Get Away With Fran

December 1, 2009

Philadelphia is for Iron Chefs and Foodies

Filed under: Food,U.S. — Tags: , , , , , , — admin @ 6:50 am


My cousin prepared a great Thanksgiving dinner in Philadelphia. But I need to book a return trip because I’m an “Iron Chef” fan and Philadelphia now has two Iron Chefs now, practically next to each other – well-established sushi master Masaharu Morimoto and the latest winner of Food Network’s “Next Iron Chef,” Jose Garces.

photo_jose_garces¬†What you probably don’t know unless you’ve been to Philadelphia recently to dine at Morimoto or Garces’ Chifa, opened last year (he also has four other restaurants in the city of Brotherly Love), is that the Iron Chefs have places practically next door to each other on Chestnut Street in the Market East neighborhood. I can’t think of another city where Iron Chefs share a street!

Last year, when son, Eli, was graduating from Temple U., in Philly, we decided to have his graduation dinner at Chifa, then newly opened and highly recommended by a pal in the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. We couldn’t resist Garces’ concept of Peruvian and Cantonese fusion, especially when we heard most items are tapas, to be shared. The food was delicious and reasonably priced to boot – don’t miss the Pork Belly Buns with hoison glaze or the smokey delicious grilled octopus. You can do a multi-course tasting menu from $45 per person or pick items a la carte. Chifa also has killed mixed drinks.

But we did feel a little disloyal dining at Chifa, only because a few buildings and a parking lot away is the restaurant I have long declared my favorite, Morimoto, where the Iron Chef Morimoto does his culinary magic. Omakase tasting menus, highly recommended because you feel as lucky as the judges on Iron Chef, are from $80 per person. Sublime dishes include toro tartare (tuna with caviar and wasabi) and tuna pizza (crisp tortilla topped with spicy tuna carpaccio and anchovy aioli).

Both Garces and Morimoto are friendly to foodie fans, who they’ll greet in person when they’re in the house (Morimoto also has outposts as well in New York and Boca). Garces gets his first challenge as an Iron Chef on the show in mid-January.

Make a weekend of it, and you can also stop by for treats at Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal market and grab a cheesesteak.

Find Philadelphia hotel deals at the tourism website. Last time I was in town I stayed at the Radisson Plaza – Warwick Hotel, a historic property now a flagship of the Radisson chain. It’s a lovely place, with a great location in the center of the city, right off Rittenhouse Square. And it had those Sleep Number beds that you don’t want to get out of, except maybe to eat (the hotel also has free high-speed Internet access and 32″ LCD HD TVs). Rooms from about $149 (even less if you book an online special with an American Express card).

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