Another good Philly option: Helm.

This is a small place north of the old city in the Olde Kensington area. I’ve seen it described as French but it is decidedly New American and definitely farm to table using locally sourced ingredients. It’s BYOB….which is a bit of a pain but very common in Philly so make sure you bring a bottle if you want to add that pleasure to the dining experience.   I happened by a small wine shop in the Old City before my visit and picked up a very decent left bank Bordeaux blend but from the Lehigh Valley AVA of Pennsylvania. It had hits of oak with medium tannins and I was surprise at how good it was. It paired nicely with my dinner which was accidental since I had no idea what dinner would be that night.

Now to the food……

The menu changes based on what is locally available. It is displayed on a blackboards so the sample menu on their website is exactly that, a sample. I started with the prosciutto which topped fried wontons stuffed with a local cheese with turnips and was served on a bed of pomegranate mustard. I also got a side gratis from the kitchen of the smoked carrots. They were served on a bed of local goat cheese with a sauce Basquaise. This is apparently one of their signature dishes. The purple carrots were nicely smoked and the cheese on the tart side. That said, it was my favorite of the two.

The main was a poached monkfish with seared octopus and thin strips of squid served in a very light green curry….it’s not what you’re thinking. Remove from your head the idea of Thai curry and replace it with a vision of a light curry based fish stock with only a mild amount of heat.  It was made more interesting by small bits of fried rice which gave the dish a nice texture and added body to the seafood.  You’ll want to sop up the juice with the incredible local bread served at the start of the meal so save some or ask for more. The bread is from High Street Market and is chewy with slight charing of the crust…..very old world and delicious.

Dessert was a flourless chocolate cake. Dark chocolate balanced by the sweetest of a sunchoke based ice cream with an “icing” of creamy coconut. There was a slight crunchiness added to the dish from a light dusting of sunchoke chips. 

Service was excellent. It wasn’t that busy on the night I visited but on a weekend I would make a reservation. Only seats about 30 people so I suspect it fills quickly on popular nights.

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