All of the Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews

craig-laban-zero-bell-reviews-word-cloud-4

Craig LaBan has hit Center City steak-and-seafood chain Ocean Prime with a well-deserved zero bell review, his second zero bell review for 2013. Here, a summary of all of LaBan’s zero bell reviews that have appeared in the Inquirer.

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 1998

Solaris Grille

Excerpt:

…eating at Solaris Grille can sometimes feel like a disappointing vacation. The gap between what’s advertised on the menu and what comes to the table is occasionally so broad it’s akin to getting off the plane only to realize the pilot flew to the wrong destination.

Closed in 2011. Became Chestnut 7, which closed in October 2013.

 

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 1999

Old Original Bookbinder’s
Bookbinders 15th Street Seafood House

Excerpt:

…worse than I’d ever imagined: two restaurants spiraling into the basement of faded glory for different reasons.

The historic Old Original closed in 2001 and reopened in 2005, after which LaBan upgraded the restaurant to two bells. That iteration closed in 2009. The terrible 15th Street location closed in 2004 and is now an Applebee’s.

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2000

Ivy Grille

Excerpt:

But shoddy cooking (and a few tall tales) turned this wildly eclectic menu into a hapless parody of pretentious contemporary cuisine. Nothing, it seemed, arrived as advertised. Seafood ceviche was so overmarinated, eating a scallop was like biting into a bitter citrus rind. A cheesey glob of ‘lobster’ risotto had no trace – either in flavor or meat – of any crustacean relation. As for the exotic basmati and jasmine rices that supposedly garnished many of the entrees, ours had less flavor than Minute Rice. Even with the sweetbreads, ‘light flaky pastry’ somehow materialized as a fried spring roll wrapper.

Ivy Grille closed in 2002. The location is now Penne.

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2001

Shula’s

Excerpt:

Don Shula may have been a great football coach, but he should punt as a restaurateur. At this branch of his namesake restaurant, the football decor is bizarre (complete with a gift shophawking pigskin souvenirs). Service is amateurish. Worst of all, the dismal steak-house fare comes at Hall of Fame prices.

This location has closed.

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2002

Trust

Excerpt:

…it has disappointed on almost every level. It is one of the few new restaurants I’ve experienced here to actually worsen over my three visits.

Laban later upgraded Trust to one bell, but the restaurant closed in 2003. It is now El Vez.

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2003

Carmella’s

Excerpt:

Carmella’s is not simply a bad idea – a blatant local knock-off of a national chain shamelessly imitating a local place – it also succeeds far less well than its corporate rivals.

Carmella’s, a Derek Davis restaurant, closed in 2005.

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2004

None

craig-laban-zero-bell-reviews-word-cloud

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2005

Haru

Excerpt:

This corporate child of Benihana attempts to be the best of both sushi worlds, but ends up the worst.

Haru closed in 2011.

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2006

None

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2007

None

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2008

Javier

Excerpt:

A dramatic display of mediocrity served at outrageous prices.

Javier closed in 2009.

Chima

Excerpt:

One might hope for a certain value in the prospect of gorging on limitless quantities of grilled beef and salad. But that hope devolved quickly for us into a chewing chore, as skewer upon skewer of jarringly salty, mediocre meats paraded to our table.

LaBan later upgraded Chima to one bell.

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2009

Del Frisco’s

Excerpt:

It’s hard to imagine a bigger disappointment than this ultra-luxe steak chain, which upped the year’s chop-house wars with a jaw-dropping columned space in a former bank, a towering glass wine cellar, a frisky bar scene for the corporate set, and prime meat chops at prices that were jaw-dropping, too.

LaBan originally awarded Del Frisco’s one bell but later downgraded the steakhouse to zero bells. This excerpt is from that downgrade.

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2010

Chew Man Chu

Excerpt:

This pan-Asian eatery not only distances itself from the apparently intimidating flavors of nearby Chinatown (‘very ethnic . . . hard to understand for part of the Caucasian market,’ Grims has been told), it does so with cliched style, and enough lacquered sweetness to make your teeth ache.

