251 S. 18th St.
Philadelphia , PA 19103
Neighborhood: Rittenhouse Square
Parking: Nearby lot and on street.
Related reviews: A fine chef at last in his elegant element
Cuisine type: American
Meals Served: Brunch - Sat., Sun. Lunch - Tue., Wed., Thu., Fri. Dinner - Tue., Wed., Thu., Fri., Sat., Sun.
Style: It's a dual comeback at the Art Alliance on Rittenhouse Square, where one of the city's most elegant indoor-outdoor spaces has been revived by talented young Nicholas Elmi, who's cooking like a chef with something to prove after his shorthanded stewardship over the old Le Bec Fin's dying days. The Tavern's unique space is ideal for many moods, from garden alfresco to fine-dining manse, and so is Elmi's menu, at once seasonal, technically sophisticated, and artful in its ambitious New American takes on familiar flavors. Dinner entrees, $15-$29.
Specialties: White bean speck toast; pickled vegetables; crispy frog legs; terrine platter; fluke crudo; chilled corn soup; shrimp pave; turbot; scallops; cauliflower "steak"; quinoa-crusted rack of pork; burger; soft-shell sandwich; brown butter cake with fennel; cherry tart; dark chocolate tart.
Alcohol: More than adequate, but not yet a Tavern strong point. A concise but well-chosen international wine list focused on crisp, interesting whites and roses for summer (gruner veltliner, txakolina, vinho verde, Sancerre, Chateau d'Esclans), almost entirely under $50 a bottle with lots of choices by the glass or quartino. The red wine selection, though, is oddly thin, and the list needs to grow to keep pace with the kitchen. There are a dozen craft beers to choose from, and a decent list of cocktails, though these, too, could use more oomph.
Weekend noise: The main dining area is in the reasonable low-80 decibels, the back room amps up to a noisy 88, and the garden is a generally calm 75. (Ideal is 75 decibels or less.)
Hours: Lunch Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner Tuesday through Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, until 11 pm.; Sunday, until 9 p.m. Brunch Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Monday.