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terra Unearths Culinary Gems on South Camac St.

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Photo Courtesy of Jim TetiWith the autumn season quickly approaching, Philadelphia foodies will be on the lookout for a warm, cozy place to nosh after spending an afternoon pumpkin picking or searching for the trendiest sweater-weather fashions.

Take a walk along South Camac Street, and you’ll find a new resident who’s able to serve up the tastes and smells of fall. Chef Eric Paraskevas (Lolita, Slate) has returned to the Washington West neighborhood to whet your palate with New American cuisine at terra (243 S. Camac St.).

terra is a modern yet inviting restaurant tucked below the Tavern on Camac. This intimate, 40-seater features unpretentious fine dining with a little something for everyone on the menu.

“My inspiration behind terra is simply the meaning: Earth,” said Chef Paraskevas, who considers himself a seasonal chef. “Earth has four seasons, and for every season there is a diversity of ingredients to respectfully play with. I like the ingredients to speak for themselves.”

terra’s opening menu pays tribute to the autumn season. Chef Paraskevas takes his culinary cue from past autumnal experiences and flavors that he loves. In regard to the earth, he cooks primarily with organic ingredients from local farms, using only the freshest ingredients.

“I feel very connected to the earth, and terra is allowing me the opportunity to create food celebrating that connection,” the chef said.

With that in mind, the menu contains popular favorites with a twist, as well as some delicious detours into the unexpected. On the appetizer menu, a spicy and sweet apple slaw accompanies pork and cheddar spring rolls dipped in a rosemary barbeque sauce. The slider trio, featuring cubano, beef and lamb bites, has been a popular starter since terra’s opening. The roasted apple and squash brie with homemade cinnamon crackers seems to capture the essence of autumn in each bite.

A few of the main plates deserve special recognition. A true homage to the season is the acorn squash hotpot. The chef carves out an acorn squash and fills it with a mix of the squash, udon noodles, bean sprouts and shaved duck breast. It’s served piping hot resembling a miniature steaming cauldron.

The pan-seared pork chop and glazed salsify is served with pear salsa and topped with fresh horseradish jus. The pork is served tender and moist, and the salsa adds nice autumn colors to the plate. Accompanied by a delightful polenta, the scallops are flavorful and pan-seared to perfection.

Other entrees of note are the braised lamb shank with turnip puree and the homemade basil fettuccine that’s tossed with lamb, mushroom, cherry tomatoes and feta cheese. With advance notice, the kitchen will make gluten-free pasta for this dish for diners with special dietary needs.

Chef Paraskevas hasn’t forgotten Philadelphia’s sweet tooth either. The terra menu features several desserts that are sure to please. Mini Blue Moon ice cream floats are created with orange ice cream and Blue Moon beer. They’re the perfect chaser to any of the entrees.

One of the chef’s latest creations is an Irish coffee bread pudding served in a large mug. The bread pudding is heated and then topped with ice cream flavored with Bailey’s Irish Cream. The ice cream melts over the bread pudding, forming a sauce the weaves its way through the dish to keep the bread moist.

A raspberry crème brulee, and chocolate tres leches with dulce de leche, banana sauté and salty pecans are also notable desserts.

A fully stocked bar accompanies the menu with craft beers, fine wines and champagne. Paraskevas is building a respectable selection of bottled beers, including local favorites Legacy Hedonism Ale and Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot.

To see terra’s menu, visit http://terrapa.blogspot.com/2009/09/menu-at-terra.html.

Address: 

243 S. Camac Street

Philadelphia, PA 19107

Hours: 

Terra is open daily from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.