Restaurant Rewind: Phillips Seafood in AC

On May 19th (bear with me, folks! I just started a new job!), I had the pleasure of attending a food blogger dinner hosted by Breslow Partners and Phillips Seafood. I have yet to share my personal philosophy on sharing my restaurant dining experiences, so what better time than the present. It pretty much boils down to a commitment to post only about positive encounters (gratis meal, as in this case, or not) and our evening at Phillips definitely fits that criteria.

Dre & I rushed to AC after work that Wednesday, checked into our amazing room in the new Chairman Tower at the Taj Mahal (thanks, Mike!), and hurried over to the Pier at Caesars. We arrived at Phillips first and were greeted with smiles from Tina & Jennifer, the dynamic mother-daughter duo behind Breslow Partners. Our server, Mike, took drink orders as we got to know our hostesses and perused the amazing menu of food coming our way. How could you not be excited for this?

Phillips Seafood Blogger Dinner Menu

Cocktails arrived and so did 5 other new friends. It was so great to meet the people behind the local food blogs I enjoy, let alone dive into an indulgent seafood feast with them. Lisa & Lisa joined us first, from Jersey Girl Cooks and John and Lisa are Eating in South Jersey, respectively (har-har!). We then welcomed Allie of A Food Coma and her guest Mikey with Elaine of Elle Eats rounding out the group. No sooner did we finish our introductions when our first course arrived, Steamed Mojito Clams.

The GM, Brian Fountain, and Executive Chef Paul Drew were nothing short of hospitable, informative, & accommodating through out the meal. They joined us between each course to explain the history & philosophy of Phillips along with all the juicy ingredient and prep details that really  make foodies like us drool.

Steamed Mojito Clams from Phillips

We all had already dove into the tender clams while Chef Drew recapped the Mojito-inspired ingredients that flavored the dish. Phillips excels in freshness when it comes to their seafood and these middle necks fit the bill. They were cooked in butter, rum, mint (which I believed is mis-mentioned on the menu), slivers of garlic, & anaheim peppers and served with a ramekin of extra Mojito butter on the side. We happily sopped up the remaining butter with the warm bread we were served. I appreciated learning that Phillips strives to maintain the option for sustainable seafood by returning all clam shells to the Chesapeake.

Next up was a raw bar lovers dream, The Chilled Plateau. Its top tier featured fresh Maine Lobster and Alaskan King Crab Legs, each steamed with cinnamon, cloves, lemon, Phillips seasoning, pickling spice, & orange and served chilled. Melpac & Blue Point Oysters and Middle Neck Clams on the half shell outlined the bottom tier with fresh lemon wedges and a red wine, shallot, & garlic mignonette. Bowled in the middle, were Tuna Tartar (ahi poke style), U15 Shrimp, and Jumbo Lump Crab Meat with sides of cocktail sauce & mustard sauce for dipping. It was a tower of raw seafood indulgence and I loved every bite (and swallow in the case of the oysters) of it!

The Chilled Plateau from Phillips

The penultimate course for our dinner were the famous Phillips Chesapeake Crab Cakes,  packed with their own pasteurized crab meat, a process first developed by Phillips. 300 million tons of their crab meat are canned each year with 1/3 of that coming from our Gulf. The effects of the current outrageous oil leak saddens me beyond words and I’m sure this will have a grave effect, short & long term, on Phillips crab meat distribution. Let’s all hope for the best that can come out of this unimaginable disaster. But, this afternoon, it’s back to the crab cakes…

Chef Paul Drew explained that Phillips variety includes jumbo lump, back fin, & special lump crab meat for a variety of taste & texture. The whole chunks of crab are seasoned and bound with Phillips seasoning, lemon, mustard, Worcestershire, egg, & mayo. They’re formed into mounds and chilled at 40degrees until broiling them at 450degrees. Dre inquired about their cooking approach, as growing up in Maryland he was used to the deep-fried variety. Without solicitation, the Chef was happy to whip up a batch of fried crab cakes for comparison.  Their table was split on their cooking preference, but I think Lisa (of John & Lisa) summed it up perfectly – “They’re really good baked, but ethereal fried!”

Chesapeake Crab Cakes, Potato Gratinée, & Broccolini

The crab cake entree was well-rounded with sides of Potato Gratinées with Swiss cheese and tender Broccolini. We discussed our final thoughts on the meal over a palate-cleansing dish of mango sorbet. Overall, it was a great experience to try a restaurant I normally would not have with great fellow food bloggers. It was a refreshing experience, as sometimes a classic presentation of a seafood indulgence truly hits the spot. I couldn’t ask for a better meal that this beachside feast to kick off my Spring/Summer!

