I joined Twitter more than six years ago because I learn much about the city’s ever-growing restaurant scene from those who tweet. I also visit culinary websites and The Passyunk Post.

Unfortunately, there are a number of restaurants that are rarely mentioned on these sites. Le Viet, 1019 S. 11th St., is my favorite Vietnamese restaurant. The happy hour is a true bargain. Many dishes, including a small bowl of pho, will not break the bank.

While driving around the Italian Market, we passed Monsu, a Sicilian restaurant I reviewed four years ago. I enjoyed a fine brunch and wondered about the dinner menu.

Monsu is a casual cash only BYOB. An employee directed us to a table near a large window, and we settled in. Our server opened the Verdicchio we brought and set it into an ice bucket.

Some tasty bruschetta arrived as well as homemade focaccia and Italian bread. Our waiter explained the specials and told us about the four-course, $40-dinner.

It was almost as if a culinary thunderbolt came down to earth. Patrons choose an appetizer, pasta, entrée and dessert from the menu.

I began with a scallop that was perfectly seared with seasoned herbs and set upon a bed of lentils and fava beans. The contrast of textures was spot on in this dish. The scallop was translucent inside, and its natural sweetness paired well with the slight crunch of the lentils and fava beans. The sauce was also spot on: a natural reduction of white wine and natural pan juices that were laced with herbs.

I cannot rave enough about the octopus. It is a staple in a number of Mediterranean and Greek restaurants. The chef at Monsu prepared a version that was tender, tasty and, thank goodness, lacking the strong red wine vinegar overbearing flavor that most chefs produce. Some fresh greens accompanied the mollusk.

All the pastas are homemade. The list was dazzling but I ordered the evening’s special. Our waiter told us the pasta is shaped like leaves, which I have never seen before. After the al dente preparation, it received as toppings several plump mussels, still in their shell, and bite-size bits of spicy sausage. The peppery flavor was just right. Spicy does not translate to spicy hot. It is interesting to note that Italians who live in Calabria and Sicilians often use hot peppers in their dishes.

For my entrée, I chose boneless loin of rabbit, which is another top dish with me. The fork-tender meat had been properly braised in wine with fresh herbs and pancetta. I found the rabbit a little salty, but this is a matter of personal taste. The braising liquid was perfectly reduced to a delicious sauce with just a hint of the flavor of wine.

A stew of pig’s trotters was another first for me. I enjoy roast pork in all its glory and prepare pork stew at home. This braised dish produced tender slices of pig’s feet keeping company with aromatic vegetables and herbs. As with the rabbit, the portion was generous.

I could not decide between the panna cotta and the budino for my dulce. It was down to a culinary coin flip. Our waiter told us the budino was caramel and butterscotch rather than the usual chocolate version I enjoy in Italian restaurants. It was slightly sweet but downright delicious.

Tiramisu is ubiquitous these days. The pastry chef hit the mark here. Ladyfingers soaked in espresso formed the base for the creamy mascarpone, with the creation having bittersweet chocolate shavings as a topping.

Service was excellent. Two waiters took good care of us and the other patrons in the busy dining room. It was a lively mix of people, including four women of a certain age who live in Delaware County (one woman was born and raised in South Philly). They just came from the theater and sat next to us.

The four-course dinner at Monsu is one of the best bargains in the city. I could dine here once a week.


Four tips of the toque to Monsu. 


901 Christian St. 

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