August 24, 2014

Bank & Bourbon at the Loews Hotel

Admit it - you're a little biased against hotel restaurants, just like we are. Of course we had a superb meal at The Four Seasons but that's in a class of its own. And Lacroix in the Rittenhouse Hotel is supposedly excellent. But I won't deny that we generally have lower expectations for hotel food vs. the price and tend to avoid them at home and when we travel. Anyone else feel the same?

The popular Secret Knock
Bank & Bourbon, the new restaurant in Philadelphia's Loews Hotel, surprisingly exceeded our expectations on food but was a little rough around the edges on service.

It makes better use of the huge corner space than the last occupant, Sole Food, with dining tables, an open kitchen and lounge area, and a nice-sized bar extended out into the lobby. If I were from out of town and staying at the Loews, it would look like an inviting place to grab a drink.

Obviously bourbon is their "thing." Our bourbon-enthusiast friend enjoyed one of their bourbon flights and I was a big fan of the Secret Knock, a refreshing cocktail of house-aged whiskey, green tea, lemon and clarified milk. It's impossible to imagine what those ingredients taste like together so just trust me. The milk part sounds weird but it's practically clear, I promise.

Pastrami Short Rib
I'd advise the waiters to avoid freely admitting if they are "not a bourbon drinker," like ours did. No need for that awkward moment, just send over the bourbon master to help us choose. Service was also a little slow, bread disappeared just after the starters, and they never asked if we wanted second drinks... all a bit strange for having been opened a few months by now.

On the plus side, the food at Bank & Bourbon was pretty good. We all really enjoyed the beef short rib, pastrami-brined for something different and quite delicious, as well as the roasted corn salad, served with snap peas, parmesan, sesame granola and a citrus vinaigrette. Pea pierogies were a hit, but super tiny so if sharing among four don't expect more than two bites.

Roasted Corn Salad, great for a light starter
Pea Pierogies. One of the only ways to make me eat peas.

The best part about the wild king salmon entree was its bed of creamy yellow sweet potato mash; the rest of the dish was fine, no complaints. Our friends enjoyed the Alaskan halibut and the lamb trio (roasted loin, crispy belly and lamb sausage). Bradd went with the whole fish of the day, a porgy that came out in quite beautiful fashion, nestled in a large hot skillet with a ton of roasted vegetables and a succulent sauce underneath.

Whole fish of the day. Sauce underneath was actually pretty awesome, too.

For a few parting thoughts, it was interesting to note that most of the tables around us were drinking wine, cocktails or - gasp - Miller Lite. Maybe they were all out-of-towners who didn't pick Bank & Bourbon for its cordial list, but hopefully the restaurant will begin attracting the local bourbon-loving crowd. They actually do tastings every Wednesday as well as private events, for those who want to learn more about bourbon.

It would also be really cool to see Bank & Bourbon transition into a nightlife hotspot like some of the hotel restaurant/bars we've seen in London. Throw a good DJ in one corner, attract the young & beautiful locals as well as travelers, and it could be a prime spot to hang late night and enjoy a quality drink. 

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