When I visited In the Valley, I had to quickly dash inside to hide from the rainstorm outside. Yet, the calming ambiance of the bar immediately set the mood for a sophisticated culinary experience. The bistro–style string lights combined with steampunk lightbulb fixtures sets the vibe for this wine bar: eclectic, French–touched, with offerings that dredge up ingredients and palates previously unimagined or forgotten. This spot is the sister bar to Laurel, and is located next door on Passyunk and 11th.
With the menu ranging from koji–cured seafood to venison meatballs, each option represents a one–of–a–kind small plate that embraces its own eccentricity. As a date night spot, In the Valley could be a fun adventure in cuisine, where romantic low lights and shared portions lend themselves to a new foray between you and another. There’s even a kicking drink menu to boot—after all, this is a wine bar. I went with a friend, a photographer for Street.
We decide to sample the beef fat biscuit, koji–cured tuna, chicken liver stroopwafel, and smoked trout rillettes. The biscuit came first, and the tallow–based flavor profile of the pastry stood out in stark contrast to the sweet honey butter paired with it. As somebody who doesn’t typically eat red meat, this pastry immediately triggered thoughts of the last steak I had—probably four years ago at this point—and gave me a sense of FOMO for beef’s deep, earthy flavor. At just four dollars, this biscuit is a must.
Next came the koji–cured tuna, which was the biggest letdown of the meal. After watching Bon Appetit’s videos about koji—a sort of molded rice used to make various fermented Japanese dishes—this dish piqued my curiosity the most out of the whole menu. However, when sampled, the fish imparted the slightly pungent flavor of low tide, while the sauce had only a whisper of citrus to it, leading me to believe the koji itself was lost on the tuna. Definitely steer clear.
After an unpleasant encounter with fish, I started to worry about my choice in the chicken liver stroopwafel. However, after one bite, it was clear that ITV regained all credibility. Although the plating left me unimpressed, the tender, salty notes of the liver pate contrasted the sweet fruitiness of the blackberry agrodolce in a fury, all while the stroopwafel wafer delivered a satisfying crunch with caramel undertones. This plate was an appetizer and dessert all in one that I’m still thinking about—an absolute must for any ITV visit.
Finally, my adventure through In the Valley’s menu concluded with the smoked trout rillettes—suggested by the server for its universal appeal in both flavor and plating. When it came, I wasn’t disappointed. As if your morning bagel and lox went to culinary school, the creamy fish atop a perfectly–toasted sliver of pumpernickel with effervescent roe was a surprisingly hearty end to the meal.
All in all, In the Valley offered me a unique perspective on small plate dining. While some of the options were so–so, I would strongly recommend the spot to anyone looking for something completely distinct from the type of food we’re accustomed to in Philly—that is, somebody with an adventurous palate.
TL;DR: An adventurous, eclectic, and sultry wine bar with small plates to share, perfect for any date night.
Location: 11th and Passyunk
Hours: Sun.—Thurs.: 5 p.m.— 12 a.m.
Fri.—Sat.: 5 p.m.—2 a.m.