Located just off what I like to think of as Philly’s Restaurant Row—that stretch of 13th Street between Walnut and Chestnut—sits Maison 208, an expensive, flashy, upscale New American and French style spot. The restaurant comes with high expectations. Its chef, Sylva Senat, was a contestant on Season 14 of Bravo’s Top Chef. Its website boasts clean, well–lit pictures filled with marble and chandeliers. Its menu includes ingredients like foie gras and truffle foam. And while I certainly enjoyed my meal there, I found the location to be emblematic of the experience itself—pretty good, but just slightly misses Philadelphia’s true best.
Our meal began with the island taro lollipops as an appetizer, which I can best explain as a cross between arancini and a meatball. The presentation was unlike any I had seen. The three fried balls were served on sticks resting on the side of the plate, coated with yes, truffle foam, that spilled over the edge. A nice serving of what they call gold rice pearls, essentially puffed rice, was sprinkled over the whole extravaganza. Though I wasn’t sure about the flavors—the taro base was seasoned with curry that seemed both to overpower and to not quite match the truffle—I was excited by the presentation and the chance to try something unique.
After the lollipops came our drinks, which were admittedly fun. I had the Tahitian rum punch, which tasted exactly like it sounds—like fruity tropical island getaway. It was delicious and served as a refreshing palate cleanser after the strongly seasoned first dish, but for those that don’t have as much of a sweet tooth, maybe look elsewhere.
Next was my personal favorite dish, the Australian lamb chops. Although a bit of a culturally ambiguous dish, with lamb chops served over a pile of Japanese Okinawa potatoes, the potatoes were flavorful and buttery, and the lamb was melt–in–your–mouth tender. Paired nicely with the hazelnut almond spice crust, the dish had the perfect amount of kick to warm me up.
Last was our entrée, Skuna Bay Salmon, served over corn pudding and heirloom cherry tomatoes drizzled in aged sherry. It was nice to have a traditional dish after the more creative ones we had tried. Aside from the elaborate presentation—a silver dome was lifted off the plate revealing greenery sticking out of the pudding—the dish was pretty simple. The corn pudding was simultaneously sweet and tangy, and complemented well with a tomato and a bite of salmon, but was also equally strong on its own.
Our meal was finished off with two petite scoops of ice cream, one salted almond and one apple pie sorbet. The sorbet truly tasted like frozen apple sauce and seemed like the almond’s perfect pair.
If a friend invited me, I’d definitely return to Maison 208, and would probably have a second good experience. But if I were in charge, you know where I’d be: further up the street on 13th, choosing a consistent Philly classic, sticking to tried–and–true Restaurant Row.
TL;DR: Come here for the atmosphere and interesting presentation, but be prepared to pay for it.
Location: 208 S 13th Street
Monday–Thursday: 5 p.m.–10 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: 5 p.m.–11 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.