Tapas is the absolute perfect solution to the “I am hungry, but it is to late to eat dinner,” and the best spot to get tapas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is “Valanni.”
Valanni offers an array of dishes to satisfy the palate, like the classic fried calamari with roasted peanuts, sirracha aioli, & pickled peppers; now I must admit after a series of eating calamari how different can it possibly taste, what new spin can actually be done, and the answer is none, but when you dip the calamari into this sirracha aioli all of a sudden you have and old bride who decided to spruce up a little and bring back the spice into the relationship. Then there is the “grilled lamb marguez” which in laymen terms is grilled lamb sausage with onions and peppers, and in Brioche terms absolutely divine, the lamb wasn’t gamey, but subtle in taste, with a backdrop of spice from the peppers and onions…HOME RUN.
Now if you didn’t know whenever you go to tapas a restaurant this is the perfect opportunity to order multiple dishes, have your table filled with all types of delectables, and not appear gluttonous. With that being written the list goes on to ordering “spicy pulled chicken empanadas” with machego, cilantro, and chipotle horseradish aioli, the chicken was tender, spicy, and the dough which can truly make or break your empanada experience was flaky and light. Now on to the most interesting tapa of the night the “figs in a blanket” which is bleu cheese, applewood smoked bacon, marcona almonds, wrapped around a fig, the sweetness from the fully ripe fig and the saltiness of the bacon, the creaminess of the bleu cheese, made my eyes roll back in my head; chef John Strain knocked this idea out of the park with its execution.
Now I love Israeli couscous from Trader Joe’s and I fancy myself in being able to make a good bowl of this stuff, but when I tasted the couscous at Valanni, I came to my senses and I realized I am no chef and Trader Joe’s should not be misconstrued for restaurant food, because it was fluffy, mine is fluffy but not Valanni fluffy, it was seasoned with more than butter and Mrs. Dash, which is what mine is, needless to write theirs were way better than mine.
Now I hate to write this and because it grieves me I will keep this short, the pan seared lump crab cakes, they weren’t horrible, they weren’t inedible, but they were full of to much filler, and where there is more filler than there is crab well…what you have is not delectable.
Valanni you have done a fine job in the tapas world and I confident that all the late night snackers of the world will thank you.