Philadelphia is a city filled with food, there’s no doubt about that. With the many eateries and bars that call the city home, Philadelphians and tourists alike can find a tasty trail of different cuisines from around the globe, but there’s also a wealth of riches when it comes to drinks… And we’re talking cocktails.
One establishment in the city has seemed to hit its sweet spot on both fronts regarding the foodie paradise that is Philly. Pinefish is located on a quiet yet busy street in the Washington Square West location of the city, and this eatery has been casting its line out to hungry visitors for dinner and weekend brunch service for the past five years. For regulars, there are a few staples that are mainstays on the menu, and many passersby stop to check out the “Friends With Benedicts” sign out front in regards to advertising for brunch (Pinefish employees note some people even assume that’s the name of the restaurant), but it’s now the cocktails from Lê Hop Sing that help seal the deal for Pinefish in having multiple reasons to take your tastebuds on a ride here.
Pinefish was opened by Peter Dissin, and if you’re a restaurant buff you’ll connect the dots to his father, Henry Dissin, who was a legendary restauranteur in the 1960s. The senior Dissin had his hand in various notable spots in the Greater Philadelphia area, including South Jersey’s Henry’s, Absolutely Gloria’s, and Calico Kitchen. However Peter, who studied at Cordon Bleu in Paris, opened the eatery at 12th and Pine in the spring of 2016 with the main focus of offering complex sauces and preparations for seafood small plates and entrees. That is still the case, but in addition to the flavor-filled focuses of the food, Pinefish has also become a neighborhood staple for many — mostly in part to Dissin’s presence there every day.
The food spans from what most would expect from a spot boasting seafood — shellfish dishes, chilled appetizers and vegetables on the side, but as Pinefish’s main initial pursuit has been mastered, each meal does have a sauce or feature that adds that extra wow factor: It’s the careful care that goes into the presentation of the oysters; the peppercorn sauce that drenches the ahi tuna; the truffle mixed in with the mashed potatoes and almost everything in between that makes the restaurant stand out in flavor. Other favorites include their fried cauliflower (don’t let the side option fool you, it’s one of their most popular dishes), lobster mac and cheese, clams and bucatini, mahi-mahi ruby and pan-seared scallops… just to name a few.
For brunch, their famous ‘Friends with Benedicts’ offers a bevy of benedicts spanning from soft shell crab to smoked salmon, to scallops and beyond with sweeter choices on the other side of the menu including cannoli french toast and bananas foster pancakes (on top of some other brunch staples). Happy Hour also sings a familiar tune for this spot echoing the offerings for dinner and brunch that offer flavor, uniqueness and comfort.
However, in the summer of 2021, what most will be pairing their Pinefish meal with is a cocktail from none other than Lê from Hop Sing Laundromat.
The cocktail connoisseur has created an air of mystery surrounding himself for mostly not being photographed, not using his full name, but more importantly keeping the focus on cocktails and serious cocktail people. Most notably, Hop Sing Laundromat has become a staple in the city and a point of conversation. The speakeasy-styled establishment — which Esquire named one of the 27 best bars in America in 2019 — is known for its cocktails, but also its rules. Lê has reached local celebrity status not by posting pictures or bringing attention to himself, but actually doing the exact opposite. The less-is-more effect however only comes into play with his public presence, not his drinks… they are packed with plenty of flavors.
Although the popular bar located in Chinatown is still not open from the pandemic, the mastermind behind it has been busy making cocktails for Pinefish. Lê has had experience with this even before COVID for other establishments in the past such as Rogue on Rittenhouse Square and Vesper Sporting Club. But for Pinefish, the drinks match the vibe of the Center City eatery — colorful, fun and refreshing.
Thé Glacé is an iced tea for adults made with rum, black tea, passion fruit and lemon juice for the first drink available on Pinefish’s menu. The Bebe Rosé is right underneath it, but the flavor profile of this particular drink puts it at the top of this reporter’s list. The Rosé boasts vodka, strawberry, lime and egg white — a treat that doesn’t taste the same, but has the same look of a Clover Club, another Philly favorite that was made famous in the pre-prohibition era social club of the same name (helmed by a group of lawyers, bankers and journalists), and has been marked as the city’s first-ever signature cocktail. Lê’s Summertime cocktail is also on the list and includes peach vodka, cucumber syrup, strawberries and lemon juice.
What the cocktails bring together are a trio of lightness to the flavor profile — something that pairs expertly well with seafood and summer. However, despite the taste having no hint of alcohol (intentionally), the drinks do boast plenty of booze, so Lê himself even recommends not forgetting that. This can be hard to do with the number of sips you’re bound to take once you do get a taste.
Other cocktails on the menu include The DH Cherry by Dayna, Best Damn Sour, Razzberry Flute and the End of the Rainbow, but diners can expect more from Lê Hop Sing to pop up on the menu.
Overall, Pinefish has the wealth of riches talked about at the beginning of this piece. Whether it be through the atmosphere (mix an eclectic coffee shop vibe with a dining room boasting a quirky under the sea aesthetic), the service (from Dissin to the servers, it was a treat) to the drinks from the elusive Lê (who in reality is as genius as you would think) and you get a treasure trove of taste… no pun intended.
As for Hop Sing Laundromat, jury is still out for an opening date, but you can count on a strict check of vaccination cards at the door when it does.