Bells Ring for Five

Every time you hear a bell ring, it means that some angel’s just got his wings.

Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Two quotes about bells, that sum up two distinctly different reactions to Craig LaBan’s resetting of the eating landscape in the region.

Five restaurants have been awarded Craig LaBan’s Four Bells. VetriZahavBibouTalula’s Table, and Fountain Restaurant are the highest rated restaurants in the region. Three are receiving the award for the first time though they are no strangers to excellence. Aimee Olexy is no stranger to the top ranking as her Django was the first BYOB to get four bells. Pierre Calmels was the chef de cuisine at the four-bell version of Le Bec-Fin for six years before opening Bibou, his Bella Vista BYOB. Michael Solomonov did work in Marc Vetri’s elite kitchen before opening Zahav, his unique ande elite modern Israeli restaurant.

Vetri remains the class of the town and beyond. LaBan says it has even stepped up to the rank of national elite with its prix fixe tasting menu format. The Fountain proves that fine-dining extravagance has a present at least in Philadelphia.

But in reassessing the eating landscape there were some losers as well. The longtime gold standard Le Bec-Fin dropped not one, but two bells. Lacroix also fell from the dais of the Four Bells. But only down one level to the three-bell plateau. Barclay Prime who many though might ascend, descended to two bells for its struggles cooking a steak.

The bells take their toll [Philadelphia Inquirer]

 

 

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  • Matt

    LaBan’s review of Le Bec-Fin is fricken’ embarrassing. That review could put them out of business. What a disgrace.

    I like Zahav, but making them four bells really lowers the bar of what a 4-bell place is.

  • Anthony

    @matt. Disgrace for Laban or LBF?

    And while I understand where you come from with the Zahav thoughts, Philadelphia isn’t exactly the hub of gastronomic temples. Eleven Madison Park it is not, but Zahav is perhaps the best dining experience in the city. The scale and scope has changed.

  • Matt

    @Anthony

    Disgrace for LBF. LaBan gave them a well-deserved smackdown.

    So if Zahav is 4 bells, why not Osteria? You can’t tell me the food or service is better at Zahav. They’re at least equal, and personally if I had to choose between the two I’m going to Osteria. Zahav does get some credit for being more unique, but just taking into account taste, no question Osteria for me.

  • Brian

    For those ripping on the people questioning Zahav getting a 4th bell: I’ve had two very good meals at Zahav. I genuinely like it. It’s solid and reliable and the food is interesting. However, when I think of a 4 bell restaurant, I think of a place that really wows me, often with a dish that I end up craving for weeks. And that really isn’t the case at Zahav (though I didn’t have the lamb shoulder about which Craig raved). The food is very very solid, the service is good, the ambiance is nice, but I’m not sure it is any better or more deserving than Amada, Osteria, and Morimoto, which seemed to be the 3 places that just missed the 4th bell. It seems that the differences according to Craig are the ambition/striving for improvement at Zahav and in case of Amada, the way in which its tasting menu pulled it down some. But to me these aren’t things that impinge on the quality of most people’s meals at a restaurant. Similarly, I’m not sure I would have considered Talula’s Table for the 4th bell just because the unique dining arrangement makes it a restaurant that serves very few people and is almost inaccessible for most.

  • NeroWolf

    @Anthony
    Philadelphia’s bar was lowered long ago. This is a city where some diners even regard Shola as a chef.
    @Brian
    Can we finally put an end to the bellyaching over whether T Table is worthy of consideration as a 4 bell “restaurant”? I’ve had dinner in its kitchen twice and didn’t have to book it more than a couple of months ahead. Laban was dead on about size not mattering. It’s the food, service and ambiance that count.

  • Anthony

    Was the bar lowered or was it never as high as we thought?

    And re Talula’s. I wish they had a policy where two people could go. I would love to go, but finding 7 or so other people is where I fall short.

  • TDaher

    @Anthony
    The TT chef’s table can be booked for two.

  • Matt

    @DeClose and SammyBaugh

    I never guaranteed anything. I said if a Starr place got 4 bells it would be BP. It’s been ~6 months since I’ve been to BP, but I never experienced the sloppy execution that LaBan wrote about.