Blogger Dinner Contacts

Breslow Partners

Phillips Seafood AC

Jersey Girl Cooks

John and Lisa are Eating in South Jersey

A Food Coma

Ell Eats

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Restaurant Rewind: Date Night @ Sampan

I love date night! On a Friday in early March (bear with me, I’m a bit behind), Dre & I made plans for dinner at Sampan, the new hot spot I’ve been dying to try.  We walked into the bustling restaurant early for our 930pm reservation and sat at the bar for some cocktails. First on the drink list, and my choice, was the Blood Orange Martini w. Gin, Lillet, & Blood Orange. It a great balance of sweet & tart, but I was really jealous once I sampled Dre’s crisp Yuzu Sake Martini w. Gin, Elder Flower, & Lemon Grass. So far, so good!

Dre noticed that there was counter seating overlooking the energetic open kitchen. The hostess confirmed that a twosome was about to pay their bill and seats would be opening up. SCORE! What more could a foodie ask for than to watch the magic happen (under great lighting,too!). We got to know the cold line chefs, Matt & Onna, along the way and oggled the food porn they effortlessly executed. I’m always refreshed by a culinary team so dedicated to their craft.

Tuna w. Avocado, Puffed Rice, Flat Bread, & Spicy Sauce

Earlier in the week, I met Michael Schulson, the man behind Sampan, at a Philadelphia Weekly sponsored panel discussion on “Chefs, Bloggers, & the Blogosphere.” After the event, Chef Schulson graciously indulged my request for some personal menu recommendations. I definitely took his suggestions seriously! While we waited for each of our 7 carefully selected dishes to arrive, we sipped Sampan’s monster cocktail, the Scorpion Bowl – 64 ounces of rum, gin, white win, & fruit juice. It was really tasty, impressively strong, & lasted through the whole dinner. Our first dish, the Edamame Ravioli was light, tender, & perfectly enhanced with white truffle oil.

Sampan's Edamame Ravioli w. Truffle, Shoot, & Sake Broth

I always like to try different interpretations of the famous Philly Cheesesteak and we really enjoyed Chef Schulson’s version. The braised beef was rich & savory, accented with crispy shallots & Sriracha’s perfect heat.

Philly Cheese Steak w. Bao Bun, Shallot, & Sriracha

Next, a contrasting plate of cool freshness arrived. Chilled poached lobster nuggets laid under a simple pico of flavor-packed chopped tomatoes & garlic speckled with tender black beans for a perfect intermezzo between savory dishes.

Lobster w. Black Bean, Tomato, Garlic

I love bulgogi, so the Korean BBQ Beef Satay was a no brainer. Double-enforced skewers pierced tender ribbons of marinated medium-rare short rib topped with traditional kim che. They were a bit too pink for Dre’s liking, but that just meant more for me to savor.

Korean BBQ Beef Satay w. Short Rib, Bulgogi, Kim Che

The following dish may have be my favorite & the most interesting. I was excited to see the flavor combination & presentation of hiramasa, a sustainable substitution for yellowtail, bacon, arugula, & a pear kim che. The menu may tell you what you’re getting, but in most instances not how you’d expect to get it. From the deconstructed spicy tuna (see the photo above of Ona preparing this dish) to the current plate in front of us, Sampan’s surprises always seem to please. I really loved this dish. Beyond the interesting plating, the flavor blend was spectacular. I took the time to include a morsel of each element on my fork for each bite. The clean hiramasa fillets, painted with a peppery arugula puree, were a flawless palate for smokey bacon and sweet & spicy pear kim che. The portion was impressive and I still could have eaten another plate!

Hiramasa w. Bacon, Arugula, Pear Kim Chi

Another interesting take on a traditional dish was Sampan’s Peking Duck. The tender duck meat was pulled & served with foam in a small glass jar. The accompaniments included julienne cucumber, shaved scallion, & tamarind pancakes to build your own Peking Duck soft taco.

"Peking" Duck w. Tamarind Pancake, Scallion, Cucumber

Our final dish was a last minute decision and a menu item I’d been eyeing since before we made reservations – the Wonton Taco. The wonton wrapper, crisped in the deep fryer into a perfect hard taco shell, was stuffed with spicy succulent rock shrimp balanced with blood orange & avocado. We were one of a few tables left & we scarfed them before I could snap a pic.

Sampan’s energy and delicious cuisine were a perfect setting for another amazing date night with Dre. I couldn’t imagine anyone else I’d want to “mmm & ahh” over an impressive dinner with!

Next trip to Sampan – bahn mi & homemade ice cream!