There comes a point when you've placed just one too many orders with campusfood.com and eaten one too many meals on the stack of Franzia boxes that serves as your classy coffee table. You long for a home-cooked meal at your kitchen table -- even if your mom was one of those who defrosted chicken tenders every night.
If you walk a few blocks up to 45th and head south past Osage Street, Marigold Kitchen is there to stand in for your mom's. Except I'd be insanely jealous of anyone whose mom cooked like Marigold's new chef, Michael Solomonov. Did she kick off dinner with amuse-bouches of tiny squares of toasted brioche topped with a smoked salmon mousse that's light as air? Um, not in my house.
The restaurant fills the first floor of a cozy West Philly townhouse, where tenants still occupy the rooms upstairs. Occasionally you'll see someone mosey through the dining room and head up the stairs for the night, just adding to Marigold's homey atmosphere. Kitchen-style wooden tables with blue tabletops, warmly lit by votives, are occupied by small groups of middle-aged locals and a few younger couples -- perhaps Penn students who have already discovered this gem.
After a summer hiatus, Marigold re-opened last week with Solomonov in the kitchen, and the menu has a different feel, drawing influences from his Israeli heritage.
Middle eastern flavors sneak into appetizers such as escargot with mushrooms, Israeli couscous and pine nuts ($9) and seared foie gras with apples and honey ($14). This Jewish-grandma style preparation of every gourmand's favorite delicacy, in co-owner Jonathan Makar's own words, "tastes like Rosh Hashana."
Entrees are creative yet restrained. Curry-braised monkfish was optimally flaky and fresh, accompanied by apple-celery ravioli ($25). The apple-celery combination was thoughtful and delicious, but the promised curry flavor was almost missing from the dish. Simple sounding pan seared chicken breast was a winner, juicy and crisp-skinned, served with an almond-ginger pastilla ($24) -- a stuffed puff pastry egg roll of sorts that we savored to the last crumb. A diner could order a plate of those and call it a day.
My dining companion oohed and aahed over the cheese plate, opting for the selection of five ($15) rather than three ($9). For me, if it doesn't have chocolate, it's just not dessert. The chocolate celery-seed tart was intriguing -- the rich, bittersweet chocolate paired flawlessly with light, refreshing celery leaf ice cream.
I'm tempted to swear off campusfood.com forever and make Marigold my daily dinner destination, but my puny bank account would soon diminish. Still, it's the perfect spot for an upscale taste of home, just a stroll away from campus.