    Zahav and TT don’t deserve 4-bells, imho. Nor do Barclay Prime, Morimoto, Amada, Osteria, or LBF. I haven’t been to Lacroix so I can’t comment, but based on his review he may have been a little harsh in docking them a bell.

    Zahav is a nice place with yummy food, but anyone that thinks it’s worth 4 bells needs to put down the crack pipe.

  • chefwhosaw

    @Matt Did you just say “yummy food”?

    And we’re supposed to take your comments seriously?

    Talula’s Table is nothing more (or less) than an intimate Django. The spirit of that four bell lives on; sorry if you haven’t been able to eat there, but it is on par with Django. But, I would even say better because the service is amped up for the one or two tables that are there. And if Craigy sets the bar on par, then the bells ring.

  • Matt

    @Chefwhosaw

    I did say yummy. Get over it.

    TT may have great food. But what kind of service is the Inquirer doing for its readers by rating a place they’ll probably never be able to go?

    And I would love to hear your explanation of why Zahav is worth 4 bells (“sets fine dining standards”).

  • All whack

    Jean Marie is a super talented chef and Lacroix was only 3 bells until Levin stepped in why?- cause Levin and Laban went to the same Temple– the whole rating system is BS and built off of favoritism. Stop kidding your selves

  • All whack

    Not to mention– during Levin’s reign the Rittenhouse spent $$$$ money with the inquirer on advertising and nothing recently. Favoritism also comes with how much money you spend. Does Le Virtu, Fond, Farm and Fisherman spend tons on advertising with the inquirer and PR machines???

  • finfan

    So do you think Perrier barfed a bit when he read his review? But LBF review is pretty on point – it hasn’t been a 4 bell restaurant for awhile now.

    As for Zahav – I love Zahav and have had their lamb shoulder dish – it’s all fantastic but it’s just not a 4 bell restaurant – if the NYTimes critic gave it 4 stars, he/she would probably be laughed out of their job

  • Matt

    Perrier might not care anymore if he let his place slip that much.

    The lamb shoulder at Zahav is awesome. 3 bells was the accurate rating. In NYC Zahav would be lucky to get 3 stars. It’s probably more like 2 stars in NYC.

  • JONES

    Perrier is in France right now. Interesting to see what happens upon his return.

  • Daytime Drinker

    First 100% agree with Bibou-Vetri-Fountain.

    @All Whack-Agreed.
    Laban loved Levin who is a complete twit.
    Fired from Lacroix.
    Fired From Adsum.
    Larry and Barry will probably fire him too.
    Labans worst review was giving Lacroix 4 bells after the name chef left.
    Laban reviews are mostly BS.
    Craig Laban used to go on vacations with Aimme Olexy’s family.They are super close

    @Matt you are correct.No one can even agree that the experience at Zahav is on par with Fountain or Vetri by any breadth of the imagination.Solo is a good chef and I seriously love Fed-donuts but seriously 4 bells-laban is smoking weed.Imagine Sam Sifton giving a place like zahav 4 stars there would be an uproar.

    BEST QUOTE IN THIS THREAD
    So if Zahav is 4 bells, why not Osteria? You can’t tell me the food or service is better at Zahav. They’re at least equal, and personally if I had to choose between the two I’m going to Osteria. Zahav does get some credit for being more unique, but just taking into account taste, no question Osteria for me.

    @matt to add to that Joe Cicalaat Le Virtu cooks as good or better food than osteria.

    @Nerowolf all you shola haters always seem to drag his name into just about any conversation on foobooz no matter the relevance.Cute line but silly and easy to hide behind anonymity.Has nothing to do with Laban bells.You know when you pointlessly attack someone a pattern starts to emerge.Racist,insecure or Jealous much?
    Which one?
    BTW the not all chefs have restaurants or are currently working in one like Jen Carroll or Mikey Santoro who are super talented.
    How about talentless people like Mike Schulson who don’y even cook in any of their own restaurants.

    @JONES Perrier is going to lose his shit.

    @Finfan the below=SUPER agreed.

