We had a wonderful Christmas including a long weekend with the parents- they braved the wind and cold (and even a little snow!) to pay us a visit. Friday night found us at Kris, a "seasonal Mediterranean" restaurant just a few blocks from my apartment in South Philly. I honestly thought the place was brand-new seeing as I had only recently even heard of it, but the hostess informed me that it's been in business just over a year.
The restaurant occupies a corner brownstone-sized space, including several sections of tables and a bar for those in the mood to catch a game. We sat in the back room, which was well-lit and pretty quiet considering we were there during prime eating hours.
The menu is pretty lengthy, giving us some difficulty in selecting a meal for four. Thankfully the waitstaff delayed bringing the bread out until after we'd made up our minds- otherwise I might still be there trying to decide. A generous section of a thick and doughy Italian loaf was fine, but the lemony olive oil soaked white beans were the real hit. Intensely flavorful, playing off little bits of red pepper and herbs.
We split a couple of the "small plates," starting with the mushroom grilled flatbread ($11). A personal pizza-shaped crust was chewy in the middle but had slightly over-done edges. Shavings of mushrooms and onions were caramelized and scattered around the pie (wait.. this wasn't pizza) and covered with a melted layer of fontina and truffled pecorino. I get excited for all things truffled, but to be honest, this was relatively plain.
We also split the grilled octopus ($13), which I definitely would rather not have shared. Big chunks of chewy tentacles with smoky char marks are tossed in a mildly spicy oil tinted with smoked paprika. The vinegar from the pickled vegetables provided the perfect acidic contrast, as well as a bit of crunch- we particularly enjoyed the fennel, an underrated vegetable if there ever was one.
Our mom often orders a couple of smaller plates to make up her main course, this time starting with a classic Caesar salad ($8). Kris continued the trend of the super-flavor, transforming a pile of crunchy Romaine ribs into a peppery, smoky, anchovy-infused pile of crunchy Romaine ribs. Garlic-y ciabatta croutons added another dimension of texture and flavor, rounded out by a generous amount of shaved parmesan. Probably nothing healthy about this salad, but it certainly was delicious.
The other half of her meal was comprised of the baked crespelle ($10), a super savory crepe filled with butternut squash puree and ricotta cheese. A rich (and slightly over-salted) Marsala and mushroom cream sauce provided an almost meaty substance to the dish, with fresh sage the predominating herb. A nice crispy fried sage leaf served as both garnish and a fun little bite. Probably a reason this is a "small plate"- its richness makes it a great dish to share.
The padre opted for the special of the evening- a pan-fried skate served with lentils and braised greens ($23). I'm not big on skate but a bite of the lentils mirrored the buttery texture of the fish. A bit lighter than some of our other dishes, but still a hearty winter meal.
A chose from the pasta section of the menu, ordering the pappardelle with sea scallops ($18). The noodles were on the skinnier side for a pappardelle, more like a slightly fat fettuccine. Bite-sized half-moons of tender scallops paired with the basil pesto cream sauce made for an ultra-luxurious comfort food. Roasted fennel and tomato gave it a tint of smoke. Overall just a very satisfying bowl of food.
I continued the trend of comfort food with the venison osso bucco ($25), an enormous hunk of slow-cooked, fork-tender deer meat that easily peeled off the chunk of bone. Osso bucco literally means "bone with a hole." The cooking method preserves the bone marrow inside the hole, and our waiter kindly provided me with a skinny metal tool for scooping out the fatty chunks. Spread on a piece of bread- meaty butter at its finest. Butternut squash and spinach risotto absorbed plenty of the venison juices, with a dried cherry and red wine sauce as a finishing touch.
I'm interested to see how Kris alters their menu to fit the spring or summer season. Based on our experience, the majority of the dishes were rich and heavy, which fit just fine for a blustery December evening. It was a memorable meal, and Kris will probably become another neighborhood staple for me- a casual atmosphere, great service, and definitely a good value (no skimpy portions here!).
1100 Federal St