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Winthorpe and Valentine

By Phyllis Stein-Novack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted May. 25, 2011

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“Trading Places,” starring Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy, is one funny movie. Filmed in Philadelphia, it was a modern day rendition of “The Prince and the Pauper.” Aykroyd played the stuck-on-himself rich boy named Louis Winthorpe, and Murphy was the con man par excellence named Billy Ray Valentine.

Since the movie has strong ties to our city, I had a good chuckle when I noticed the restaurant in the Westin Hotel is now called Winthorpe and Valentine. Great idea. I doubt the hotel executives would have called it Duke & Duke, the snobby wealthy brothers who turn the tables on poor Winthorpe who is in charge of their financial empire.

I glanced at the menu and found it featured simple dishes prepared with first-rate ingredients. My quiet dinner at Winthorpe and Valentine was a breath of fresh air.

I sipped a Rob Roy ($12) at the bar and enjoyed a few nibbles of complimentary beef tenderloin kept warm in a silver chafing dish. A hostess seated me in a well-lit area of the dining room so I could read the food issue of The New Yorker without experiencing eye strain.

A hearty tureen of chicken noodle soup ($6) immediately warmed me up. It was brimming with good things like extra fine egg noodles, diced carrots, onion and celery and bits of juicy chicken floating in a rich, homemade chicken stock. It was seasoned just right and did not a require a shake of salt and pepper.

My server brought me a wooden box with individual compartments. One contained two fresh rolls, others held small, raw baby carrots with their tops attached, a small red apple and nuts with a nutcracker so I could enjoy a bit of a nosh between courses. I noticed a metal flask on the table. Since Prohibition has been gone since 1933, I doubted it contained bathtub gin or watered-down Scotch.

“It has olive oil inside,” my server said. “I can also bring you some butter for your bread.”

As I munched, I enjoyed the quiet tranquility of the room which has a club-like atmosphere. Dark wood is featured here along with red chairs and comfortable banquettes.

Next up was an endive salad ($11) that was large enough for two. The plate contained individual leaves of fresh crisp Belgian endive, scatterings of sugared walnuts, bites of tangy blue cheese lightly bathed in a roasted garlic vinaigrette dressing. I found myself either enjoying this dish with a knife and fork or simply picking up an endive leave, which served as a delicious, edible shovel for the walnuts and blue cheese.

I always enjoy a hefty pork chop, especially when the chef does not overcook it to a dry dust. At Winthorpe and Valentine, the entrée ($24) was an example of how good a simple dish turns out to be when the chef respects the ingredients. The pork chop was pink inside and very succulent. Natural pan juices were seasoned and reduced a bit to serve as the enhancing sauce. A mound of piping hot mashed potatoes — emphasis on “hot” — here were creamy and buttery with taste and texture. A half-dozen fresh local asparagus were included with dinner.

I asked our server if Murray the bartender could select a white wine and a red wine for me to enjoy with dinner. A buttery Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon from California were a bit pricey ($15), but sipped well with my meal. Portions were generous, as I could not finish either glass. So many restaurants serve small glasses of wine these days.

I cannot tell you how pleasurable it was to sit in a quiet space and enjoy a good meal. It is such a rarity these days and Winthorpe and Valentine affords its guests just that.

Two-and-a half tips of the toque to Winthorpe and Valentine. SPR

 

Winthorpe and Valentine

99 S. 17th St.
Westin Hotel, Liberty Place
215-575-6930

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1. Lon Francisco said... on Jun 8, 2011 at 03:39PM

“It's not fair to assign 2 1/2 toques out of three without at least one negative remark in the review. What held you back from giving a top score?”

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2. Lon Francisco said... on Jun 8, 2011 at 07:07PM

“I decided to answer my question (above) with a visit.  I was drawn by Phyllis' description of QUIET.

To my dismay, on a Wednesday at 6 PM, it was very NOISY.  A group of business types was whooping it up in the bar, and their loud conversation and laughter floated through the two doorways connected to the restaurant.  As if on cue, most of the group left at 6:30 and dining then became tolerable.

Sevice was fine, prices were competitive, and the food was tasty.  Minor complaints:
1) The chicken pot pie had POTATOS as a vegetable and the peas and carrots were factory-produced, not fresh.  No celery. Too much cream & butter.
2) The banquettes lean back at an uncomfortable angle.  One must sit up ramrod to eat, with no lower back support.
3) The street entrance to the hotel is across a car driveway and is unattractive.

If you must go to a hotel for fine dining, skip this place.  The restaurant above the Bellevue, as one example, is much quieter and has a nice city view.”

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