Eat: Tinto Restaurant by Iron Chef Jose Garces in Philly

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This is part 3 of my Weekend Trip to Philly series. Previous posts include Philly Cheesesteak in Philly (Pat's vs. Geno's) and Best of Philadelphia: Reading Terminal, DiNic's, Famous 4th St Cookies

As I was researching restaurants for my recent Philly trip, I found that the Season Two winner of The Next Iron Chef, Jose Garces, actually owned seven restaurants in the city. His tapas restaurants, Amada  (an authentic Andalusian tapas bar) and Tinto (a wine bar and restaurant inspired by the Basque region of Northern Spain), came highly recommended by locals and visitors alike. Sadly, since we were so last minute on planning the trip, we couldn't make a reservation in time at either location.

So, it was pure serendipity that brought me to enjoy a wonderful Spanish brunch at Tinto on my last day in Philly.

I love the decor at Tinto, it feels a bit rustic yet modern and reminds me of being in Spain

After a night's rest, I woke up refreshed and ready to spend my day eating my way through Philly. While a few others in our party were still sleeping, I dragged 2 others to go and try a gelato place I read rave reviews about, Capogiro.

However, to my dismay, when we got there at 10am, the gelato wasn't ready yet - I guess I'm the only one crazy enough to have gelato that early in the morning right? I was definitely a bit bummed out about the lack of gelato until J spotted Tinto with his super vision. Turns out it was right across the street from us!

Given this golden opportunity with no plans for the next hour, the three of us thought about the wise words of the Iron Chef chairman:

"With an open heart and an empty stomach,                                        .

                 I say unto you in the words of my uncle: 'Allez cuisine!'"


The corkscrews wall art, all shaped like a T for Tinto!
Make no mistake, Tinto is a wine bar ;)

So indeed, with an open heart and empty stomach (not to mention a brunch reservation at Beau Monde at noon), the three of us decided to seize the day and pre-brunched at Tinto! Thankfully Tinto was open at 10:30am and obviously we were the first party of the day - no reservations needed.

First order of business? We had to try their white wine sangria. Immediately I noticed how pretty the drink looked with the small pieces of fruit floating in between the ice.

Note to self: Make this at home ASAP.

The Blanco Sangria at Tinto is absolutely delicious, made with white wine, peach absolute and fruit

The Sunday Brunch menu at Tinto offers a $35 four course prix fixe consisting of a small dish, a larger dish, a side and dessert. You can also order a la carte if you wish, and that's exactly what we did.

Here's what we ordered:

First Course

First, I have to say that I loved every dish that we tried. I really enjoy the attention to the smaller details on each plate. Our salmon tartar was made with pickled peppers, unlike other tartars I've tried before. The endive "boat" that the tartar came in was held still by their chorizo aioli, and for an extra crunch, a chorizo chip on the side. Nom nom.

TUNA TARTARE, chorizo aïoli, golden endive
The tortilla espanola was absolutely delicious and reminds me of the egg omelettes that was so popular at pintxo bars in San Sebastian, Spain, my favorite place in the world. Paired with the jamon and saffron aioli, this is just bliss. Perfectly balanced, and kept us wanting more.

TORTILLA ESPAÑOLA, saffron aïoli, jamón serrano

Second Course

The duck salad was my least favorite of the dishes we ordered, but it doesn't mean it didn't taste good, it just wasn't as good as the others. There was a sausage dish we wanted to try from the 2nd course section, but unfortunately it wasn't ready to serve when we were ordering.

Regardless, the duck confit was molded into a square and then pan fried. The poached egg and yolk gave a wonderful creaminess to the frisée salad.

DUCK SALAD, duck scrapple, lardons, poached egg

Sides

Finally, our sides. This maple grits is OUT OF THIS WORLD, made delicious because of the sweetness of the maple and copious amount of butter. How could it not be good?

Warning: get this with friends, this as a side on your own is going to be sooooooo rich. My only complaint was that after about 15 minutes, the butter started to break apart from the grits and allowed you to realize how much butter was really in there.

Hint: there was a lot.

MAPLE GRITS

Pork Belly was awesome. Tender, quickly pan seared for a bit of bite and you gotta love the apple sticks on the side which help cut the fat just a little bit. You really have to appreciate the attention to the small things at Tinto.

PORK BELLY

All in all, I am really glad that I came upon Tinto by chance. My meal here alone makes me want to pay another visit to Philly again soon. Next time I'd definitely want to try Jose Garces' Whiskey Village too. It's a nice whiskey bar right next door to Tinto that features over 80 whiskies and awesome bar food.

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Tinto | Yelp

114 S 20th St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

(215) 665-9150

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