Spring has arrived in Philadelphia, putting my unmarried relatives in the mood for romance. A shy young man in my family called me for advice about a JDate, a date from the Internet based Jewish dating community. He was very interested in a young lady he had only met online, and wanted to take her out to a special place.
“First, set the tone by picking the right ambiance,” I suggested. I told him to invite her to Mémé, in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood. One of my favorite places in Philadelphia, it makes me feel like I am enjoying a meal in a Bistro in Paris. I love watching the food being prepared in the open kitchen. “You can make a reservation for dinner this week,” I encouraged him. “Or suggest brunch,” I added. “You can reserve a table on the sidewalk and invite her to bring her dog. The staff will welcome him with a bowl of water.”
More after the jump.
“You may have butterflies in your stomach when your date arrives,” I said to my relative. “Order a glass of wine to help you both relax,” I advise. I love Mémé’s excellent selection of French, Italian, and domestic wines.
Being from my family, he cut straight to the food, “What should we order?” he asked me. That is a very good question, since the menu does not stay the same for long here. Chef David Katz is very creative and adventurous. The cuisine is mostly inspired by France, Italy, and the Mediterranean. One item that David Katz does not get to take off his menu is the roasted bone marrow with grilled bread. This delectable dish would have made Julia Child drool all over her manuscript of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking. “Definitely order this appetizer,” I tell my young man.
“I don’t know what surprises will be in store for the main course when you go there,” I said. The food in this restaurant is New American Cuisine. David Katz explains, “Nobody in America is an American, except Native Americans. You need to go to a reservation to taste their traditional food.” What this means for Chef David Katz is cooking the dishes that the American immigrants brought with them from the Old World, using the finest local and organic ingredients, and employing the best cooking techniques. Chef Katz, who has been cooking professionally since age fourteen, does not try to mask the flavor of the food. He coaxes out the natural taste and aroma so we may appreciate each ingredient.” On his mother’s side, David Katz’s family traces its lineage back to Spain, Morocco, and then America. His personal New American food echoes the Moroccan flavors of his childhood. One such dish is the Moroccan Spiced Lamb Loin with grilled eggplant, harissa, and lemon oil. “If you see something Moroccan, be sure to try it,” I encouraged the eager courter.
“To conclude the meal, order the chocolate ganache cake with vanilla gelato, even if she says she does not want dessert!” I instruct the young suitor. “This is the cake that explains without words why there are no vanillaholics!” “It will be on the menu,” I tell him. “David Katz would probably have a riot on his hands if he dared take it off!”
In Moroccan French, “Mémé” means grandmother. It is very sweet that David Katz has chosen to honor his grandmother by naming his restaurant for her. She is probably there in spirit saying, “Nu!” to all the couples present. “After your date finishes the last crumb of your chocolate cake, take her on a lovely walk through the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood,” I tell him. “Enjoy the warm spring breezes, the fragrance of the flowering trees, and the singing of the birds. This JDate will be great!” And so will Mémé!
2201 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103