    As for Zahav – I love Zahav and have had their lamb shoulder dish – it’s all fantastic but it’s just not a 4 bell restaurant – if the NYTimes critic gave it 4 stars, he/she would probably be laughed out of their job

  • Critescu

    @Matt
    Sore loser. Dead palate.
    @NeroWolf
    You’re right. He’s a caterer, not a chef. You don’t have to be racist to know he’s a jerk.
    @Daytimedrinker
    Sober up. I’ve worked with Sikora, Olexy’s ex. He laughed at that and said they NEVER vacationed with Laban, tho they did bump into him at Disneyworld. (Were you the guy in the Goofy costume?) You’re not just a blowhard lush, but ill informed.

    • All whack

      And to top it off critescu— if no one is supposed to know what Laban looks like and he was at Disney World how did Olexy and Sikora just BUMP into Laban. Come on. You are retarded. I am so glad you don’t work for me

  • All whack

    @critescu. So if Shola is a caterer then what is Talulas Table????? Just saying– set menu every day set amount of covers everyday set service time etc etc That is not a restaurant. The real judge is Talulas Garden not the Table I am sorry. It is a grocery store with a catering element added. No difference than what Shola was doing just add in a grocery store. Wake up

  • Steve

    I’m glad somebody finally said it. Joe Cicala’s food at Le Virtu is on the same level, if not better than Osteria and in some cases Vetri. It’s Philadelphia’s best kept secret in italian dining. I want to see them step out from under the Vetri shadow and blow up nationally as they deserve. But on the other hand, I want to keep them to myself so I can still get a table without a 6 month waiting list. HA!

  • Steve

    also, I agree that Zahav deserves a 4th bell. It goes to show that the food scene is evolving. white table cloths, bone china, and crystal glasses are not needed to provide a stellar exprience. they have the best service in the city and an incredible wine program but the atmosphere is not stuffy or pretentious. The old guard French dining is dead. Nobody wants that anymore because its not a place where you can have fun and enjoy yourself.

    also, I’m surprised nobody has mentioned any greif about bibou. Can a BYO really set dining standards when wine, as a part of service, is stricken from consideration?
    I havent been yet so I cant make an opinion.

  • Matt

    @Critescu

    What did I lose? If you think Zahav is 4 bells I think you have a dead palate.

    Completely agree with All Whack. Should StudioKitchen be 4 bells? I’m sure there are a lot of grannies in south philly cooking up good meals. Maybe LaBan can review them too.

    @Steve

    I’ve been to Le Virtu. It’s good, but I would say a notch below Osteria, and certainly not on the same level as Vetri.

  • Steve

    you can’t deny that Le Virtu is at least way more authentic in its cuisine. And delivers on the true Italian experience as it would be in Italy.

  • Matt

    @Steve

    Authenticity is difficult to define. You can argue that it isn’t really possible to replicate an authentic Italian restaurant in the US because we don’t have access to the same fresh ingredients. Or you could argue that it would be more authentic if they used local ingredients, even though most of them wouldn’t be found in Italy, because that’s the spirit of the cuisine. But yeah, I guess Le Virtu is more authentic under the first definition. I wouldn’t say the Vetri places are in-authentic, but they do bend the rules a lot.

  • James

    @matt
    The Amish are 20 mins away. Shame on you for thinking Philly can’t get high quality ingredients. Our natural resources rival europe. And in most cases, they will grow what restaurants ask. The dairy and eggs are unparalelled in the US. wiht the exception of maybe Vermont. And after a breif view of Le Virtu’s website I noticed they use local meats and produce. and the rest seem to be imported from Italy.

  • Matt

    @James

    I did NOT say that we can’t get high quality ingredients here. My point was that you cannot get IDENTICAL ingredients that a restaurant in Italy might use.

  • LauraD.

    I LOVE Le Virtu! Best Italian restaurant in Philly! Osteria is great but I just don’t feel like I’m in Italy the way I do at LV.

    I agree with Leban. Bibou was one of my BEST meals last year. You don’t need to serve alcohol to have a showstopping experience.

    Havent been to the others but I can’t wait to try Zahav.

