It was a turbulent ride with Coquette and Adsum.
The echo-y, tiled space at Fifth and Bainbridge has been no stranger to drama these past few years. When it was Coquette, a car plowed through the windows. Then, Matt Levin’s Adsum opened with a bang, garnering gobs of critical praise. A little more than a year later, he left. Now, his former partner, Kar Vivekananthan, as well as Manayunk’s Richard Rivera and Rob Nydick, have transformed the space into Tapestry, a neighborhood-friendly spot that seems determined to keep things as straightforward and drama free as possible.
The result is a menu that’s less challenging than it was under Levin, but that shows plenty of potential, especially with its casual bent and generally laudable execution.
At Tapestry, you really can’t go wrong with a brew and almost anything fried. The beer list is expansive, with approximately 175 by the bottle and a rotating selection of 24 on tap.
Order a Ballast Point Piper Down Scottish-style ale from California and tear into a plate of fried chicken, a salty, dizzyingly crispy, thick-crusted plateful that’s among the better versions in the city right now. A side of slaw, or some sort of acid to cut it, would have framed it even better than the excellent fries, but it’s hard to complain about a plateful as well-prepared as this.
The vegetarian chili is also a standout: the pinto, cannellini, red kidney and black beans are all relatively toothsome despite the fact that they’re canned, and the sweetness of paprika and cooked-down tomatoes lend it contrast. It’s a hearty, dense enough bowl to make you forget that it’s vegetarian—which, it seems to me, is exactly what good vegetarian food should do.
That same sense of balance bolstered the octopus salad, where meaty coins of the stuff were simply poached then seared, and dotted a tangle of bright arugula, briny capers, chickpeas and roasted red peppers. The burger, though nothing unique, nonetheless acquitted itself admirably; the 80-20 chuck is ground fresh at Rivera’s and Nydick’s Agiato in Manayunk. Pizzas are generally a solid go-to as well with their leopard-spotted and yeasty crusts.
Desserts, however, underachieved. Pot de creme would have been a perfectly serviceable little demitasse of chocolate had it not been covered over by a gelatinous, only vaguely-vanilla-tasting skin. As for the bread pudding, it arrived marooned on the plate like some sort of sad, isolated island, a cloyingly sweet ocean of creme lapping its sides. The bread itself was too tough, and the center was cold—never a good sign.
Right now, at least, this latest iteration of the space seems to be the kind of restaurant that the neighborhood probably always needed, a nice home for a drink and a reasonably priced, casual meal. But it still has a bit of work to do—some tucking in of the proverbial corners and tightening up of its executions.
One of the main complaints leveled at Adsum was that its menu was a bit too outré for regular visits from neighbors. (I disagreed, but still ...) As Coquette, it seemed to have angered the gods from the beginning for some reason. But with a few tweaks here and there, Tapestry will reach its potential and do the very pleasant space justice. In the meantime, stop by, check out the new brews and tear into that fried chicken.
700 S. Fifth St. 215.923.1620. tapestryphilly.com
Cuisine: American casual.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 5pm-1:30am; Sat.-Sun., noon-1:30am.
Price range: $4-$15.
Atmosphere: Classically styled and convivial.
Food: Some real highlights, but desserts need serious help.
Service: Friendly and appropriately laid-back.