As many Randomly Noted readers know, this blogger looks for every opportunity he gets to write about the business of food – especially when the subject is good restaurants with inventive chefs.
Last year, two of my favorite restaurants went out of business – victims of the recession. They weren’t the most expensive places in the world but the food was high-end and on the upper end of what people might want to pay to go out and eat. The first to shutter was in Philadelphia and called “Ansill” after the chef by the same name – David Ansill. Prior to running this sizable restaurant with a bar and pretty decent sized staff, David ran a 32-seat BYOB with a handful of staff.
The other restaurant I loved that went under was called Pamplona and it was based in New York on 28th Street. Chef Alex Urena originally had a high-end Spanish restaurant but saw the economics of that would be tough even in good times. He went smaller scale with tapas at Pamplona. The small plates were pricy but very good. He closed last fall.
Fast forward a few months. Two bars in Philadelphia known more for their boutique beer selection rather than their bar food decide they want to upgrade their menus. And who do they hire? These two wonderful chefs – Ansill goes to Ladder 15 and Urena to the Devil’s Den.
I went to Ladder 15 over the weekend and it was classic Ansill. Incredible pairings of different foods on the plate matched with David’s very straight forward food philosophy – don’t be too clever; the chef should steer the food in the right direction, not overpower it.
The dish above was exactly that and the product of his creative thinking. One day his meat distributor delivered a Portuguese sausage – good but not what David ordered. But he had an idea. What if you add some chipotle peppers, Mexican cheese, grind up that sausage, add some tomato? The result: The Sloppy Jose.
You can’t help but think other restaurants that didn’t focus as much as they should on food are benefitting the way these two establishments are – out of work great chefs looking for a place to ply their trade.
Needless to say, food sales are up at Ladder 15 – significantly. I haven’t tried Urena’s food yet but if Alex is doing some of what he did at Pamplona, well, Devil’s den must be seeing a huge sales increase as well.