Two weeks ago my roommate and I traveled to Philadelphia to run the Rock n Roll half marathon for the second year in a row. But this year was a bit different as my boyfriend used my run as an excuse to go down and visit some of his friends (he went to Penn) and watch me cross the finish line! So the night before the run, we met up with some of David’s friends in the Italian Market neighborhood to eat at Monsu (one of Philadelphia Magazine’s favorite restaurants). As David was on his “home turf” I left the restaurant up to him and boy did he knock it out of the park.
I knew I was in good hands when the waitress literally greeted us with open arms, she and David had been in contact earlier that day as our party started at four people and swelled to nine as the day went on. I love restaurants that are BYOB and so even though I had to run 13.1 miles the next am, we brought a few bottles to accompany our meal (for the record I drank one glass). The menu offered up the flavors of Sicily and the irony of all ironies was that David chose this restaurant not knowing that the Chef had a soft spot for gluten allergies and had many gluten-free options (including pasta and bread) but unfortunately we did not find that out until the check dropped!
We settled into our large booth and soon after ordering, were given the most wonderful homemade foccacia bread I have ever had with whipped ricotta in herb-infused olive oil. I didn’t want to fill up on bread but it was terribly hard not to fight everyone for the last few slices…this complimentary starter was an excellent way to start this fantastic meal. We asked for more but were told they make enough for the nights reservations so while I was super disappointed I couldn’t “carb up,” I respected that they make the bread fresh everyday….big props Monsu.
With nine people at our table I couldn’t possibly get photos or taste everything so you are all stuck with seeing what David and I shared 🙂
(Ricotta Dumplings with Jumbo Lump Crab, Pistachios and Tomato Cream)
I am a sucker for gnocchi and this one was heavenly…. extremely tender and the tomato cream sauce they swam in was super tasty. My only criticism of the dish was that it could have used a more generous amount of jumbo lump crab. I managed to only get a small bite of crab, but to be honest the dish was all about the gnocchi…. the ability to create perfect gnocchi is a gift and one I wish to master someday.
(Goat in the Style of the Horse, Broccoli Rabe, Pepperoncino, Creamy Polenta and Coriander Jus)
From the minute I saw the description of this dish I was intrigued. In Italy many people consume horse but here in America? Not so much. So the Chef took the classic preparation and substituted horse (is it even legal to eat horse in the US?) for goat, which I immediately pointed out is the most eaten protein in the world (sometimes my random knowledge comes in handy to friends and family). Anyways, this enlightening description, came highly recommended and David and I had to order it. It was terribly good, with unctuous and tender goat meat set atop creamy polenta and slathered with a meaty coriander jus….the goat may have been oversalted but when you mixed with the other components, it became a distant memory.
(Braised Beef Short Rib, Harissa, Sweet Potato, and Chickpea Ragu)
Another shared dish, the tangine was superb. I dug my fork in and the tender meat gave way so smoothly that I immediately discarded my knife. The addition of harissa gave it a nice kick and the chickpeas added a little crunch to every bite. This dish made me super excited for braised meat season….I already have plans to re-create this at home in the next month or two.
Don’t forget… its BYOB (so bring a few bottles of wine or beer) and it’s cash only! The restaurant is cozy and comfortable, with true Sicilian flare, and the service is so friendly by the end of the night you are friends with everyone working there. A trip to Philly is not complete without a trip to this gem….it will now be my pre-race meal every year!
901 Christian Street (at S 9th Street)