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EPICURE: Off the Line at Water Works in Philadelphia

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In the Flow

At Water Works, the understated mahogany appointments, floor-level ivory candles and soaring Greco-Roman arches combine with a reasonably priced menu and completely casual attitude for an astonishingly giddy mix.

Despite the Smithsonian-esque stature of the facility and the multimillion-dollar buzz surrounding the Water Works project, the wait staff was unassuming in well-fitting button downs. We dined at the bar, where patrons patiently waited and the bartenders’ food and drink recommendations flowed. After a few tastes of bourbon from the well-stocked bar, we chose a Baker’s Manhattan and a crisp, mildly fruity, mid-priced sauvignon blanc—the perfect pairing for our appetizers. No signs of gauging here. The bright smiles of the staff and the aqua-iridescent fish tank built into the center of the bar were pleasant distractions.

All in all, the Mediterranean-American creations Chef Adan Trinidad (El Vez) were exquisite. Two plump lollipop lamb chops came to us perfectly pink, warm and juicy—just right for dipping into accompanying cool mint, shallot and scallion sour cream. The grilled octopus was briny, chewy and sprawling, the tentacles are fully dunked in a cilantro and olive oil mix. Juicy, charred and roughly cut, the superb dry-aged sirloin was full of flavor and combined well with the crispy morel lyonnaise potatoes and mushrooms escaveche.

And Chef Adan’s sweet finish didn’t disappoint, either. A Zen-like trio of silky vanilla, orange and dark chocolate crème brulée arrived in three square, white porcelain dishes (let the culinary enlightenment begin). Please, can this experience not end?
640 Water Works Drive, Philadelphia; (215) 236-9000.