JG Domestic 2929 Arch St. (215) 222–2363 University City
Don't Miss: Brussels Sprouts Skip: Septa. Just walk. $$$
With the election coming up, public discourse is consumed with all things American: jobs, economy, stability. Honestly, you wouldn’t be out of your mind to think that your waiter’s pre–meal pep talk at JG Domestic (Jose Garces’s newest outpost) is actually a presidential stump speech, given its focus on the importance of eating and drinking American. But the restaurant’s devotion to domestic ingredients and beverages is admirable, and will have positive trickle–down effects for anyone who can afford a meal there.
A good number of the menu’s items are actually grown out in Bucks County, in a garden that the restaurant maintains. While preparation is certainly one of JG Domestic’s strong points, the menu’s backbone is its ingredients, which are fresh and top–notch.
This kind of freshness is what makes it possible for a bowl of pecans ($7) — an otherwise inconspicuous bar snack placed nonchalantly on our table — to leave such a lasting first impression. The pecans were smoked and thus took on an aromatic BBQ flavor. The restaurant’s freshly–baked rolls, another simple dining convention, were emblematic of JG Domestic as a whole: they were homey yet luxurious and, above all, delightful in their simplicity.
As we moved into more substantial territory, we remained pleased. Sure, plates like prosciutto with paper–thin melon ($9) and Landaff cheese with strawberry–black pepper jam ($7) were fresh and balanced, but JG Domestic began to shine when it upped the ante on preparation and flavor combinations. The corn soup ($10) was excellent, poured over a bowl of accoutrements such as a crab salad and drizzled with creme fraiche, and the truffle flatbread ($12) provided a rich fungal fix.
The restaurant showcased Garces’s signature genius for melding complementary flavors, with dishes like the Brussels sprouts ($8) and the half chicken ($21). The Brussels sprouts were a crispy, sweet standout, with a rich, textured flavor that came from the combination of pork belly, chestnut puree and orange segments. The chicken, roasted golden on the outside, was brightened by a trio of accompanying sauces, most notably the chimichurri. The jumbo gulf shrimp ($22) was just another example of a dish that benefited from remarkable freshness and subtle preparation. The day boat scallops ($24), while good, were not as good as the rest of the menu.
Situated a block north of 30th Street Station, JG Domestic may be located in one of Philadelphia’s more unsightly areas, but its proximity to campus (it’s only 5 blocks from Hill!) offers a Center City experience without any pesky treks across the Schuylkill.