All the good things you've heard about Koo Zee Doo, the cozy BYOB in Northern Liberties serving up rustic, family-style plates of Portuguese food is true.
And Koo Zee Doo even has three vegetarian entrees on their small menu, which is exactly three more vegetarian entrees than I encountered on my trip to Portugal a few years ago (not even exaggerating), so, as a vegetarian, if you've ever wondered what Portuguese food tastes like (I was still wondering after my time in Portugal), get yourself over to Koo Zee Doo pronto.
The interior of Koo Zee Doo is small and warm, with exposed brick, flickering candles, and diners cozying up to a bottle of wine at tables, or at a the small bar overlooking an open kitchen. Out back is a charming, small patio with vines growing up the walls and twinkle lights strung over head.
Complimentary bread and butter, along with a small dish of pickled lupini beans are brought to the table. Broa is a Portuguese peasant corn bread that tastes nothing like the Southern cornbread you're familiar with, but more like a rustic, chewy roll with barely detectable flavors of corn. You are instructed to pierce the skin of the briney beans and slip the bean out, but I found the bean's outer shell to be tender enough to eat.
Since plates are on the larger side and intended for sharing, it's recommended that each person order an appetizer and split an entree with another person.The boy ordered pan-seared shrimp with piri piri sauce, a spicy Portuguese sauce made from peppers. These shrimp were massive, yet still tender and cooked perfectly. The evenly balanced spicy and briney piri piri sauce flavored with juices from the shrimp was perfect for mopping up with the rustic rolls.
We had a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic server, so I let him choose for me what he thought was the best vegetarian appetizer and entree. He did not steer me wrong, but even from the small sampling of the menu we had that evening, I don't think he could have done any wrong no matter what he chose.The heirloom tomato salad with Mozzarella, red onions, and olives dressed in oil, vinegar, and the tomatoes own juices was simple, and highlighted the glory of Summer tomatoes.
Our server's favorite vegetarian entree, Milho Frito, a fried corn porridge, was already gone for the evening (a great reason to visit again!), so the tomato bread pudding slid from second place into first.
The flat pancake of tomato-soaked bread had a nice crispy outer shell that contrasted nicely with the moist middle, but I thought the dish was on the verge of being overly salty. The flavors of the roasted fennel and fava bean puree underneath the savory bread pudding lent intrigue to the somewhat plain tomato bread pudding.The chocolate plate comes with slices of fudge-like dark chocolate "salami" studded with crushed cookies; perfectly textured, dark chocolate mousse with an almond and dark chocolate brittle; and a sensuous, dark chocolate-covered fig stuffed with chestnut paste that is so good it should be boxed and sold at the door as diners are leaving. Varied, rich, and not too sweet, this plate is a chocolate lover's dream.Wine poached apricots, passion fruit puree, raspberry puree and Port-soaked cherries all came together in bowl of tart fruity heaven with layered and complex flavors. Fruit for dessert, really, has never tasted as good as at Koo Zee Doo.
Remember those bomb-diggity biscuits at Ugly American when they first opened? Well, Carla Conçalvez, the wife in the husband and wife team that makes up Koo Zee Doo, did those biscuits, and is now doing the breads and desserts at Koo Zee Doo. Carla was also nominated for James Beard's 2010 Outstanding Pastry Chef. David Gilberg, the husband part of the team was nominated for James Beard 2010 Rising Star Chef, and Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. Something is going right over at Koo Zee Doo!
So, yes, it is true! The food at Koo Zee Doo is generous and rustic, with simple flavors from quality ingredients coming together beautifully and harmoniously. Even the desserts are phenomenal, which might be the bigger restaurant feat.
Koo Zee Doo
614 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA, 19123
Thurs, Sun, Mon: 5:30-10pm
Tues, Wed: closed