Amis Restaurant, Philadelphia / by Marc Cappelletti

Maybe they had my wife and I confused for influential food writers or celebrities (you know--the guy from that personal blog), because that's how we felt at Amis on Thursday night.  The Washington Square West restaurant, part of the Vetri Family of restaurants (Osteria, Alla Spina, Pizzeria Vetri and simply, Vetri) was lively and packed--smiles and laughter abounded, which is what you want to see after stepping inside from a 12 degree night.  We were promptly seated at the wooden bar in front of the kitchen.

They had just switched to their winter menu that day, so exec sous chef Ned was curious about what we ordered.   I said that I went with the pork chop.  "We were all talking about putting a pork chop on the menu," he said as he wiped down a plate.  "And we finally said, "OK, it's winter, we have to have a pork chop on the menu.  Let's just go out and get the best frickin' quality chops we can.""

I will attest in a court of law, hand on a bible, cameras rolling, that is exactly what they did.  If you're a fan of pork chops, kind of like them, or don't know what one is, you will devour this dish.  It comes on a bed of polenta and quince agrodolce (sour sweet onions that look almost like beets and taste a thousand times better).   But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For an appetizer we went with the grilled squid salad, which was outstanding--just the right amount of chargrilled flavor balanced out with citrus fruit.  It was quickly gone.  The manager gave us an appetizer plate of their Amis Beast (one whole animal that they serve every part of in different dishes throughout the night) which was a salmon.  This thinly-sliced sushi-grade fish plated with pomegranates melted in my mouth.  The pomegranates were an unusual pairing, at least to me, but they exploded with flavor and brightened up the fish, which was a refreshing surprise.

When we had finished the meal (reread the second and third paragraph to relive the deliciousness of the pork chop) chef Ned dropped a plate of fried cauliflower next to me.

"Dude," he said, "Everyone orders the fried cauliflower and loves it.  I can't let you guys leave without trying it."

Well, we tried it and it is ridiculously good.  Fried and salty but with a delayed kick of salsa rossa to give it a nice layered flavor.  The next time my wife and I are at Amis, we're ordering it.  Already full but unable to stop, we were doing good work on the carrot cake dessert, made with cream cheese icing and a sweet red wine reduction topping, when the pastry chef asked how we liked it.  I said it was awesome, that the hint of citrus in the icing really made it shine.

"I know, right!" she said, way too excited for someone who was at the end of a long day's work.

But that was our experience at Amis--surprises when and where you wouldn't expect them, enthusiasm for everything, pride not just in the quality of the meal but in the experience of those enjoying it.  Having recently moved from the culinary (really trying not to say mecca) hotspot of New York and Brooklyn we've been waiting to find a place like Amis.  And we're so glad we did.