Restaurant Review: Adsum (CLOSED)

It seems like the April showers never let up lately, but that didn’t stop us from venturing out into the city on Saturday night to see As You Like It at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre and to have a late dinner at Adsum. The restaurant opened last summer and has been on our list of places to try for a few months now, but it’s been fairly difficult to get a reservation. However, since we were looking to eat later than our standard 8:00 p.m., that made things easier (Hey, I have a bedtime to adhere to, okay? I like my sleep).

Our show let out later than anticipated, but we headed over anyway. After circling the neighborhood a few times, we found (free!) parking about a block away and made our way over to the restaurant. Although we were about 45 minutes behind our scheduled reservation time, we were seated without a problem. Good thing too, because it started moonsooning outside soon after.

The restaurant bills itself as a “refined neighborhood bistro,” But with all but two tables filled, the noise level rendered it anything but. Things did start to empty out pretty quickly, though, and by the end of our visit we were only one of two tables in the place. I kind of liked that, so maybe I should get used to eating late! With its tile floors, wooden fixtures, chalkboard menu, and slate tables, it reminded me of an old-fashioned pharmacy— the kind of place you would find in Paris. I’ve never been, but we’re going next month, so we will see if I’m right!

Lately, the restaurant has been in the news because of its Tastykake Sliders—beef brisket patties, sandwiched between two Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes. Some of the proceeds from the sale of the sliders are going towards helping out the financially strapped Tasty Baking Company, but as I want them to keep making Kandy Kakes and Krimpets, I don’t think that you could pay me to eat this concoction. The rest of the menu though, was filled with a mix of comfort foods (like mac-and-cheese, fried chicken, and perogies), upscale options (like foie gras and sweetbreads), and things that seem to be trendy right now (like pork belly). I like this kind of diversity, because you could probably bring a big group of people, with all different preferences there to eat, and they could each find at least one or two things that they’d enjoy. Except if one of those people was my brother, who basically likes angel hair pasta in red sauce when he goes out to eat, and that’s about it. That’s a story for another day, though.

I knew I wanted to mac-and-cheese for an entrée, so I decided to go with something lighter for the appetizer—the grilled romaine salad with roasted onion, polenta croutons, and parmesan dressing. I’ve never tried grilled romaine before, but now I’m hooked (I was describing my new discovery to my mom, and she said “Eww. That tastes like reefer.” First of all, who says “reefer?” And, second, I hope this doesn’t give you the wrong idea about me). The tips of the leaves were slightly wilted and charred, but the center of the leaves remained crispy. The whole thing had a slightly smoky flavor, which the salty Parmesan dressing complemented well. I’m not usually a fan of polenta because of its mushy texture, but the croutons were actually my favorite part of the salad. The cubes were smooth, warm and buttery, and practically melted in my mouth. If these were sold alongside the boxed croutons in my local grocery store, I would probably eat them straight from the box like they were potato chips.

The mac-and-cheese was very good, but not the best I’ve ever had. The elbow macaroni was perfectly al dente, and it was rich and very cheesy. But I think it only had one kind of cheese in it, and I prefer mine to have a little bit more…dimension. It also has a cornbread crumble on the top, which I wasn’t really a fan of. It was tasty, but I prefer the top of my mac-and-cheese to have a crunch on top and this was mushy.

The hubby tried two appetizers. The first, a chorizo huarache with grilled octopus, Oaxaca cheese, was just okay. The octopus was cut too thin which caused it to be pretty dry and the chorizo had a strong flavor that overwhelmed the dish. The pork belly tacos, radish, habanero, pineapple yeast tacos, were the better option. The meat was flavorful and slightly crunchy.

Of course, carnivore that he is, he had the Adsum burger for his entrée. He ranked it among his top  Philadelphia burger experiences (His rankings: 1) The Kobe Beef burger at the now defunct Deuce in Northern Liberties, 2) The Adsum Burger, 3) A tie between the Fat Boy Monster at PYT and the burger at Bobby’s Burger Palace, and 4) the Beneluxx Burger at Eulogy. (It should be noted here that we need to have a separate post about burgers, because he had quite a lot to say on the subject). The duck fat fries were amazing. They had the thick cut of Belgian French fries, with a nutty flavor and satisfying crunch.

Although I was full from consuming the entire portion of mac-and-cheese, I figured that, I had to have dessert, in order to provide a complete picture of our experience. My love of peanut butter has been well documented, so it should be no surprise that I chose the PB and J ice cream sandwiches from the list. Because I like to deconstruct all of my food, I took the cookie off of the top of the sandwich—it looked like a basic butter cookie with some specks of vanilla bean thrown in. Yum, I thought. I bit into the cookie, and learned that what I thought was vanilla was actually…black pepper. Um, what? In a word–gross. I ate a few more bites of the cookie—and even slathered on the creamy PB ice cream and strawberry jam sauce—to see if I could learn to like it, but it was definitely not for me. I get how they were trying to do a salty/sweet combination, but it just didn’t work for me (or for the table across from us either, evidently, as I heard them complaining to their server about it). I feel like maybe a cinnamon or ginger flavor could have worked just as well. And, maybe the black pepper cookie somewhere on the menu, so people aren’t taken aback when they bite into it. Luckily, the ice cream itself was delicious. It was creamy and not overly sweet. In fact, it tasted more like a dry roasted peanut than my beloved Jif. The homemade strawberry sauce was smeared on the plate, alongside the cookies, so the ice cream was it was able to stand alone and be fully appreciated, just as PB should.

Was it worth the wait for a reservation? No, I don’t think so. There are a few other restaurants in Philly with the same type of comfort food meets upscale bistro meets trendy menu), that are far better, in my opinion (Parc in Rittenhouse Square, or the Latest Dish, just around the corner come to mind). I wanted to love it, but came away thinking that it was just good, but not great.

I would go back for a plate of those duck fat fries though. There was an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show where he waxed poetic about the merits of duck fat—most of the time, he sounds like a lunatic when he gets into those fits, but this time around, I know exactly what he’s talking about.


  1. Jourdeanna says:

    I so appreciate another person who shares my love of food. Good food that is. I blame my new love affair with the upscale restaurant on reality television. Top Chef made me think, I can make that dish. Sadly I was mistaken. So with my new found weekly traveling I set up an Open Table account. I now manage my reservations & log the restaurants I have ventured to try. I will be sure to pass on this one.

  2. My first comment! I should give you a prize, Jourdeanna! I love all the reality shows, but I know I could never make the stuff that they do. First, I need to follow a recipe–I really admire how they can just throw stuff together, esp. stuff that you would never think goes together. And, second, their presentations are always so pretty, while mine always just look a little sad. I need to make sure that I pick your brain about restaurants to go to when I travel for work—I never know where to eat and I end up defaulting to chain places (although I do love a good Cheesecake Factory salad for lunch!)


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