Christmas lunch with my aunt, uncle & the cousins this year on the Moshulu at Penn's Landing. This has become an annual tradition, with previous locations at the Union League, Suzanna Foo, and other swanky joints where I have to put a coat on. It's fun to play dress up, and it's always a good meal - so it's something I look forward to around the holidays.
We started with a drink at the bar while waiting for the rest of the group. Decent manhattan, but they used jim beam, which isn't a very good start and I would expect more at a place with a reputation and prices like the Moshulu. If you go on a Saturday at lunch time, don't expect a big crowd at the bar. They had to call the bar tender out from some back room just to serve us.
A couple cheese plates started us off, and pretty solid offering of three cheeses for $12. A nice smokey cheddar, good blue, and a great humboldt fog goat cheese all came with appropriate accompaniments. We also had the calamari on a bed of thai asian slaw and dressed with red chili lemongrass sauce that was probably the best thing I ate. Just enough heat to be interesting, and cooked perfectly with a good crunch.
My sister got the filet mignon, one cousin had the burger (which looked pretty nice), two others had the smoked turkey sandwich with bacon & avocado, and my other quasi-vegetarian cousin had the pasta primavera (says he'll dabble with beef if it's grass-fed).
I went for the chilled seafood salad with shrimp, scallops and crab meat over bibb lettuce with bacon, blue cheese and avocado. The portion was perfect for a main and not super-heavy. I still had christmas errands to run that day, and wasn't trying for the proverbial food-baby experience at lunch. All the seafood was fresh but I kept thinking it was missing some key ingredient. Maybe some of that chili lemongrass sauce could amp it up. At $20, and the most expensive item on the menu, I expected a little more. I'd be happier with less seafood, and better flavor.
If you haven't been on the Moshulu, it's a unique experience eating on a real ship. They do a decent job of playing up the ship's history (it's featured in the Godfather II bringing a young Vito Corleone to America) but not going over the top with the nautical theme. Parking is $12, so if you can manage to hoof it over from South or Spruce street you can save that for another drink. Just make sure to ask for good bourbon in your manhattan.
The Moshulu is located at 401 S. Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19106.