Philadelphia Restaurants Unveil Spring Menus - Davio's, Opa, and Sbraga

As the seasons change, so do the menus at fine restaurants in the Philadelphia area.  Over the past month chefs have been unveiling new dishes to the delight of patrons.  We recently attended Spring 2012 tastings at Davio’s, Opa, and Sbraga.


Davio's - Northern Italian Steakhouse


(L to R) General Manager Ettore Ceraso, Executive Chef David Boyle, Publicist Anny Deirmenjian and Owner Steve DiFillippo at Davio's
Davio's is part of a small East Coast chain, and is located on the second floor of the historic Provident Bank Building just off of Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Row. Patrons enter at street level, then take an elevator that opens into Davio's bar and an immense dining room.

Davio's four-course tasting opened with a glass of prosecco and a trio of hors d’oeuvres: crab salad on a pasta chip, mini Kobe beef meatballs, and tuna tartare with cucumber. Next up were the appetizers and salad. Raspberry Point oysters with smoked chicken salad, a traditional pairing in the Philadelphia area, were a standout.  Davio’s General Manager Ettore Ceraso explained that early in the 19th century oysters were cheap and plentiful in this region, but chicken was an expensive delicacy, so people served oysters garnished with small amounts of chicken salad.  The Caprese salad featured heirloom tomatoes and artisanal mozzarella with Balsamic vinegar on a platter with baby arugula and lean prosciutto. The Philly Cheese Steak Spring Rolls - a Davio's trademark dish now available in stores - were addictive.

Braised Lamb Shank
Raspberry Mousse Cake
For the main course diners chose from four entrees: lobster ravioli with fennel and spinach, sautéed branzino with white asparagus and mussels, grilled pork chop with Brussels sprouts and pancetta, or braised lamb shank with white bean ragu and carrots. I had the lamb;  the Flintstone-sized portion was slow-cooked and so tender that I ate the whole thing without using my knife.  Dessert was a chocolate raspberry mousse cake with Chambord.  It was dense without being heavy, and the berries were just-picked fresh.

Davio’s - 111 South 17th Street Philadelphia Pa 19103
Breakfast: Mon–Fri, 7am to 10:30am
Lunch:  Mon–Fri, 11:30am to 2:30pm
Dinner:  Mon–Sat, 5pm to 11pm | Sun 5pm to 10p


 Opa - Modern Greek Cuisine


Server Stacey Lyons with Chef Andy Brown at Opa
Opa  is on Sansom Street between 12th and 13th in Philadelphia's Midtown Village area. They serve modern Greek cuisine, and occasionally host art and fashion events such as last summer's series of Glendi Thursdays (Glendi means "party" in Greek).

The chef’s tasting at Opa began with a glass of sparkling white wine – Ode Panos from Domaine Spiropoulos, an organic winery in Greece - and Maimou, a cocktail with gin, orange juice and ouzo.  This was followed by wine-braised  roasted artichoke with shaved bottarga, a salt-cured Mediterranean fish roe, and ladolemono, a classic Greek sauce of lemon juice and olive oil.

Mussels and Pita
The mussels arrived in a broth of tomato, saffron and citrus with a side of pita bread.  I have never cared for mussels, but I was drawn in by the aroma. The mussels at Opa were superior to any I've had in the past - they were plump, juicy and tender, and so delicious I ate more than my share. I have been craving them ever since. 

Greek Panna Cotta
The next dish was pan-seared Yellowfin tuna with pickled vegetables and shoestring potatoes in a yogurt sauce studded with capers, then crispy, duck confit with warm mushroom salad and a date-raisin emulsion that had a taste and texture similar to apple butter. Chef Andy’s new dessert, a Greek yogurt panna cotta topped with strawberry foam and salted pistachios, was creamy and light with the ideal amount of sweetness to complement the meal.

Opa - 1311 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Mon-Sat, 5pm to 2am | Sunday - Closed 


Sbraga – Modern American Cuisine

 Chef Kevin Sbraga with Line Cook Jocelyn Tirado at Sbraga
Sbraga is in Philadelphia on a stretch of South Broad Street known as The Avenue of the Arts; it has recently enjoyed status as a go-to location for new upscale restaurants.

At Sbraga, named for and run by Chef Kevin Sbraga (who became a household name during his triumphant run on the Bravo network’s 7th season of Top Chef), patrons were seated at a marble counter mere inches from the action in the restaurant’s open kitchen.  Watching the staff effortlessly prepare and elegantly plate the six courses was like taking a gourmet cooking class.

Meatloaf with Bacon Marmalade
The meal started with Sbragas’s signature foie gras soup seasoned with lemongrass and kaffir lime poured over a bed of rose petal relish with vanilla-poached pears.  It was perfectly paired with a sparkling rosé.  Crispy fried green tomatoes coated with panko and buttermilk were served with cumin crème fraîche, cherry tomatoes, fragrant dill (Sbraga said his staff teases him because he likes the herb so much)
and sweetbreads. Seared
Orange Creamsicle
scallops were accompanied by melt-in-your-mouth pork belly, compressed watermelon, jalapeno, and quinoa tabouleh. The meatloaf, topped with bacon marmalade (that I would buy by the case should Sbraga ever decide to market it) and served with asparagus three ways (grilled, raw, and pureed), was followed by a cheese plate with blueberry-cardamom mostarda (a case of this too, please).  The meal closed with what Sbraga described as his pastry chef  “wife’s version of a creamsicle” – a refreshing yogurt mousse with sections of sweet orange topped with tart orange granita.

Sbraga - 440 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146
Mon-Thu, 5pm to 10pm | Fri-Sat, 5pm to 11pm | Sun – Closed

Photos by Glamorosi

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