  • Critescu

    @Matt
    You’re a sore loser because Laban didn’t buy your ridiculous criteria or assessments. Shola spends a week preparing one meal for eight people. TT serves about 20 people every night. The former is called catering for select clients; the latter, running a restaurant with actual diners. I work in the galley of one of the 4 other 4 bellers. You obviously don’t. If you did you might understand what other commenters are talking about.

  • Matt

    @Critescu

    Someone who embraces mediocrity like you must be very easy to please.

  • FattyFatMan

    It’s interesting how the two new four bell restaurants, Zahav and Bibou, are the ones that really seemed to get attention outside of Philly, either from the NY Times or from national publications.

    Are the four bell reviews just a way of reaffirming validation from outside the city?

    Two of the best meals I’ve had in the past year were at Fond and the Farm and Fisherman. And while I haven’t been to Le Virtu everyone raves about it. I’m not sure why these places don’t get similar recognition.

    Also, as far as Zahav goes, I had dinner at Kanella a couple nights ago. In terms of the quality of the cooking I don’t think that Zahav does anything that Kanella doesn’t. Does Zahav’s lamb shoulder really win out over Kanella’s rabbit?

    I think the point where things are at right now is that there are so many good places operating on such a high level that elevating a few places to four bells is arbitrary now that people have gotten away from white table cloth criteria and the like as criteria for fine dining.

  • Chef W

    Personally my favorite Laban story is that Lagasse and Prudhome ran him out of New Orleans after a couple of years. They hired private detectives, hounded him, photographed him and posted his photo in every restaurant in the region thus destroying his ability to objectively rate a restaurant. I pay no attention to whatever Craig says at any value other than entertainment. Zahav is great, but not life changing.

  • JONES

    Farm and Fisherman needs time. One of the city’s best chefs. Fond is hitting a bit of a snag or glass ceiling, imho. The food is growing a bit tired. Same idea on every menu change and special – protein, starch, jus of some kind. Repeat. Great the fist time, but not world changing.

  • Chef W

    LABAN con’d Plus they id’d his companions, and captured the license plates of his cars. They realized that a lousy review could kill a restaurant trying to revitalize a neighborhood, and decided that their city was more important than he was, and ran the bastard out.

  • Critescu

    @Matt
    I guess not: You’re a mediocre writer and critic and I find you quite unpleasant.
    Another Matt Theory shot down.

  • Matt

    @Critescu

    I’m not a “critic”. We’re posting on a foobooz board here, not penning editorials for the New York Times.

    And since you’ve already admitted to working at 2 of the 4-bell places, how can we take your opinions seriously? That’s like Georges Perrier saying Le Bec-Fin is the greatest restaurant in the world.

  • Critescu

    @Matt
    You not only have trouble thinking, but reading too. Yes, I work in the kitchen of a 4 beller, but I’ve never implied that I’ve worked at two of them. I have worked with Sikora, but not at TT. You are right on one count: This is just a food blog. And you’re just one more fatuous foodie with lots of gassy opinions and no idea how restaurants work.

  • Matt

    @Critescu

    I didn’t know I had to work in the industry to form an opinion. Why don’t you add something useful to the discussion? You and that other jackass must have half a dozen posts about how I incorrectly guessed the 4-bellers. By the way, the only one I did not guess was Zahav. I always maintained that TT and Bibou were possibilities. Zahav is clearly inferior to the others on the list.

  • sk

    I also think most food critics in other major cities would be laughing at Leban. Not so much for the Zahav rating but for TT. Its a joke that this place gets reviewed by the same criteria as real restaurants. Its a market turned “dining room ” at night with 3 cooks cooking the same meal for 12 people at the same time. The servers are baristas the setting is packaged coffe and other goods….come on people . Anyone that has cooked in a profesional kitchen knows that part of the challenge is being able to balance the way everything comes in and out of the kitchen. Most talented and experienced chefs in the region can create a special dinner party !

    • Derek

      All these sour grapes about TT are truly laughable. I’ve had some of the best meals of my life there: eight-course feasts featuring dishes like pan-roasted, tamarind-glazed pheasant with candied turnip gratin, perfectly cooked crab poached in butter with lemon–ricotta ravioli, rich and flavorful house-made pâtés and terrines, and more. But the magic has to do with more than just the menu. It’s the sense of community; it’s being able to talk with the chefs about their food. For four hours, you get to put everyday life on pause and enjoy an unhurried meal. That’s quite a feat in these times. 

