Vernick Food & Wine (2031 Walnut St., Philadelphia) opened in 2012 by Chef Greg Vernick, who won the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic by the James Beard Foundation in 2017. He serves “an honest, no-fuss menu featuring his version of new American cooking.” The menu is divided into small and large plates with some sides to supplement. This is a place where a tasting menu would be fun – to have more dishes in smaller quantities. There are a couple outdoor tables but otherwise dining is in a relatively small room upstairs across from the 2 windows to the kitchen. They offer dinner only with a few seasonal specials and you have a 2 hour window for your reservation. The full bar downstairs offers lots of cocktails to those at the small light wood tables in lowered lighting. Music is in the background. Service was helpful and friendly but pacing of service felt hurried with the small table getting crowded.
We started with one of their Old Fashioned cocktails, containing bourbon, demerara and aromatic bitters. It was nicely done. We ordered wine to go with the meal.
An amuse bouche was a chilled raspberry gazpacho with a cornbread muffin seasoned with Espelette pepper. It actually tasted like gazpacho with raspberry overtones. The result was nice and refreshing. The little cornbread was well seasoned with a good crisp outside and corn flavor inside. It went well with the soup.
Fromage blanc toast was topped with onion jam, and pickled ramps. The bread was great and lots of gooey cheese covered it that contrasted well with the sweet onion jam. Pickled ramps decorated the top and added a great element. This was a tasty option and cut in pieces to easily share.
Sea Urchin was on a dish of warm scrambled eggs mixed with whipped yogurt. This is a dish that is regularly on the menu. The recommendation is to dig all the way to the bottom with your spoon so you get some of all the layers and taste the contrasts of temperature. The loosely scrambled eggs blended perfectly with the yogurt and were great with the sea urchin. You can taste why this is a restaurant standard.
Beef carpaccio was a special that evening and it was topped with fried capers, arugula and popcorn purée. The tender beef went well with the popcorn flavor and the crunch of the capers. It was interesting and fun.
Braised Rabbit Ragout was with garganelli pasta, mushrooms, peas and lavender. The wonderful handmade pastas were tender and perfectly cooked. The stringy rabbit was in shreds and blended well with the maitake mushrooms and delicious fresh peas. A really good broth tied it all together.
Whole roasted eggplant was topped with calabrian chili vinaigrette, candied hazelnuts and whipped yogurt. This was a very acidic dish but I loved the crunch of the hazelnuts. A vinegar flavor coated the eggplant which was interesting but not my favorite.
Vanilla panna cotta was topped with cara cara orange and sprinkled with crushed olive oil cookie. This was a mild combination of flavors but lots of good textures. The smooth custard was fun with the sweet cookie and the orange was good but I would have liked more.
Milk Chocolate Tart was topped with vanilla meringue with whiskey caramel on the side. It was in a chocolate wafer crust with a crisp layer on top under the meringue flowers. This was a good sweet fix and satisfying but nothing spectacular.