Patou: Bad Food in a Big, Empty Room.

patou1.jpg

[where: 312 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106]

Call it foreshadowing. I had a bad feeling from the start.

The minute we walked into Patou and asked about getting some tapas, the hostess looked at us like we were from Mars.

“We don’t do tapas anymore.”

But, we pointed out, they’re described in detail on your website. “They are?”

She asked us if we’d like to stay for dinner, in a tone that suggested she really wouldn’t mind if we left. And yet we stayed.

We had a gift certificate, you see. Joe got some fabulous-looking deal at Restaurants.com— $4 for a $25 gift certificate (with the purchase of two dinner entrées). It was too good to be true! And it was.

It started when we sat down with the menu. We’d checked the menu out on Patou’s website and on Menupages.com, and everything looked delicious– with the Real Potato’s ongoing debate in mind, I had plans to order the foie gras terrine. And it was a great deal– three tapas for $14!

When we arrived, the menu outside had only appetizers and entrées. We went in, asked about tapas, and got that cold welcome, but we decided to sit down and read the menu– which was, I swear it, different from the menu outside. Joe ordered a nitro can of Boddington’s. Our server (who was also the hostess) came back a few minutes later to let him know that they didn’t have any Boddington’s left. He ordered a Flying Fish instead. Then she came back to tell us that the manager said they did have Boddington’s… and then, a few minutes after that, came by with a Flying Fish.

By the time we got settled, the table near us left, and we were now the only customers in this cavernous restaurant, though it was 9 pm on a Friday and Old City was bustling. Our server explained that they close at ten (funny, the website said 2 am) but that they were preparing to host a private party that night. Perhaps that was what was consuming the kitchen’s attention, since it certainly wasn’t on our food. I settled in with a tasty peach sangria and we ordered.

The starters were promising: Joe’s carrot-ginger soup, in particular, was delicious. Our server, who was friendly and cheerful, warned him that it was served cold– or wait, maybe it wasn’t, the menu didn’t say that anymore! It turned out to be room temperature, and it was lovely– slightly spicy and sweet with coconut milk. It was the highlight of the meal.

We also ordered a plate of fried calamari. It arrived heaped on a plate with a dish of sweet, sticky pineapple-chili sauce. The calamari was tender and tasty, without a hint of toughness, but somewhat heavy. Also in the heap were two breaded, deep-fried lemon slices, some lovely, sweet breaded onion slices, and a few random burnt french fries. Ew. I had to stop before we finished– I was starting to overload on grease.

Our entrées were somewhat less successful. Joe ordered the salmon en croute, a dry, unremarkable piece of salmon wrapped in soggy puff pastry and served over a bed of bitter, overcooked eggplant ratatouille that overwhelmed the flavor of the fish. I actually spat out my bite. Incidentally, the menu describes this as ” salmon with scallop and spinach mousse wrapped in puff pastry with asparagus, ratatouille and tarragon beurre blanc,” which in no way resembles the dish we were served.

Mine was a little better– I ordered the “vegetarian,” a huge bowl of orechiette (“ear”) pasta in a creamy truffle sauce with roasted mushrooms, escarole and onions. The escarole was bitter and unappealing, but the mushrooms were fine and the sauce was savory and silky. There was a heavy, greasy quality to the whole dish that weighed me down.

We were offered dessert, but decided to cut our losses and get out of there. We both had nasty cases of indigestion for the rest of the night.

I checked Patou’s website again today, and was surprised to note that our questions had been heard. The tapas menu has been taken down (though it’s still up at Menupages), and the site no longer lists any closing hours at all. My theory is that these deeply discounted Restaurants.com gift certificates are a last-ditch way for struggling restaurants to get butts into seats. Believe me, it was the only thing that kept our butts in their uncomfortable seats at Patou.

My advice? Don’t do it. It looks like a great deal, but when you’re still suffering hours after an awful meal, you’ll wish you had paid full price. We left feeling bloated and cheated. If you’re in Old City, get yourself a good meal at Eulogy or Cuba Libre, and stay far away from Patou.

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Patou in Philadelphia

One Response to “Patou: Bad Food in a Big, Empty Room.”

  1. Amit Says:

    There’s always a catch in the wonderful capitalist system we live in – and we almost always never discover it till it’s too late.🙂


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