The adventures of a restaurant critic can sometimes be quite humorous. Last week, I had a craving for fish and chips because I watched the premiere of “Around the World in 80 Plates,” on Bravo. The participants were in London where they had to cook pub fare in famous pubs.
“I want fish and chips,” I said to Sandy.
A few days later, Edward and I headed to South Philly to review a pub that offers fish and chips.
“This is not for me,” I said as I entered a dark womb-like room filled with noise and loud music. The place looked — well — dirty. I glanced at a platter of food, which I would not serve to animals or humans.
So we went to plan B. We rode around South Philly and happened upon a long-standing restaurant that I had not reviewed. I believe it was closed for quite some time, but new owners have arrived. Edward found a parking spot, and owners and staff met me at the door to tell me their hot-water tank blew.
Back in the car, after an hour on the road, we chatted about other choices. By this time, I was so hungry, my stomach was talking. We decided to review The Wishing Well in Bella Vista.
“Maybe they have fish and chips,” I said with a tired sigh.
We slid onto a high-top table for four and perused a menu, which was all over the map. There is a strong accent on barbecue along with the usual wing, French onion soup, hummus, chili, sandwiches and quesadillas. Alas, no fish and chips.
The barkeep mixed perfect martinis ($10) and turned the televisions to the Phillies, who were playing the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Calamari ($9) and spinach salad ($8) calmed us as we were quite ravenous. Whole baby squid, totally free of grease, were seasoned and dusted with cornmeal and flash fried to a golden brown. A slightly sweet chili dipping sauce came with the order although the cherry peppers and cilantro, which were listed on the menu, did not.
The spinach salad was slightly overdressed but included bits of bacon, sweet red onion, sliced cremini mushrooms, a hard-cooked egg sliced in half and candied nuts. It lacked eye appeal but was ordinary.
I have loved Cuban sandwiches ever since I sampled my first bite in Miami’s Little Havana when I was a teenager. This inventive culinary marvel is the Cuban version of a panino. Ingredients can vary but pork is a necessity as are pickles and mustard.
The Wishing Well’s Castro ($13) was a poor imitation. It consisted of roast pork, tasso — a once hard-to-find ham from New Orleans — and Swiss cheese served on a long roll. The bread was too doughy and the sandwich was not hot-pressed. Someone in the kitchen melted the cheese on the bread rather than on the pork and ham, thus I could barely taste the cheese, which was not hot and gooey as it should’ve been. One gets a choice of sides with sandwiches. Fried onion rings were piping hot, lacked flavor and were so greasy I tried blotting them with paper napkins, to no avail.
“The calamari was not greasy at all,” I said. “I wonder how this happened.”
The pulled pork ($11) was a bit better although it was topped with very hot and spicy barbecue sauce. It was served on a Sarcone’s brioche bun. We liked the homemade chopped coleslaw, which was slightly sweet and retained some crunch. Edward ordered French fries that required a sprinkling of salt but could have crisper. They were a bit greasy, but not as greasy as the onion rings.
Service was friendly and attentive. Bar patrons, the majority of whom were eating big burgers, also were enjoying the Phillies game and each other’s company.
One tip of the toque to The Wishing Well.
The Wishing Well
767 S. Ninth St.