Restaurant Week Pt.1 - Alma De Cuba

Restaurant Week in Philly: a celebration of the city's fine dining scene in which participating restaurants offer a 3 course menu for only $30.

My wife and I absolutely love to dine out and we feel a nice meal is money well spent. I always enjoy revisiting the energy of Center City (ok, its not as invigorating as running around NYC or Tokyo, but in relative comparison to my home in the burbs...its refreshingly stimulating).

So this past Sunday, we braved the winter elements and landed at a beautiful Cuban restaurant called Alma de Cuba. The restaurant is squeezed in between Urban Outfitters and other shops on Walnut Street and the exterior is deceptively small. As you enter and make your way up the stairs, the space really opens up before your eyes with a cozy first floor lounge and 2 floors of dining above. The glass paneling, mirrors and clean interior lines present a space that is modern but not obnoxiously trendy. The warmer, mood lighting (it was much darker than in these photos) accentuates a sense of coziness and avoids the cold detachment of Morimoto.

By the way, my wife says that when her parents were visiting from Japan, they could never get accustomed to the lack of lighting in many American restaurants. They wondered if the establishment didn't want the customers to see everything on the plate in front of them!

We had eaten at another great Cuban restaurant - Cuba Libre in Old City, which had a more traditional homestyle feel. This experience at Alma was definitely more "Modern Cuban Cuisine" as their menu advertised. I felt the food here was more refined and executed well, but I think both restaurants definitely fufill different types of cravings in my palate. So, my first course was a flavorful coconut-chicken broth with sliced poached chicken, yucca, carrots, cilantro, green peas and lime juice. This was a perfect choice for a cold winter night and the flavors were spot on. My wife is a fan of ceviche, so she chose the "Hamachi Tiradito" with red onion, cilantro, lime juice and aji. My main course was the "Vaca Frita" crispy skirt steak, which was definitely crispy without being too dry - sort of like a beef brisket and it was complemented very well by the onions, tomatoes, cuban oregano, black beans, rice and dabs of sauces. My wife had the sea bass with tomato, sweet chili, garlic and white wine with shrimp verde rice, tostones and stuffed peppers. I topped the evening with a banana rum cake and helped my wife finish her vanilla caramel flan. I almost forgot to mention my wonderfully overpriced passion fruit vodka. I have a crazy sweet tooth, so this drink definitely hit the spot. All in all it was a great way to finish the weekend!

Next tasting is Wednesday night at Tangerine's.


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