    • All whack

      Oh my god!!!!! Thank you. Somebody finally understands. TT is not a restaurant!!!!!! SK hit the nail on the head! @Critescu just cause you wash dishes or prep cook doesn’t mean you actually understand what it really means to be a 4 beller

      • Weewillie

        As someone beautifully and definitively stated in one of these threads: if Frank Bruni, Gourmet magazine, Bon Appetit, Saveur and Craig Laban all think TT is a restaurant, it’s a restaurant. No matter what some third-rate fooderati with nothing-to-do-all- day-but-grouse-on-Foobooz think. Congratulations Aimee on four well-deserved bells.

  • sk

    @Derek
    I am not saying that TT isnt a great experience, however if they were a real restaurant all of those great things you mentioned (specifically talking food with the chef for 4 hours) wouldnt be possible. They just shouldnt be looked at as a restaurant because they are not one ! Thats my only complaint, they may be great but they can technically handle the food differently because again its basically a dinner party.

  • Matt

    Sk certainly did hit the nail on the head. I’m not sour about TT receiving 4 bells. But it’s a strange choice and one that I don’t agree with. I’m still waiting for someone to explain why Zahav deserves 4 bells…

  • Critescu

    @AllWhacked
    At just about every multibelled restaurant in the city, Laban’s photo is tacked to a kitchen wall. Starr even posts sentries to tip off the staff when Laban walks through the door. It’s that way in every big city. Frank Bruni, Mimi Sheraton and Bryan Miller of the New York Times have all written about it. Critics try to disguise themselves, but restaurateurs hire detectives to smoke them out. That’s that way it works in the Big Time, but maybe not at your no bell diner

  • sk

    @ weewillie
    Sorry if I have my own opinion of what a restaurant is. Not all of us take the spoonfeeding of the national publications as gospel. Again …..TT may be great but it better be when it only has 1 table a night all eating exactly what you want them to eat at the same time. Not trying to take away from them big boy , so relax, but they are NOT a restaurant in most restaurant employees minds.

  • Critescu

    @Sk
    You and Perrier are living in the past, like, say, 1997. Laban’s very sharp front page story today is all about evolution. The restaurants he awarded his highest rating are continually evolving. That’s his 4 bell standard, circa 2012. His point is that Amada, Le Bec and Barclay Prime have stayed the same or devolved. The same goes for the definition of a restaurant. The grand fine dining palaces now have equal standing with the tiny BYOs, whether they do 150 covers a night or 15. Think Darwin. Laban did. And don’t make me laugh by insisting you know what’s in most restaurant employees’ minds. You sure haven’t read mine or any of my coworkers’.

  • sk

    @ critescu
    Stop drinking the Koolaide, I am sure Leban will give you an autograph…just ask him. I don’t care if a restaurant does 150 or 15 covers but if it is 15 and they all have to eat the same thing at the same time then its not a restaurant, its a DINNER PARTY. If you honestly can’t see the difference then You dont have a clue as to how a restaurant works so stop pretending to.

  • Anthony

    I like the notion of evolving, but my question now is, where does Zahav go from here? Maybe Zahav continues where it is, but I would love to see Chef Solo with a modern American concept.

  • All whack

    @critescu So Brian and Amy were able to pick Laban out of a hoard of crazy kids and parents at Disney world? They just picked him out and walked right up to him? Or was it the other way around? Sounds fishy. And remember Laban also reviewed the Ikea food court. Is that a restaurant of 2012.
    You are retarded. Have no clue what you are talking about. My guess you just graduated from the restaurant school or the art institute and are all hyped cause you work at Zahav as a prep cook. The bells matter nothing at all. Levin had 4. La croix 3. Laban straight up reviews on favoritism. And to say TT is a restaurant just shows how little time you have been in the biz. Running a quality establishment is perfect service for 10 or 300 1 turn or 3 Perfect service/ food during the craziest rush. And I am sorry TT does none. Sikora and Olexy were not allowed to open another restaurant after selling Django. Which is why TT is what it is. You were prob still in diapers when that went down tho

  • hells bells

    Forget about serving wine, but in the Bibou picture the guest is pouring his own wine. That’s 4-bell service?

