don't feel a need to sit in a hotel lounge. But, apparently the Center City District thought it would be a good idea to give me 7 hotel bar gift certificates. In an effort to start using some of these, I chose to go to the Sofitel Hotel bar last night with my friend Colleen. I had been to this lounge about 6 months prior when my parents stayed at the Sofitel after a night out in the city. I didn't really remember too much about the place, must have been the chardonnay haze that night. However, last night when we walked in I was pleasantly surprised. The lounge just gave off a very cozy and comfortable vibe. We chose to sit in the bar area, not the dining area. We sat in two big lounge chairs with a small table in between. It was exactly what we were looking for- a perfect environment to chat and catch up on life.

The waitress we had was the most proper woman I have ever met in my life. After we ordered our wine she said "Could you ladies please provide me with your identification cards when I return with your wine?" At first I was like, what is she talking about? She was dressed in a knee length black, long sleeved dressed and her hair pulled back into a tight bun. She also said "bon appetit" a lot. Really pushing the French impression here.

Instead of the typical bread before meal fashion, we were given salted almonds and wasabi  beans. The almonds were just amazing. I knew from the first almond that I was going to love the food here (is that weird?) It was a nice variation pre-meal.

We were provided 2 menus, 1 bar menu and 1 dining menu. Luckily we were able to mix & match and order off both. We kind of went all out with appetizers. I figured that since we were ordering off the bar menu for our meals, that it would be a stretch to get to $50 so appetizers were acceptable (..boy was I wrong). I was very intrigued by the Kale Chips that were on the bar menu. They indicated on the menu that contained 0 calories. Everyone recently raves about kale, but I've never tried it. Mostly because it intimidates me. You look like lettuce, but you're not. So since kale is 'in' and I like chips, we ordered them. For some reason I expected them to look like potato chips, but no go. It looked like a spring mix salad but it was crunchy. We were a bit confused by the concept, but we ate them. They basically tasted like salt and olive oil. Fine by me. We also ordered 'Pan Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels' to start. They were covered in lemon-saffron sauce with tomatoes and onions. Really, really good. I approved.

For our meals we both ordered sandwiches off the bar menu. I ordered the Salmon Sliders and Colleen got the Marinated Swordfish Wrap. The salmon sliders were delicious. Although there were only 2 sliders and a side salad, it was enough for me. Probably because of the appetizers. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm a mayo fan and the green onion mayonnaise on the toasted brioche was great (how many 'ews' are sounding throughout my followers circle right now?). Colleen's swordfish wrap was good, nothing special. She said it would have used some more flavor, maybe just a little salt & pepper. The wrap was filled with avocado, tomatoes & baby arugula with citrus aioli.

Now on to the bill....For some reason I was in disbelief that the bill was $100. From now on I will never complain about an $85 check. When you break it down and realize that you each order 2 glasses of wine at $12 a pop, it makes sense. All in all, we each paid $35 with tip so it really wasn't thaaat bad. I was really pleased with everything that I ate at the Liberte Lounge. I would highly recommend this place- and it looks like they have good happy hour specials from 5-7pm. I can also attest that this place is pretty bumpin' on a Friday night.

37 more to hit! Bon Appetit!