On a tiny corner in South Kensington/Fishtown, Cadence opened about six months ago, headed by three defectors of the High Street Hospitality Group (founders of a.kitchen, a.bar, and other restaurants). The vibe is cozy and relaxing, perfect for a small gathering of friends, a date, or—if you email them—a group event.
You can sit at a table, booth, or the chef’s counter, which offers up a front–row view of the masters at work. We were seated at a table by the window, but on a second visit, I’d love to watch the process that goes into making such a thoughtful food experience. Every ingredient was carefully chosen to serve a role in the flavor of the dish.
Much like the Restaurant Week experience, Cadence offers set prices for three course meals on Mondays and four course meals on Tuesdays through Saturdays. You can purchase a la carte if you prefer, since the deal only saves you $2 on most days and $7 on Mondays. Although the portions are small, they are surprisingly filling, so it’s a bit inconvenient that you aren’t eligible for the deal if you decide to share dishes like we did.
Our server was attentive throughout the night, always willing to answer questions and provide recommendations. Although Cadence is BYOB (with no corkage fees!), they partner with Bottle Bar East of Fishtown, so their servers have suggested wine pairings available if you’re feeling fancy. We, however, started with two drinks from their non–alcoholic menu: a ruby 18 black hot tea and a simco–hopped kombucha. The tea was comforting, strong, and bitter, though not as bitter as most black teas. The kombucha was a good palate cleanser in between courses. Both drinks came in glassware that added to the effortlessly cool ambiance of Cadence, a restaurant where even the tableware is thoughtfully curated.
We were served a complimentary course to start off our meal, giving us a taste of what the four course meal plans on Tuesdays through Saturdays are like. Based on reviews of the restaurant, I think they do this for every diner in order to enhance the experience. We received their heirloom tomato dish, which includes grilled cheese, cucumber, brown butter, and pickled mustard seeds. For two non–tomato people, we both thoroughly enjoyed the dish. The grilled cheese was amazing, like some sort of cheese–potato hybrid creature with added bread crumbs that provided a well–appreciated crunch. It was simple, yet flavorful, just enough to whet our appetites for the rest of the meal.
Our next course was the herb dumplings served with lamb ragu. The cheesy dumplings melted in your mouth like putty, but the lamb stole the show. It was so well–seasoned and tender that we savored each bite just to make the small portion last longer.
After two fantastic opening dishes, our main course–a beef sirloin with buttermilk ranch, grilled carrots, beets, and dried dates all served over a bed of swiss chard–was disappointing. The beef was cooked well–rare, just how I like it–but lacked the flavor of our previous dishes. The buttermilk ranch added a nice creaminess, but not enough to counteract the tepid flavor of the meat. Had the dish been served with more of the ranch, it may have stood a better chance at competing with the others. We actually enjoyed the salad the best. The beets were meaty, and their juice provided a needed acidity to the chard, while the dates added a nice chewy texture. If we hadn’t been so impressed with the other two dishes, I’m sure this would have been fine, but after those two courses, I expected more for the main event.
For dessert, we chose the pecan brown butter tart. It was deconstructed, and the crust came with a whipped ricotta and stone fruit on the side. The tart was tiny, but still buttery and sweet from the brown butter sauce. A second small dessert—tahini shortbread stuffed with a strawberry sauce and placed delicately inside a teacup—accompanied the check. The shortbread looked like a cookie, but was soft like bread. Despite the adorable presentation, the strawberry filling was sour and bitter, a total contrast to the sweet presentation of the tart. Some may like that, but I was not a fan.
Overall, I’d say it was a beautifully thought–out menu, and despite some blunders, I’m still looking forward to experiencing what else Cadence has to offer. Since the restaurant is still new, I’d say the shortcomings come with the territory of figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Regardless, the chefs definitely can only be described as artists.
TL;DR: Go to Cadence for a Restaurant Week–style meal, thoughtful cooking, and great service!
Location: 161 West Girard Ave.
Mon–Thurs: 5: 30 p.m.–10 p.m.
Fri–Sat: 5: 30 p.m.–10:30 p.m.