Reserve Opening Tomorrow, With Some Reservations

The grand opening tomorrow of the opulent, $30-to-$50-a-plate Reserve steakhouse in Old City can mean one of only a few things: 1) That the recession is truly behind us and co-owner Didier LaFontant and his quiet partners are hurrying to spend money before another downturn strikes; 2) The aforementioned LaFontant is hopelessly optimistic and/or foolish; or, 3) Mr. LaFontant is a visionary.

Here’s why. Reserve is gorgeous and plush and extravagant in a way that many of us have come to feel a little squeamish about. It’s bejeweled with stained glass windows, looming Corinthian columns, towering ceilings draped in frescos and a sexy cubby of a cigar bar hidden in plain sight at the top of a sweeping wrought-iron staircase. It exists to gift Old City with fine dining, chilled lobster, martinis and power networking. And as poor Georges Perrier, the bedraggled owners of Union Trust, and every restaurateur who’s recently scurried to add a patio and a light-fare menu can tell you, we just don’t go out like that anymore.

Or maybe we do. As a veteran of Cuba Libre, LaFontant has seen his share of sparkle succeed in Old City. And more importantly, maybe we will, too. Who’s to say he’s not full of foresight? A pioneer in the footsteps of an earlier restaurateur who ignored his own rash of naysaying when he dared to drop a martini bar into the desolate Old City of 1995?

If LaFontant is to last as long as The Continental, chef Ken Deiner should highlight his meats. At the media preview party last night, both the beef carpaccio on crostini and the proprietary blend of dry-aged beef served on challah rolls with vidalia spread and Gruyere very literally melted in the mouth. But he should consider either finding a new purveyor for his raw bar items or put his soggy Blue Point oysters, brackish crab claws and instantly forgettable jumbo shrimp on the ice.

To LaFontant’s credit, he does acquiesce to many realities of dining in a 2012 world. He prices his specialty cocktails at just $10 (Toto, I don’t think we’re in Rittenhouse anymore), and he thinks creatively by stocking his happy hour with half-price drinks and bourbon flights for $20, and offering free wine and cheese from 5-8pm on Wednesdays. Plus, he’s pouring more than 100 different bourbons and serving weekend brunch.

Perhaps in a few years we’ll thank LaFontant for providing the definitive before-and-after point along  Old City’s ballyhooed path toward adulthood. Or maybe we should get it over with and thank him now. Really, where else are you going to get such a damned good steak in such a posh atmosphere near the intersection of 2nd and Chestnut?

Reserve [Official website]

Photo courtesy Cashman PR

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  • http://www.HollyEats.com Holly Moore

    Here’s a concept I am still waiting for – a back room of a South Philly bar that broils quality steaks at reasonable prices. No million dollar decor. No fancy wine list. No cliche a la carte sides. Just an inch and a quarter thick rib eye, broiled a perfect medium rare at a 40 to 50% food cost. Make the money on the beer and the lines out the door.

  • Turning

    Khyber rebirth, Han Dynasty fiery launch, Amada, four bell Zahav all within a block each direction. Seems that area is doing just fine, actually outstanding

  • Nightman

    I will give it two weeks until the DJ starts spinning at 10 pm on weekends.

  • Rum

    This is a solid location and the space is tremedous! Good luck with your new restaurant Didier. The restaurant looks great! Cheers!

  • barryg

    So it’s “near 2nd & Chestnut,” but where exactly?

  • Sarah

    LOL! @ Nightman. So true. Don’t forget the “E-A-G-L-E-S” chants starting later in the evening/early morning.

  • Kohlera

    I agree with Nightman & Sarah.
    According to Didier, the menu (food or cocktails) will NOT be changing with the season so this place is gonna lose it’s luster ASAP.

  • opiningmind

    there is more to reserve than expensive steaks. their seafood & poultry dishes are very good also, and are reasonably priced. their bar menu is different than their dinner menu, & you can order from it in the diningroom. the server doesn’t tell you that, and they should so you don’t have to ask. in any event, the food is great and the decor is beautiful.

    check it out!

  • GreatStaff

    I like the staff at Reserve. Very nice men and women and attentive. I am sure the place is going to do well. Saying undeserved snarky comments about a place you never went to is a tempting easy lowbrow way to make a joke but a couple of you making comments really need to grow up. Great job Didier I had a wonderful meal and service four times I’ve been there.

  • Facts

    @barryg, it’s on the corner of 2nd and Chestnut. The door is on the Chestnut Street side.

  • Sophia

    @GreatStaff: Oh, you’ve been to a place FOUR times that just opened.
    You must be “friends and family”.
    Or an owner.
    Or a staff member.
    OR you had breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon tea.
    The title of the article is “Reserve Opening Tomorrow with Some Reservations.” It’s dated Feb 24th. Today’s the 25th.

  • Mike

    Sophia, I think they had a multi-week soft open already. So, while still suspicious, not nearly as suspicious as you think.

  • Gringo Starr

    Very confusing. Why feature steaks from at least three different sources (Myers, Buckhead, La Freida)? Right way that tells me that they are using multiple meat vendors and thus the opportunity for purchasing issues. Feature one source on the menu would work much better.

  • Puhleaseee

    Closed by this christmas for sure.
    Menu all over the place.
    There are no “local” wild mushrooms in the dead of winter.
    Asparagus soup in February.
    Wild Kind Salmon is out of season.
    It will be a tourist trap by summer and die slowly.

  • barryg

    Brunch: Granola, fruit yogurt, salad and dessert: $30 and you can’t order a la carte.

  • http://www.reservphilly.com Jean Jacques Didier Lafontant

    Hey everyone It’s Didier at Reserve , for the believers thanks for the support. If you have given us a chance thank you. If you have not please do, our goal is to bring something positive to the Old City area. Our menu is varied enough and will change when needed. We did create two separate dining experiences with our menu, one at the bar a bit more casual with Burgers and Pizzas (Wood burning love it) and one in the dining room more Entrees and Steak, Seafood driven. You are welcome to order what you want where you want. Our menu price ranges from $9 to $38. For the frugal minded we do offer 1/2 price all beverages at the bar Monday through Friday, 5 -7 on Mondays and 5 -8 Tuesday through Friday. We are currently featuring “Wine Wednesdays” on Wednesdays we have a wine expert on site to give you our guest some wine tasting and knowledge from 5 to 8. ” Guess what?” the tasting is not expensive, it’s for free but it is limited – so come in and let’s hang out and learn something about the vino. I am here 24/7 trying to make it right, if you are in the neighborhood and you want to know more about Reserve or me please stop in, we can chat. Coming soon “Women and Whiskey” Thursdays where else would you want to be ?

  • http://www.reservphilly.com Jean Jacques Didier Lafontant

    Barryg, you can order our Brunch A La Carte or as a Prix Fixe option.

  • Kyle

    I really enjoyed the organic salmon dish. Also the mac and cheese is to die for. The overall atmosphere is great and the service was five star!

  • Jackie

    I went during the grand opening weekend and was so impressed. The interior is both stylish and chic and creates a class act atmosphere. They had great pick-ons to choose from, with shrimp, mussels, and steak. And of course every drink was delicious! Overall, I was very happy with the service and food and will definitely be back.

  • u2

    You’re doing great Didier, So don’t let the bastards grind you down