At five in the evening, cars cruise down Chestnut Street, tourists stroll around Center City, and locals make their way back home after work. Meanwhile, Helm Rittenhouse is just getting started for the night. The restaurant walls, decorated with portraits of Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar, greet you upon entrance. String lights adorn the bar menu, and the seating area is incredibly intimate, with an array of tables facing large windows welcoming in the Philadelphia evening.
Helm is designed for sharing. The small–plate style allows guests to taste various items from the menu that are crafted from locally–sourced ingredients.
We chose two starters. The latke arrived fairly soon out of the kitchen, warming our stomachs in a matter of minutes. The satisfaction of the first crunch, smothered in a creamy green poblano sauce, was unmatched. The portion size was just enough for sharing. Following it was the bass, scattered about the plate among pickled radish in a clear sauce. The unique preparation ensured it stayed crispy. It served as a light palate–cleanser before the waitress introduced us to what I considered the heart of the meal: the fettuccine.
Coated in truffle shavings and mixed with cream–encased mushrooms, this pasta felt comforting. Despite the thick sauce, it wasn't too heavy, and the truffle enhanced more than it overpowered. Accompanying it was the cut of pork belly, glazed with a sticky–sweet crust, yet maintaining a salty aftertaste. It shared the plate with a simple vegetable medley, providing a nice palate cleanser.
For dessert, we settled on the gâteau basque and the butter cake (both $12). The basque, covered with a thick dollop of cream, retained a semisweet sophistication Helm has acquired over time. The butter cake, paired with glazed pineapple, offered notes of vanilla while encapsulating the tart sweetness of the fruit.
Through the decor and the food, Helm Rittenhouse provides a mature yet flirty atmosphere. The warm lights, happy chatter, and delicious yet reasonably priced food make Helm a great spot for friends to come together before a night on the town.
TL;DR: Cool, unique flavors meant for sharing.
Location: 1901 Chestnut St 2nd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Hours: Mon—Thurs: 5 p.m.—11 p.m.
Fri—Sat: 5 p.m.— 2 a.m.