  • sk

    @ All Whack
    HAHAHA, Love it , could not have said it better myself !
    We are surrounded by amateurs.

  • Critescu

    SK and All Whack, two self congratulating peas out of the same Le Sueur can. Keep patting yourselves on the back, guys. Keep calling all of us who don’t recognize your greatness “retarded.” And keep slathering the Cheez Whiz on those steaks at Jim’s. I’m sure the Proetto brothers will promote you to assistant manager some day. You’re both such class acts and so, so knowledgeable about haute cuisine.

  • All whack

    I am actually the beef carver at Hershel’s. My corned beef carving skills is all that. Don’t talk smack on Hershel’s. So any way critescu- when did you graduate the restaurant school? Bet youre still chopping with that Dexter knife you picked up at home goods or did you break in that Shun your mommy got you for christmas??

  • Matt

    Even if a critic is identified, does it really matter? Much of the food is prepared beforehand and can’t be changed. For example, in his Le Bec-Fin review, it’s unlikely they have the time to whip up a fresh new crab cake for LaBan even if they had identified him. Most things like that are all made hours before service begins. You can’t tell me that they’re able to prepare every dish a la minute whenever a critic is spotted. They might be able to give his plates a little extra attention, but they can’t magically change poorly prepared food into great food.

  • Supernaut

    I truly hope the ‘hype dictates opinion’ wave Zahav is riding has crested or is near cresting and the discourse is brought back to Earth soon.

  • Anon-ex

    It is completely laughable that Zahav is considered a 4 bell restaurant.
    It is casual Israeli-Lebanese-Yemeni inspired food.
    Are you people smoking weed.
    3 bells yes…..it’s just like a highfalutin Dimitris.
    The food at Kanella is way more flavorful.

  • FattyFatMan

    Guys, restaurants similar in format to TT have been getting national attention. This isn’t just a Philly thing. Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare was one of the most acclaimed/attention-getting restaurants in 2011 in New York despite serving a relatively small number of people nightly. Roberta’s – also acclaimed – offers a similar format. Many restaurants (like Craft) have been emphasizing a chef’s table/counter.

    The definition of fine dining is changing and there aren’t hard and fast rules as to what qualifies now. But it seems like from a national perspective, TT isn’t that dissimilar from many other restaurants.

  • Critescu

    @Matt
    It doesn’t matter other than the fact that the top bell restaurateurs in this town have all been schooled in what the Only Philly Food Critic Who Matters looks like. In fact, they make it their business to have staff that can pick him out of a crowd. The cannier ones prepare two dishes of each course and send out the better one. Mere mortals don’t get that kind of treatment. Again, that’s the way it works in every big city.
    @Sk
    I just realized: Studiokitchen. (Duh!) Very cute, Sk, and very generous of you.
    @All Whacked
    Please let us all know when your diploma arrives from Paula Dean’s correspondence school. And get some rest. You deserve it.

  • Daytime Drinker

    Critescu are you really dumb enough to think just because someone uses the name @sk anonymously it actually has anything to do with studiokitchen?
    Really?
    Besides in comment #37-40-45-47 this @sk was making the case that the structure of Talula and Studiokitchen (which are essentially the same) are not restaurant concepts.
    It just makes me think all foobooz comments are staged.
    Maybe it’s the Talula chef who was arrested for DUI.

  • Weewillie

    If that’s not the real studiokitchen, I’ll start drinking in the daytime too

  • Anon

    Restaurants that are not in Philadephia should not be reviewed by the Inquirer as the best restaurants in Philly. Last I checked Kennet Square and Conshohocken are not part of Philly. I predict Laban is on his way out and this was some lame attempt to reset the landscape except its just so biased and personal. What happened to his prediction of JG domestic and it’s bullshit lettuce farm becoming the French Laundry of Philly.

