On a bitterly cold Thursday evening in January, a friend and I walked briskly along the brick-lined sidewalk leading into 306 Market Street, home to Fork Restaurant in Old City, Philadelphia, for the last twenty years. Immediately upon opening its unassuming door to the restaurant, a sophisticated abundance of savory aromatics accompanied by the comfort of the candlelight at the bar greeted my senses. Our hospitable and well-mannered host, Leighton, hung up our heavy coats and led us to our table, gently placing food menus and beverage lists printed on clean parchment in front of us.
After absorbing the dining room’s ambience comprised of twinkling lights, sleek modern décor and murals consuming Fork’s walls hand painted by local Philadelphia artist and former server Anthony DeMelas, we absorbed the hyper-seasonal, ingredient-driven contemporary American menu items. Leighton returned to our table with two elegant glasses of champagne from the Côte des Blancs and began explaining Fork’s dining options, comprised of three experiences during their dinner service: an a la carte service in which guests may choose exactly which dishes they want to order. Next, a house menu for a fixed price of $78 per guest, providing a choice of one starter, one pasta, one entrée and a dessert. Lastly, Fork’s own coined form of service, leave it to us, which provides a selection of shared dishes that flow to the table in order of preparation and are selected at random by the kitchen, starting at $78 per guest, excluding beverages. If you prefer to order a la carte, prices for starters range from $14-18, pastas are offered in half and whole portions that range from $17-28, mains ranging from $28-34 and desserts from $10-12. We decided upon the third style of service: to let the kitchen do the thinking and create a perfect meal from start to sweet.
After the first few sips of champagne enhanced our buzzing excitement for the meal to come, our server Ed graced the table with a steaming basket of assorted house-made breads from Fork’s sister restaurant High Street on Market, including focaccia, ‘anadama’ (sourdough infused with molasses) and ‘buckwheat cherry,’ accompanied by High Street’s house-cultured butter. After processing the extraordinary flavors of the bread, we were finally prepared for the kitchen’s first dish: a Venison Tartare. After the first bites of the intensely seasoned and distinctly smokey Venison, Ed flowed from the open-kitchen with a shrimp carpaccio (broiled to delight) and refreshing watermelon-feta salad. Each back of house employee, from line cook to sous-chef, works with complete transparency towards its guests in a beautifully harmonious silence, delivering each dish with meticulousness and flair. Under the guidance of Executive Chef John Patterson’s tranquil authority and precision, the kitchen staff operates in excellent order.
Following our first course and letting the commencing flavors marinate our taste buds, Ed returned with two varying but intensely aromatic pastas: a spinach-infused malfatti, lightly blanketed with a vivid-green pistachio pesto and a Yukon Gold potato gnocchi, resting beneath tender shreds of chicken confit. With our glasses of champagnes dry, Ed delivered the wine list, effortlessly relaying every detail of the glass and bottle selections and eventually guiding us to a versatile Sancerre from France’s Loire Valley for $65 that he believed would properly compliment the remaining dishes to come. After relishing every last bite of the pastas, Ed brought out the mains: a locally-caught New Jersey Tilefish and the roasted suckling pig, both inexpressibly piquant.
Delightfully full from each course, we finished our meal with petite glasses dessert wine, Sauternes from Bordeaux, to compliment our house-made olive oil cake drizzled with local manuka honey, an assortment of house-made ice creams and a chocolate-hazelnut torte accompanied by milk chocolate and cocoa nibs, which brought any nutella-infused dessert I’ve consumed in the past to a complete utter shame. All in all, Fork serves progressive American fare which is nearly uncomparable amongst Philadelphia’s restaurant scene. However, its remarkable service attributes to making the establishment a standout, turning any ordinary bitterly cold Thursday evening into the utmost special occasion.
- 306 Market St., Philadelphia; 215-625-9425, forkrestaurant.com.
- $$$, All major credit cards accepted
- Reservations recommended
- Dress code: Smart Casual
- Dinner Served:
- 5:30pm to 10:00pm mon – thurs
5:30pm to 10:30pm friday
5:00pm to 10:30pm saturday
5:00pm to 9:30pm sunday
- 5:30pm to 10:00pm mon – thurs
- Brunch Served:
- 11:00am to 3:00pm on sunday