Having spent some quality eating time in the South is both a blessing and a curse.
Mostly, if you live in Philadelphia, it’s a curse because so few local kitchens have a clue as to how those regional specialties should really taste.
The new Lowcountry-theme Common Wealth in Old City can be added to the list of places that only sometimes gets it right.
The scallops with bacon sauce and collards over sweet corn hoecakes was a smart little South-meets-North riff.
And I was especially taken by the restaurant’s resurrection of that classic New Orleans Creole dish, Oysters Bienville.
Co-owner chef Joe Battista was inspired by a short stint in Charleston. But the dish, created at Antoine’s (then popularized at Arnaud’s), now has many variations. And these delicate mollusks – topped with a butter-rich bechamel studded with chopped shrimp and mushrooms – brought back memories of decadent roasted oysters done right.
The Virginia oysters inside were perfectly cooked and juicy, and the creamy stuffing clung to the meat but didn’t overwhelm.
And, for a moment, at least, the old curse took a lunch break. – Craig LaBan
Common Wealth, 319 Market St., 215-372-7581; commonwealthphila.com