March 8, 2007
Cuisine: American (New)
2300 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Dinner roll, almond bread, cheese and garlic flatbread (complimentary)
Appetizer I: Steak Martini – Citrus Vodka Dressing, Micro Greens, Bacon, Crostini
Appetizer II: Lobster Flan – Caviar, Citrus Crème Frâiche, Saffron Tuille
Soup I: Pasta and Bean Soup – Drizzle Olive Oil, Reggiano Parm Crisp, Fried Basil
Soup II: Pacific Seafood Chowder – Wakame Pesto, Sesame Cracker
Entree I: Macaroni – Port Wine Demi-Glace, Swedish Meatballs, Shaved Asiago
Entree II: Olive Oil Poached Halibut – Oven Dried Artichokes, Roasted Eggplant, Red Wine Reduction
Dessert I: Sacher Tart – Strawberry Coulis and Mango Puree
Dessert II: Pana Cotta – Mint and Caramel Sauce with Pistachio Brittle
Petite Passion is operated by students studying Culinary Arts at The Art Institute of Philadelphia. According to their website, “students spend eleven weeks in Petite Passion either preparing your meal or in the dining room as your server.” The restaurant is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays for lunch (11:30 AM, noon) and dinner (7 PM). The Astronomer and I met up for a rare weekday lunch when he happened to be in the city for a doctor’s appointment.
Petite Passion offers a prix fixe menu for lunch and dinner. The four-course lunch is priced at $15. The dining room was fairly packed when we arrived and the crowd was diverse.
We began our meal with complimentary breads–I chose the flatbread, while The Astronomer had a dinner roll and almond bread. The flatbread was cheesy, but was cold and stale. I suspect the bread was made last night for dinner service. The Astronomer thought the dinner roll was decent, but the almond bread relied to heavily on almond extract for flavor and lacked real almonds.
For our appetizer I went for the Steak Martini, while The Astronomer chose the lobster flan. The steak martini was pretty darn tasty–the steak was moist, the greens were lightly dressed in a citrus vodka vinaigrette, the bacon added great flavor, and the presentation was precious. Aside from presentation, it wasn’t the most innovative dish, but I was quite pleased with the Steak Martini overall. I was hesitant to try the Lobster Flan because it sounded a little too ambitious for culinary students to execute well. The flan was served cold and tasted more creamy than lobstery. The Astronomer enjoyed the flan much more than I did, but found the Citrus Crème Frâiche unnecessary because the flan was already rich.
For our soup course I chose the Pacific Seafood Chowder and The Astronomer ordered the Pasta and Bean Soup. The chowder’s broth was delicious, but the “seafood” was lacking–one shrimp and a hunk of fish. The sesame cracker was really tough and definitely stale. The Pasta and Bean Soup was too salty for the Astronomer, but I thought it was excellent. We switched bowls mid-course because I liked his soup more than mine and vice versa.
For our main course The Astronomer went for the Macaroni and I had the halibut. The Macaroni was great. The pasta appeared to be made in-house, the meatballs were yummy, and the Port Wine Demi-Glace was an unexpected, but pleasant sauce. The Astronomer and I debated whether the pasta was al dente or actually undercooked–we decided that it could have used a few more minutes in boiling water. My halibut was very disappointing. The fish was boring and tasteless and the vegetables were unspectacular. I had a couple bites and gave the rest to The Astronomer to eat with his Port Wine Demi-Glace.
For our final course we shared a slice of Sacher Tart and some pana cotta. The tart was a dense chocolate cake coated in 1/2 an inch of fudge and topped with raspberries. I enjoyed the fudge immensely and The Astronomer loves chocolate paired with fruits. The panna cotta was really interesting flavor-wise. The combination of mint and caramel is unorthodox and really good! My only complaint were the copious mint leaves within the panna cotta. I prefer my panna cotta smooth, not chunky. The Astronomer choked on a mint leaf.
The food at Petite Passion is hit or miss, but the ambiance and enthusiasm is contagious. Culinary students are an endearing bunch. I hope that didn’t come off too condescending.