Never let a German pick out a restaurant. I learned this the hard way when The Wine Getter picked out a lunch spot for us to try in Philly. I had offered up some suggestions, but graciously went with his choice, much to my later disappointment. I should have known the meal was going to be awful after he told me he doesn’t like sauerkraut. Clearly, the man lacks taste. Fortunately, I was able to dull the pain of this meal later that evening with the tastiest dinners I’ve had in Philly.
Petruce et al. was on my list from the time it opened, and I finally had the opportunity to dine there with my buddy, Rex, a couple of months ago. As Rex and I usually do, we ordered a few things to split because we both we need to try everything. We also like drinking, so that helps us get along swimmingly. Before we even ordered though, we asked for advice from our waiter and the uber-helpful beverage director, Tim, on what to order and what to pair with each dish.
In celebration of the warmer weather, we began with the Hamachi, a fish with a depth of flavor that makes you wonder why everyone’s always talking about salmon. This yellowtail, served raw and just above room temperature, had a distinctly Eastern flair as it was adorned with peanuts, cucumber, and ginger- light yet distinctive flavors to highlight the fish. To sip, Rex and I each had a glass of the 2013 ‘Dragonstone’ Riesling from Leitz Weingut. With mild sweetness and a nice minerality, this was a classic, solid pairing for the fish that came across as dependably delicious.
As I am someone who likes to get my daily fruits and veggies in, we opted for the Sweet Potato as a second course. Slightly daring and delicious, this was wholly different than any other sweet potato I’d had before. Served alongside creamy avocado, tomatillo, and queso fresco, this dish was heartier than the former and not quite as exciting, but still better than the average vegetable course you’ll get in Center City. This was no orange mush topped with marshmallows. If Thanksgiving sweet potatoes were New Jersey, these sweet potatoes would be Williamsburg, Brooklyn. However, the cider that was paired with the dish did make it feel a bit like a holiday- one that I’d be willing to celebrate more than once.
To finish off the night, we went for the Pork Shoulder, which put all other pork shoulders to shame. Featuring long hots and lemon preserves, this plate was all about how foods that fall on opposite ends of the flavor spectrum can come together to be something great. If I were a pig, I’d be insulted if I didn’t end up at Petruce. It had (and I mean this in the least insulting way possible) the texture of scrapple when made well. It was crispy on the outside and tenderly meaty on the inside. There was an addictive difference in texture. I loved it, but then Tim came out and changed the whole course of my night.
Presenting us with a bottle called Sour Bikini made by Evil Twin Brewing, the handy-dandy beverage director explained that this was an unconventional choice, but one that he thought would be better than another Riesling. Sipping the beer on its own was like getting punched in the face by a lemon, and it was so darn good. I would have had three. Maybe six. For those of you who don’t like your beverages tart enough to make your upper lip disappear forever, the pairing of this beer with the pork really mellowed out the intense flavors of both. The sourness cut through the sweetness and richness of the dish to create one cohesive element. It was the most masterful pairing of the night, and one of the best pairings I’ve ever had.
Before I went to the restaurant that evening, I stopped by my old standby, a.bar, to grab a cocktail or two before dinner. While speaking with the guy sitting next to me and the men mixing cocktails behind the bar, they all gushed over Petruce. It was like they were fangirls talking about Comic-Con. Never before have I just mentioned the name of a place and received such jealous stares and words of praise. No one could say enough good things, and one guy even said he’d join me if he could. It wasn’t just that they enjoyed the food and attentive service at Petruce, it was that they respected everything about the restaurant. After one meal there, I joined them in their adoration.