  • Veritas

    First, I used to be a chef in Philly and now am a sous chef for Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans but still read the Philly food stuff. First of all, we spotted Laban all four times he came in to eat in at Lacroix for the four-bell review — Levin dressed up the food more than normal, ie – gold leaf on risotto that was not the normal garnish, etc. We also spotted him while I was at Table 31 the three times he came in. He was also spotted at the place where I was the chef (although the fact that Rick Nichols was with him certainly helped clue us in). As far as the rumor that Emeril ran Laban out of NOLA — I had always heard that too. Unfortunately when I started talking with the top brass of Emeril, Inc I was basically laughed at when I told them the story — yes, they all remember Laban very well but no, Emeril made no effort to run him out of town. Just a fanciful rumor that spread around Philly. As far as TT goes; Brooklyn Fare is a very similar concept and received three Michelin Stars! Per Se knows essentially how many patrons will bein every night and knows they will eat one of two menus, so I don’t see a huge diff besides TT feeding everyone at the same time. And while I love Zahav, I don’t really picture that as a four-bell restaurant, but I guess the times they-are-a-changin.

  • DeClose

    @DirtyDrinker
    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Sk used the EXACT same arguments to put down TT as Chip Roman and other chefs used to fricassee him in Philly Mag’s expose on Speck. The local catering world is like a lazy Susan. What goes around comes around.

  • Pat

    I take issue with all of the complaints about the metrics that determine a 4-bell rating. 4 bells doesn’t have to mean “the closest thing to Michelin-starred restaurant in Philly.” Philly has a very distinct restaurant scene, and LaBan reviews restaurants in that scene almost exclusively. Why should he have to tailor his rating system to put it in line with other what “a restaurant critic” should rate?

    Zahav and Bibou get national press while The Fountain is largely unknown outside of Philly because every city has a restaurant like The Fountain – a classy, American-style restaurant with great service and great food that you pay an arm and a leg for. Zahav has unbelievable service considering how inexpensive it is, and while I’ve never been to Bibou, I get the impression that there are few, if any other restaurants quite like it in the country. Their uniqueness measures distinction, and if LaBan wants to use a rating system that lets him give these restaurants the max score, I say more power to him.

  • Pat

    *should have been “their uniqueness merits distinction” rather than “measures”, but you get my point.

  • FattyFatMan

    The other question I have, since I’m not in the restaurant industry, is, why do industry people care whether a restaurant gets three bells or four bells?

    Is the issue for restaurants like Lacroix that there will be some financial hit for losing a star? I love the place, and wouldn’t not go there because Laban thought the service was iffy.

    For a place like Bibou or TT, they are booked all the time regardless and have national reputations, so the new status can’t result in more $.

    When the Michelin guide for New York came out, people laughed it off more or less.

    I guess I’m just surprised a newspaper star system can generate this much of a reaction.

  • chefwhosaw

    Aimee and Bryan spotted CLaban several times at Django, BEFORE they had a daughter, which incidentally was AFTER they had gotten four bells. It’s a JOKE that people would claim they’ve vacationed together.

    I had my restaurant reviewed by LaBan- when we spoke on the phone, I asked him how he determines who he wants to review. He flat out said,” I can review anyone I want to.” He’s the food critic. It’s his system. He’s absolutely right. For everyone bitching about the new ratings, if you don’t respect LaBan and his ratings, why don’t you just be done with him and stop reading him? Why does it matter? @Matt- you have to be the biggest dope of all. You’ll participate in a prediction of who will win four bells- from a critic you think is lame, but has been reviewing for over a decade- but you’ll spend all day on here trashing his choices?? Seriously- one question? What’s the point?

  • Jack.

    Yes seriously who gives a crap.
    Restaurants just need butts in the seats.
    People who own them and sensible ones who work in them have no time for this stupid conversations of brinksmanship by idiots who don’t even identify themselves.People in the real world don’t give a shit about Starr or Aimee or Bryan or Garces or Vetri etc.
    Just cook good food and shut up.

  • Matt

    @Chefwhosaw

    I’m flattered you and all the other “dopes”, to use your word, on here care so much about my opinions to dedicate several comments about them. Maybe I should be the inky food critic.

  • wtf

    zahav is great, but doesn’t deserve 4 bells. Don’t be fooled by the chefs you see cooking. theres a mexican sweat shop behind the doors that make everything. take the roof off zahav and its no more than street food on a plate.