Posted by Sam Bloch on May 20th, 2013
Craig LaBan visits Fitler Dining Room, the newest restaurant from the team from Pub & Kitchen and Avalon’s Diving Horse, and comes away impressed.
There should be no complaints, though, about Marzinsky, whose Philly debut as a head chef has been one of the year’s biggest revelations. His butter-poached oysters are such an elegant modern riff on stew that they’d make his muse, M.F.K. Fisher, consider the oyster anew. Ever-so-lightly poached, they’re placed atop brioche croutons with a fine dice of potato, fennel and celery root, then lavished with a froth of rich chowder cream poured tableside. His raw Beausoleil oysters, on the other hand, are transformed with just a few jewels of smoked trout roe and ginger mignonette, each gulp a three-part fade from tang, to smoke, then brine.
A clever new technique for gnocchi results in ethereal puffs of meltaway potato dumplings. But it is the elegant contrast of textures and vivid colors – snappy toasted hazelnuts, tender earthy snails, tart pickled snips of pink ramp, and a pale green gloss of Chartreuse butter – that makes the dish so memorable.
Three Bells – Excellent
Fitler Dining Room [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Fitler Dining Room [Official Site]
Related: Reviews, American, Center-City-West, Craig LaBan, Dan Clark, Ed Hackett, Fitler Dining Room, Fitler Square, Reviewed, Rob Marzinsky, Three Bells
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Posted by Foobooz on April 29th, 2013
Trey Popp reviews Sophia’s, the East Passyunk restaurant of Philadelphia’s prodigal son, Christopher Lee. What he finds is that Lee is only kind of involved.
My dinners—all of them—were incoherent and error-prone. Dishes clashed rather than complementing one another. Most of the “fun”-sounding ones were flat and boring. Carelessness afflicted too many others. Brussels sprouts were overcooked (really half-carbonized). Ice creams came in pools of their own melt. There’s a lovely apple coffee cake from Fond’s Jessie Prawlucki—but one night it turned up fridge-cold, in a kiln-hot bowl, after an inexplicably long wait.
Sophia’s spent its first month tinkering with a menu the restaurant abruptly discarded. It’s hard to imagine this second take will last much longer. And who knows? A third stab could be the charm. But for Christopher Lee to resurrect the hopes some people had for his return to Philadelphia, he’ll need to do something to reverse the impression that he’s really just phoning it in.
One Star – Fair
Philadelphia Restaurant Review: Phoning It In at Sophia’s [Philadelphia magazine]
Sophia’s [Official Site]
Related: From the Magazine, Reviews, American, Christopher Lee, East-Passyunk, Reviewed, Sophia's, Trey Popp
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Posted by Foobooz on March 18th, 2013
Craig LaBan decides to revisit Lee Styer’s Fond since it has moved and added a liquor license. What he finds is that the marginally bigger restaurant still delivers in big ways.
We had only one real clunker course: a thin and one-dimensional foie gras soup. The special just lacked spark – especially beside his stunning appetizer of crisply seared foie, warm and creamy over cool carrots in gingery caramel with cardamom-spiced cream cheese sauce.
That indulgence was in perfect contrast to the elegance of tuna crudo tiled over piquillo peppers with a white miso aioli, or the beautifully browned swordfish over ivory vichyssoise sauce with tart bursts of grapefruit, bitter watercress, and the salty pop of paddlefish roe. Big, gorgeous sea scallops channeled a Spanish mood over saffron paella rice with smoky chorizo. And the chicken, roasted on the carcass before being deboned and finished with duck-fat-braised Savoy cabbage, was excellent.
Three Bells – Excellent
Fond [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Fond [Official Site]
Related: Reviews, American, Craig LaBan, East-Passyunk, Fond, French, Jessie Prawlucki, Lee Styer, Reviewed, Three Bells
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Posted by Foobooz on March 4th, 2013
Trey Popp reviews the Saint James in Ardmore. What was once the culinary hope of the Main Line gets savaged.
