6/14/2012 11:35:00 AM

Best Thing We Ate Last Night: Risotto Arancini at Barclay Prime

Known more for its high-end cuts of beef, $100 cheesesteak and tableside knife service - wherein you select a tool of choice to conquer your giant chop - reigning Rittenhouse Square steakhouse Barclay Prime has introduced a happy hour, full of choice bites and sips. While the menu of $6-$8 bar snacks has many tempting options (buffalo chicken wings are frenched and served as mess-free “lollipops”), our favorite taste was the risotto arancini, whose crispy brown exteriors give way to impossibly creamy rice inside.

There are no shortcuts to great risotto, says chef Jeff Froehler, who was promoted from sous to exec in January, so the first step to the deceptively simple-looking dish is 20 minutes of constant stirring and spicing. The resulting rice mix is then deep fried for just long enough that crunchy walls surround a sphere of soft, flavorful filling, which is not given a chance to lose any moisture. Plated atop a garlic-touched tomato sauce with a sprinkling of micro-basil and long, finger-friendly skewers, these snacks are easy to share and easier to eat.

With just over half a dozen seats, the bar at the high-end Stephen Starr spot is small, but the surrounding lounge is large and luxurious. The 5-6:30 PM weekday deal is an equally good option for a solo stop or to meet a group of friends, the better to sample multiple dishes - salmon poppers dotted with black caviar and loaded, garden-fresh tomato bruschetta are other don’t-miss deals. The $6 cocktails are well-crafted and just as strong as their full-price siblings, so it’s just as well the specials end when they do, or we’d be tempted to stay the whole night.


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