Food & Drink

Meritage

Retaining a recognized name, even after everything it stood for has changed, is a pretty common practice: MTV's call letters remain despite a lack of music-based programming, and now KFC's serving grilled chicken. Thanks, Oprah. Changing nearly everything about a restaurant except the name, Meritage

After five years as a somewhat stuffy French-influenced bistro with dishes on the higher end of the Philly dining price scale, Meritage went dark two weeks ago to undergo an exhaustive renovation, emerging tonight as a casually airy 50-seat affair, with butcher block tables and expanded bar seating atop new hardwood floors, and brighter lighting to accentuate the freshly painted Tuscan yellow walls, along with a new chef and Asian-tinged menu featuring smaller portions at affordable price points, leaving you to figure out other means to get as fat and broke as you'd always dreamed. Apps're replaced by a selection of $6 & under starter "Snacks", and include foie gras dumplings w/ truffled herb brown butter, Kobe beef-stuffed grape leaves w/ Vietnamese dipping sauce, and sesame-crusted crab & shrimp "lollipops" w/ red pepper sauce; next up's a range of small plates, from pan-seared Cape May diver scallops (w/ curried cauliflower & Thai basil emulsion), to grilled lollipop lamb chops w/ spicy red pepper & hearts of palm, to tuna tartare w/ soy wasabi foam & wonton chips, which creepily leer at the undressed salads at neighboring tables. Larger dishes run from sea-dwellers like roasted Maine cod w/ curried lentils, and ginger-glazed BBQ Scottish salmon, to meatier fare like brined & roasted Giannone chicken w/ Chinese sausage hash; hanger steak w/ crispy fingerlings; and a BBQ pork sandwich w/ Asian slaw, which is more hot than cole

Drinkwise, bottled beers include Sierra, Stella, & Chimay Premier; specialty cocktails run from the Cruza mango-rum-powered Morning Glory to a bevy of vodka-based offerings (Limoncello martini, Citron-infused "Summertime in a Glass"). There's also a hearty selection of grappas, Ports, & cordials, and an impressively comprehensive list of cognac, single malt Scotch, and bourbon -- which is most definitely from Kentucky, and sure to get you fried.