Innovative seasonal menu
In this tiny dining room, you might feel too intimate with neighboring tables
Any Philadelphian will tell you that BYOBs in their city are about as common as seeing the Yankees in the postseason. That being said, finding a first rate Mediterranean BYOB on South Street has never been an easy proposition. Chef Ian Moroney has answered the call by creating a winning formula at Pumpkin. His girlfriend Hillary Bor runs the front of the house, and the restaurant's name refers not to the large orange gourd, but to Moroney's cutesy nickname for her.
The shoebox size, 28-seat dining room does not lend itself to those who suffer from claustrophobia. Orange curtains and bizarre window treatments add to the eclectic, yet intimate atmosphere.
Pumpkin's most prominent asset is undoubtedly the breadth of its menu. Appetizers include grilled quail, a mushroom tart, steamed mussels and a gratin of bay scallops. Of these mouthwatering options, I indulged in the quail with citrus and vin cotto ($10). The meat was cooked medium-rare to perfection, with the sweetness from the quail dressing complimenting the meat's gamy taste. The unorthodox combination of bay scallops with creamed leeks and oyster mushrooms ($9.75) was also a triumph in presentation and taste. Served in an elaborate oyster shell, the scallops were not overly chewy, and the leeks added sweetness to the scallop juice.
For the main endeavor, I took a figurative trip to the Aloha State with the seared tuna finished with chimichurri sauce, pineapple sals, and sweet potato fries ($24). The medium-rare tuna's flavor had a sensational combination of Cajun zest and sweetness that tends to accompany southern comfort cooking. The grilled hanger steak with wild mushrooms and madeira sauce ($24) provided a hearty option. Although the meat was sufficiently tender and moist, each bite left the unmistakable taste of charcoal. Overall, the entrees tended to be rather substantial portions.
On the whole, the dessert menu was unimaginative and showcased Pumpkin's dire need for a pastry chef. The chocolate banana bread pudding ($6) provided the only highlight, as the rich chocolate sufficiently satisfied my fix.
The seasonal menu is constantly evolving as Chef Moroney attempts to reinvent his ambitious Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant has already acquired a devoted following, as these patrons will testify that this trendy, upbeat South Street eatery provides diners with creative and flavorful dishes that suit any occasion.