Owner Marty Grims closed Chew Man Chu in 2010 after just six months. The location is now Sbraga.

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2011

Thai Kuu

Excerpt:

…none of the food we’d eaten that night was even remotely worthy of the wait or expense. The cooking at Thai Kuu – frustratingly bland, surprisingly pricey, consistently underwhelming – was as disappointing as the service.

LaBan later upgraded Thai Kuu to one bell.

Liberté

Excerpt:

…a revamped bar and restaurant wrapped inside the Sofitel’s glassed-in ground floor whose motto, spelled out on a sign tacked to the sleek wood-veneer walls, is ‘urban.chic.lounge.’ ‘Slow.reheated.disaster’ would be more appropriate based on the meals I recently slogged through there, a performance of incompetence on the plate and in the dining room that I’ve not endured in quite some time.

Liberte is now a bar.

Serafina

Excerpt:

Crowds come for the cachet at this new Center City outpost of a New York chain. But it would be a mistake to come for the food.

Remarkably, Serafina is still open.

Craig LaBan Zero Bell Reviews 2012

None

Craig LaBan zero bell Reviews 2013

The Saint James

Excerpt:

My expectations were as high as ever that the Main Line was about to acquire a winning neighborhood restaurant, especially considering the experience of this team: partners Michael Schulson (Sampan and Izakaya) and Rob Wasserman (Rouge), plus chef Matthew Moon, who cooked some of my most memorable tasting meals at tiny Talula’s Table. But nearly everything about my meals at the Saint James, the stylish American bistro that replaced Victoria’s Secret in Suburban Square, arrived in a jumbled, rush-job mess.

Still open. Philly Mag restaurant critic Trey Popp had a similar experience.

Ocean Prime

Excerpt:

I ate some of my most expensive meals of the year at Ocean Prime. Unfortunately, they were also the worst.

We’ll see how long this location of the Ohio-based chain can hold on. For Philly Mag’s take on Ocean Prime, read the review: “Ocean Prime: Pretty But Also Pretty Lousy.”


craig-laban-zero-bell-reviews-word-cloud

  • nightman

    Craig obviously doesn’t like chains and goes into these reviews with a chip on his shoulder.

    • Huh

      This is absolutely true!! And if you are Jewish you get either 3 or 4 bells. Especially if you go to his temple

      • Huh

        Real talk

  • SCARLET

    I found Ocean Prime to be just fine!

    • no

      Hi, Ocean’s Prime’s manager! I hope you can take time out from shilling on websites to actually improve your restaurant!

      • Jacky Speck

        It would be pretty amusing if Ocean Prime’s manager couldn’t think of any better compliment from a fake customer than “just fine.”

        • http://philadelphia.foobooz.com/ Art from Foobooz

          Marc A. Oppen, Ocean Prime’s GM is joining LaBan for his online chat, Tuesday at 2.

  • someguy123

    Ocean Prime was even more ridiculously disappointing than he describes. And extra lol for Serafina, which is really just so bad that it’s not even joke-worthy.

  • tonyb

    I give give Craig two balls not bells. He must have a huge two. I take his reviews, based on his culinary experience, should I say, with a grain of salt. His writing style matches his palate. Sour.

  • no

    I’ve eaten at Thai Kuu – its just standard Thai food, really. Its tasty, it gets the job done. Its kinda like reviewing a Chinese takeout joint, you know? Seems kinda pointless to even place it on the same scale as “real” restaurants.

  • Hungry

    Craig LaBan is a blowhard and a bully, and is far too impressed with himself. Haven’t we suffered with him long enough?

  • Philly’s Best BYOBs

    Should note St. James has a new chef, so we should probably give it a second shot.

    • http://philadelphia.foobooz.com/ Art from Foobooz

      I’m sure LaBan will revisit in his year end recap coming this Sunday.