We walked into the month–and–a–half old Double Knot for happy hour and found the bar area already packed. Chef Michael Schulson, of Sampan and Independence Beer Garden fame, has, at the very least, mastered the trendy aura. The bar has dim mood lighting but
a prominent couch to keep it from being too intimidating and uptight.
Faced with $4 happy hour food specials, all normally $7, we couldn’t help ourselves from becoming a little trigger–happy and ordering four different appetizers before even seeing the dinner menu. The pork belly bao bun was fluffy, cloudlike and just crispy enough. The shallots added some depth to the sweetness of the pork belly. And like sweet lemonade on a hot summer day, the mint added a little kick and cooled it down.
That first bite into the edamame dumplings will hit you with the truffle, but like a playful hit between two flirting middle schoolers. The edamame and pea shoot keep the dumpling familiar, and the sake broth warm and hydrated.
I’ll be honest, when I see Brussels sprouts on a menu my heart skips a beat. Naturally I couldn’t pass up a shot at love. The initial taste of fish sauce, puffed rice and chili made me think perhaps this was the one. Alas, the saucey flavor faded pretty quickly and I knew this wasn’t meant to be more than a casual fling. If you’re a natural Brussels kind of person, maybe you’ll have better luck.
If you’re just going for happy hour but are a little hungrier than your friends, throw in a sushi roll for good measure. I got the plain tuna roll ($6 non–Happy Hour) and you honestly can’t go wrong. Or maybe you can (@Nara #tbt), but not here.
To get to the dinner part of Double Knot, you have to go to the back of the bar and head downstairs. It’s a totally different vibe from the hectic bar scene upstairs. If an atmospheric chill new age beats Spotify playlist exists, it’s playing. You pass by a full sushi bar into a room that embraces its underground location. The exposed wall partially covered in Japanese artwork makes you feel like you found something secret and hidden.
The plates aren’t huge, but there are more menu options than you could ever need to make up for it. Definitely use your waiter or waitress as a guide, they know best. The robatayaki section has grilled veggie, seafood, chicken, pork, meat and game skewers for your enjoyment. The miso eggplant ($4) has that gentle, hearty eggplant flavor mixed with the classic Japanese soup taste. The mahi–mahi ($5) was a little tough after the soft sushi, but the fish is clearly fresh and the dab of teriyaki–esque sauce goes a long way. You only get one skewer per order though, so just a lil taste. At the end of the day I’d say pass on these to try one of the more than 3–bite dishes and save your fish eating for sushi.
It quickly became clear that Double Knot makes a bomb aioli, and they know it. The shishito peppers ($6) blew everything else way out of the water. Perfectly dressed with chili to spice it up and salt to distract, they honestly didn’t even need the aioli—but I guess Double Knot said YOLO and we thank them for that.
Next were the tempura shrimp tacos ($9), and come on were these really ever going to be bad? They have some chili to pump up the heat, and the shrimp is perfectly crunchy. Just the right amount of radish on top keeps them lively and light.
The last dish (shoutout to our waitress for telling us we couldn’t miss this/see pic at the top) was the tuna tartar with avocado, chili oil, rice pearls and our BFF aioli. Tuna and avocado is arguably my favorite food combination to begin with, and, man, did Double Knot get this right. The creamy AF avo and the generous chunks of tuna ended the dinner on the best possible note.
As far as drinks go, the Two Lovers Knot ($9 happy hour, $11 regular) was refreshing and simple. The champagne masks the orange vodka, and the rasp- berry and yuzu make it crisp. It was like a classier version of the André, Svedka, Tropicana mix I hold so dear to my heart.
The namesake Double Knot ($13) mixes bourbon, rye, sweet and dry vermouth, bitters and barrel stave smoke. Yes, you read that correctly: they pour smoke into your drink. It smells like Christmas. Drink this if you’re a dad or trying to impress a date.
In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have ordered the tequila–based Grantchester Knot ($12) so soon after spring break. However, the orange cognac and Bénédictine made it just sweet enough for me to actually enjoy it.
We ended the experience with the mandarin tart with blood orange. The mandarin filling had a thin caramel texture and was sweet yet tangy, which the blood orange sauce took to the next level. In the basement of a Center City restaurant, the whipped cream dollop on top managed to spark fond memories of creamsicles, an impressive feat.