Gnocchi with braised brisket featured the meat in puzzlingly large hunks, too dry to shred apart. The “juice” of a flat-iron steak had all the umami of water squeezed from cardboard. There was a properly cooked salmon fillet (sauced, in December, with pesto), and I liked a crispy clam-and-bacon flatbread. But not enough to offset the watery mushroom soup.
No Stars – Poor
The Suburban Sins of Saint James [Philadelphia Magazine]
Saint James [Official Site]
Related: From the Magazine, Reviews, American, Ardmore, Main-Line, Reviewed, The Saint James, Trey Popp
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Posted by Foobooz on February 25th, 2013
Craig LaBan likes what he sees from chef Terence Feury’s Tavro 13. Well everything except maybe the decor.
Feury at his best, especially with top-notch seafood, is worth the visit, whether for pristine Fire River oysters with Champagne mignonette, scallop ceviche enlivened with lime and chiles, or tender calamari marinated in serrano chile oil and seared on the plancha with pureed almonds and preserved lemon.
A swordfish over squash puree with pumpkin seeds was meltingly moist. Seared cod topped with parsley and potato chips provided the perfect flake-and-crunch contrast to the funky pairing of soft, potatoey salt cod brandade.
Two Bells – Very Good
Tavro 13 [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Tavro 13 [Official Site]
Related: Reviews, American, Craig LaBan, Reviewed, Seafood, South-Jersey, Swedesboro, Tavro 13, Terence Feury, Two Bells
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Posted by Foobooz on February 19th, 2013
It is indeed a hit-or-miss affair at Red Owl Tavern on Independence Mall. Craig LaBan finds some good dishes but all too often sloppy cooking and service hinder his meals.
This kitchen’s determination to do much of the butchering in-house, however, has paid dividends with a few highlights. The charcuterie platter features a number of excellent nibbles, from hickory-smoked lomo to spot-on country pate. The house-made sausages of the day, which come over grilled toast smeared with white beans, were also worthwhile, from the smoky spice of the andouille to the winey savor of linguica. The seafood sausage had some texture issues, and the ground halibut and scallops were a little chalky without the use of cream, but the flavor was still excellent.
One Bell – Hit-or-Miss
Red Owl Tavern [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Red Owl Tavern [Official Site]
Related: Reviews, American, Craig LaBan, Red Owl Tavern, Reviewed
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Posted by Foobooz on February 13th, 2013
Just yesterday someone asked when Pennsylvania 6, the replacement for Tweed at 114 S 12th Street was opening. Today we can report the American brasserie concept will open in March.
The Tale of the Tape »
Related: News, Opening Soon, American, Andy Farrell, Mark Plessis, Midtown-Village, Pennsylvania 6, Tale of the Tape
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Posted by Foobooz on February 4th, 2013
Michael Santoro’s cooking at the Mildred might seem like a departure from what he did at Talula’s Garden but rest assured, Trey Popp finds lots of good work in those cast iron pots.
[E]ven if no one’s tweezing microgreens onto sheets of asparagus gelée at the Mildred, there’s more to Santoro’s homey cooking here than meets the eye.
Take, for example, the pickled dates hiding among rustic sunchoke knobs, sweet-potato tortellini and still-crunchy fronds of flowering kale I had one evening by the barroom log fire, the tortellini’s filling balanced by bursts of sugared acidity. Or the brace of quails served over beluga lentils and diced beets. The pair looked so simple until a knife-stroke revealed them to be stuffed with ground veal and pork, dried cherries and sage, all wrapped in a delicate lace of caul fat. Delicious.
Two Stars – Good
Philadelphia Restaurant Review: American Eats at The Mildred [Philadelphia magazine]
The Mildred [Official Site]
Related: From the Magazine, Reviews, American, Bella-Vista, Mildred, Reviewed, Trey Popp
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