If Le Bec Fin became Le Bec 2.0 on the day that Nicolas Fanucci took it over from Georges Perrier and brought it back to the good old days of elegance and opulence that marked its most defining era, then what do we call it now? Is it Le Bec 2.5 because chef Walter Abrams has been shown the door (Steve Eckerd has been standing as interim chef de cuisine ever since) and a new exec has yet to be found? Will it be Le Bec 3.0 when a new big hat is chosen to step behind the stoves?
Or, now that it has been announced that Fanucci has decided to allow a la carte ordering again (the thing that some would argue precipitated the fall of the original Le Bec), do we call it Le Bec 1.5?
It's not a complete fall-back, this notion of bringing back a la carte. The way it's being spun is that laying menus on the table and allowing for a la carte ordering (a change which will take effect starting Tuesday, April 9) is merely offering guests "flexibility." The big, $150, 8-course prix fixe menu is still an option (though the mid-range, shorter prix fixe option is being done away with), but not everybody has that kind of money to drop, right? Not everyone has 3 hours to spend at dinner. So now, one can roll in, order the artichoke veloute ($19), terrine of foie gras with poached rhubarb and candied pistachio ($31), black bass en papilotte with saffron beurre blanc ($34) or a 6oz. filet mignon with grilled leeks, celery root puree and black truffle bordelaise ($42) and cap thing off with three cheeses from the cart ($18), and get out the door for around a hundred bucks for four courses instead. Not counting wine or tip, of course.
That's still an expensive night out, sure. But then, this is still Le Bec Fin. Even without a permanent chef in the kitchen. But the question is, is this just a repositioning? Another attempt at finding that sweet spot between luxury and penury that will allow Le Bec to remain Le Bec without sacrificing everything that makes it special? Or is it something more?
But wait, the new a la carte system is not the only change coming to the storied Walnut Street address. Starting on Sunday, from 11am-3pm, Le Bec will also begin serving brunch--something which, as far as I know, has never been done here before. It'll run you $60 for two courses plus breakfast breads and a dessert buffet. Oh, and there will also be a make-your-own Bloody Mary menu. Also a first, for sure.
Check out the menus below. Decide for yourselves what this says about the future of Le Bec Fin. Is it stronger now with these added meals and added flexibility? Or are we just looking at a sad replay of what happened last time the Grande Dame of high-end Philly dining began to falter?