Russet: high-class fare in a low-key environment

Operating out of an unassuming townhouse in Rittenhouse Square, Russet has a humble aesthetic compared to other restaurants in the area, with a charming and cozy space accented by spare décor and candlelight.

 

Simple yet effective is the name of the culinary game on Russet’s Italian- and French-inspired menu, as it offers an ever-changing handful of selections for each course. And, judging from the results, Russet is really about quality over quantity. The few selections offered for each course are enough to impress.  

The first-course menu features an excellent Arctic char and gravlax ravioli ($14), with an almost-Mediterranean-flavor profile that was pleasantly creamy and herby. Another first-course winner was the hand-pressed pici ($15). (All of Russet’s pastas, much like a lot of its fare, are handmade, by the way.) The pici is a more rustic dish, with anchovies and chili oil complementing tender lamb for a surprisingly light but robust taste.

Russet also makes its own sodas, with flavors like tangerine/cranberry and cherry, which is a nice option for those of us who don’t drink wine with dinner.

The standout on the second-course menu was the wild striped bass ($28), with house-made salsa verde and a ragu, both of which delivered delightfully complex flavors that complemented the perfectly cooked bass with crispy skin. The accompanying carrots and baby chard were delicious on their own, tender and well-seasoned.

Desserts were interesting and included a poached quince tart ($9) and plum and tokai wine sorbet ($9). We opted for the lemon verbena panna cotta ($9), a seductively silky, bright and creamy dish with candied tangerines and grapefruit, giving the dish a touch of sour, and Grand Marnier syrup giving it a slight kick.

Russet many not be the flashiest restaurant on the block, but its solid and confident menu can go toe-to-toe with almost any of the restaurants in Center City.

If You Go:
Russet
1521 Spruce St.
215-546-1521
www.russetphilly.com
Tues.-Fri.: 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Fri.-Sat.: 5:30-10:30 p.m.
Sun. 5:30-9 p.m.
Brunch:
Sat.-Sun.: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.