Two Bells for Franky Bradley’s

Franky Bradley's

Photo via Franky Bradley’s

Craig LaBan very much enjoys the feel that Marc Bee has created in his new take on Franky Bradley’s, but it is chef David Kane’s food that makes the trek down back alley’s worth it for the food critic.

Pink slices of smoked duck breast are at the heart of a pressed Cuban sandwich, plumped with tender duck confit and tart house pickles inside its fontina-and-butter-crisped crust. Tender slow-smoked brisket is also a highlight. I enjoyed it layered with celery-root slaw and BBQ sauce as a hearty sandwich. But there was something about that brisket, moistened with veal stock and mounded into hollowed-out potato skins with Cabot cheddar and a creamy drizzle of horseradish sauce, that persuasively evoked an old-school aesthetic while updating it at the same time, as though crystallizing Franky Bradley’s weird hybrid as a sort of offbeat modern-day Steak & Ale.

Two Bells – Very Good

Franky Bradley’s offers old comforts in new style [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Franky Bradley’s [Foobooz]

Zero Bells for Bonchon

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Craig La Ban lowers La Boom on Philadelphia’s first franchise of the Korean fried chicken chain, Bonchon. LaBan drops zero bells on the K-Pop blaring, No-Korean-in-the-kitchen Chinatown outpost.

Bonchon does serve many other Korean favorites beyond wings. But there isn’t a single Korean in the kitchen at this Bonchon, owned by Chinese Americans (“I have Korean friends,” Taing notes). And it shows with off-key renditions of bibimbap (with mushy rice), dully flavorless japchae noodles (despite a splash of sweet soy wing sauce), and a seafood-scallion pancake scorched black on the bottom.

Hyped Korean chicken chain arrives, disappoints [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Bonchon [Foobooz]

Two Bells For Bing Bing Dim Sum

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Despite the noise, despite quibbles over texture and dumpling-skin thickness, Craig Laban finds a lot to like about Bing Bing Dim Sum, Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Daragh’s sequel to Cheu Noodle Bar. But he spends a significant portion of his critical real estate talking about all the work Puchowitz did trying to convince someone–anyone–to teach him how to make proper soup dumplings.

Do not be deceived by the dumpling. It may well be the world’s cutest food – a bite-sized wonder of sheer dough handiwork gift-wrapped around an infinite variety of juicy hidden treasures. But a great one can be devilishly complex. And the many mysteries of the dumpling’s art – the recipes for perfectly pliant dough, the sleight-of-hand to shape them deftly – are fiercely guarded by its skilled practitioners. In particular, from the prying eyes of Ben Puchowitz.

Two Bells — Very Good

Hip and creatively nontraditional, Ben Puchowitz’s take on dumplings is dim sum, and then some [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Two Bells for Olde Bar

olde-bar-bookbinders-940The Inquirer’s Craig LaBan experiences Jose Garces’s reboot of the Olde Bar at the Original Bookbinders. LaBan is particularly impressed with the drinks, calling Olde Bar “one of Philly’s must-sip libation stations.” As for the food, LaBan is disappointed with the snapper soup and dry crab cake.

LaBan does take a liking to chef de cuisine Mike Siegel’s raw bar as well as  the beef fat fries and a fish and chips that now rivals LaBan’s local favorite at the Dandelion.

Two Bells – Very Good

With the Olde Bar, Garces pays homage to long-gone Bookbinder’s [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Olde Bar [Foobooz]

Three Bells for Palladino’s

The Kobe Ribeye at Palladino's | Photo via Palladino's

The Kobe Ribeye at Palladino’s | Photo via Palladino’s

Craig LaBan finds that Luke Palladino has managed to find an unfilled niche in Italian-loaded South Philadelphia. At Palladino’s, there are excellent steaks, focaccia di Recco that LaBan predicts will become one of the most sought after plates in the city, and other dishes that stand out.

Among my other favorites were a juicy duck sausage roasted with pickled grapes over goat-cheese-whipped polenta; the baked crepselle rolled around wild mushrooms enriched with Taleggio; a refined casino take on oysters (instead of clams) that roasted those mollusks to perfection. A house-extruded pasta was the secret al dente weapon that elevated the spaghetti alle vongole with tender cockles in flavorful broth to another level.

