Maybe it was just a dream, but I think I read somewhere that NASA has discovered a new planet covered in bourbon. But even if you can’t go there any time soon, you can do the next best thing; you can go to Bank & Bourbon, the upscale restaurant in the Loews Hotel in the old PSFS building at 12th and Market streets in center city Philadelphia.

Bank & Bourbon opened in April of 2014, replacing SoleFood, which had been there for 11 years and had apparently run its course, taking some serious punches by reviewers. B & B is a massive walnut and copper brasserie with 220 seats, subdued lighting, wood floors, leather chairs and a huge bar, usually peopled by lots of conventioneers, although we were told that about half of their customers are now Delaware Valley residents. There is an adjacent lobby/lounge that was rush-hour busy during our recent midweek visit.

If you are a bourbon fancier, this is the place for you. Whiskeys abound with house barrel-aging giving the cocktails more depth and character. The “Secret Knock,” a cocktail with the house-aged whiskey, apples, spices, lemons and clarified milk, was at the sword’s tip of this restaurant’s zeitgeist. My heart melts like a setting sun just thinking about this grown-up beverage. Maybe they should change its name to “Frankenstein” because after a few sips, you really come alive.

An “Afterthought” with Ketel One, raspberry and Sauvignon Blanc didn’t quite measure up to the “Knock,” but an “Overnighter,” with sparkling wine, citrus liqueurs and bourbon, can also warm the heart. All were $12, which is about average for craft cocktails these days. In each case, the whiskey was not an overpowering headache-inducer.

We have eaten at numerous previous restaurant stops for executive chef Tom Harkins — Circa, Plate, Moshulu, Founders in the Bellevue and Restaurant 210, when it was named “Best Continental Restaurant” in the city by Zagat — so we know Harkins is clockwork reliable, the real deal (or in the case of my seafood entree, the reel deal). Speaking of the seafood special, it was dorado, a very mild fish flaky on the inside, similar to mahi-mahi, found most commonly in the north Atlantic and Mediterranean, among other places. It was served in a skillet with cherry tomatoes, broccolini and a subtle white wine sauce. You could say I was hooked on this fish.

Starters of cavatelli and octopus were the king and queen of this culinary deck, at least based on everything we tasted. The cavatelli had a real depth of flavor and was served with perfectly cooked jerk pork ragu and an opposing textured goat cheese ($12). The last time we had octopus in a restaurant, it was dry and chewy, but this version was perfection on a plate, accompanied by cherry pepper relish, fingerling potatoes and lemon aioli ($13).

For us the only joker in the deck was the seared duck breast, which was more rare than one would expect, and high in fat and acidity ($29), served with spiced lentils, parsnip cream and root vegetables.

Desserts by pastry chef Amanda Kaewvichien, a native of Vientiane, Laos, rang like a soulful ping on our taste buds: caramelized goat cheese cheesecake with blood orange sorbet and pistachio crust ($8) and salted caramel ice cream sandwich with pretzel cookie and coconut macaroon ($8). Both elicited a frisson of delight.

The wine list has the usual high hotel markups for wine. The staff is a gumbo of efficiency, completely lacking in pretension, especially server Kirk Brown, who gives off a magnetic social energy that puts people around him at ease.

A big plus is the valet parking on 12th Street, about 100 yards or so south of Market. It’s just $10 with a ticket stamped at the restaurant. For more information, call 215-231-7300 or visit

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