Time Out says
A new hotel turns hotel dining on its head with solid Argentine fare.
The last thing I expect to smell the moment I walk into a hotel restaurant is a waft of smoke and meat from a wood-fired grill, but here we are at Rural Society in the new Loews Hotel. The second location of Philadelphia chef Jose Garces’s (Mercat a la Planxa) Argentine restaurant (the first opened in DC last July) is not just a great place for Argentine food, it’s a great steakhouse.
That scent of smoke pervades the space from the dark, elegant bar, where my date and I snacked on flaky Swiss chard empanadas while waiting for our table, to the dining room, where firewood is stacked along the walls and the rest of the space feels like a barn, with ropes suspended over the ceiling, white drapes around the teal booths, and black and white photos of cattle. The table arrangement is cozy, although next time I’d ask for a seat near the open kitchen, where there’s a clear view of the meat and seafood grilling on the parrilla.
Former Mercat a la Planxa chef Cory Morris is heading up the kitchen and serving a menu packed with Argentine staples like grilled meat, empanadas, provoleta, red wine and dulce de leche. The grill turns out solid dishes, like a gorgeous filet, bright pink inside and served pre-sliced (“for sharing,” our server said and, given how good the meat is, it's something you’ll want to do), with a pile of sea salt on the plate, and grilled lobster, perfectly cooked, lightly smoky and luxuriating in butter. Dulce de leche anchors the dessert menu, appearing in several offerings, including stuffed into thin crepes and accented with blackberry sorbet and sauce.
But when Rural Society strays from expectations, it really shines. Thinly sliced octopus is topped with bright sundried tomatoes and crunchy malbec chips. Wisconsin-red slabs of roasted red pepper get an assist from salty anchovies and creamy dabs of eggplant sauce. You need to add a side dish with the grilled entrees, and two worth trying are the roasted beets, which are chilled and served with olives and an orange coriander vinaigrette, and nury, potatoes sliced hasselback-style (which means they have crispy ridges) with a velvety interior and accompanying black truffle hollandaise.
Bold red wine is a natural pairing for this kind of food, and there are plenty of affordable South American wines to choose from. The rest of the beverage program includes South American and local brews, like Five Rabbit’s 5 Vulture, a dark ale with caramel and chilies, and a simple but thoughtful cocktail list, which includes a gin and tonic laced with Yerba Mate, a rejuvenating South American beverage, and Cocovino, which updates the kalimotxo, a blend of fruity red wine and coke, by adding vanilla and chili. The only miss was an overly sweet caipirinha—and the fact that my table never received the bread basket and accompanying sauces we spied on other tables.
When my date and I went to look at the open kitchen at the end of the evening, a chef chatted with us and told us how the grills worked—we may have left smelling like a barbecue joint, but Rural Society is much more refined.
455 N Park Dr
|Transport:||El: Red to Grand. Bus: 2, 29, 65, 66, 120, 121, 124.|
|Opening hours:||Breakfast Mon-Fri 6:30-11am, Sat-Sun 7-11:30am. Lunch daily 11:30am-3pm. Dinner Sun-Thu 5-10pm; Fri, Sat 5-11pm|
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