Three Bells – Excellent

Palladino’s in South Philly: Northern Italian with a chop-house twist [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Palladino’s [Foobooz]

James Beard Award Finalists Announced

james-beard-semisThe 2015 James Beard Award Finalists were announced this morning. Philadelphia area chefs Marc Vetri, Joe Cicala (Le Virtu), Rich Landau (Vedge), Greg Vernick (Vernick Food + Drink) and Alex Bois (High Street on Market) all moved onto the final in their respective categories.

Vetri is a finalist for Outstanding Chef. He is joined in the category by Michael Anthony, Gramercy Tavern, NYC; Sean Brock, Husk, Charleston, SC; and Suzanne Goin, Lucques, Los Angeles.

Read more »

Two Bells for Capofitto

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Craig LaBan reviews Capofitto, the new artisan pizza spot in Old City from the team behind Capogiro. He finds the new pizzeria is just what the historic neighborhood needs.

I know, I know. More pizza. Just what Philadelphia needed. But if it’s created with as much dedication to craft as Stephanie and John Reitano bring, one as good as Capofitto can represent a quality-of-life improvement. And these two bring the same commitment to the details of authenticity that elevates the gelati at their Capogiro chain far beyond mere ice cream.

Two Bells – Very Good

Capofitto is a welcome addition to Old City [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Capofitto [Foobooz]

One Bell for Fishtown’s Girard

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The burger at Girard was one of the things Craig LaBan did like.

Craig LaBan savages Girard, the BYO on Girard Avenue that made headlines before it even opened, with its no-tipping policy. LaBan found poor execution and something even more surprising, a line on the check for tips.

But too many dishes failed to connect good ideas to a plate of complete success. Oliveira’s signature omelet was textbook perfect, stuffed with avocado, creamy cheddar and bacon. But the side of charred grapefruit, grilled face down (letting the sugar fall off) instead of brûléed with a torch, was bitterly burnt. The lamb ragu had an intriguing daube-like inflection of olives and orange, but was literally braised to a mush that was poorly paired with doughy gnocchi. A torchon of foie gras, usually a luxuriously creamy disk of delicately poached liver, was an off-tasting smudge of tan butter on toast overwhelmed by a thicker smudge of fig jam for $13.

One Bell – Hit or Miss

Bold but confusing Girard Brasserie and Bruncherie in Fishtown [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Girard [Foobooz]

Two Bells for George Sabatino’s Aldine

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Photo by Emily Teel (who gets a great shoutout in the review)

There is more than one kind of two-bell review. The surprisingly good neighborhood joint, the disappointing debut of a big-name chef and in the case of George Sabatino’s Aldine, a two-bell review going in the right direction.

Craig LaBan’s review sees progress in several dishes over just a couple of months. And others are already there.

Dishes such as the lamb rillettes, its tender milk-braised meat shredded and formed into a crispy cake over silky Hubbard squash puree sparking with red chile heat, evoke both visual beauty and a deep satisfaction of soulful flavors. Sabatino’s clever crudo deconstruction of the ubiquitous sesame-crusted tuna – raw tuna sashimi brightened with blood orange, fennel crackers and sesame seeds – was like tasting Mediterranean sun.

Two Bells – Very Good

For George Sabatino, years of experiments paying off at Aldine [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Aldine
 [Foobooz]

Arde Osteria Gets One Bell

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Water buffalo mural at Arde Osteria in Wayne

It’s a high-stakes pizza game in Wayne on the Main Line. Craig LaBan notes ten spots within a few blocks in downtown Wayne that are serving up pizza. In LaBan’s review of Ardé Osteria & Pizzeria, he reveals that the Regina Margherita at neighboring Vecchia is one of the best now in the region. As for Ardé, things are a bit more dicey though the Inquirer critic sees potential.

My first visit to Ardé was odd in many respects, beginning with the fact that our pizzas were delivered unexpectedly as a late third-course between entrees and dessert. Either way, they were thoroughly scorched, the coveted leoparding of dark spots having swollen into a charry inner-tube of briquette-sized puffs crumbling black dust over every bite. The delicate harmony of tangy San Marzano tomatoes and sweet mozzarella was overwhelmed. A similarly burnt “mais” pie topped with incinerated corn had other issues, with half the crust refusing to rise and a noticeably salty afterburn.

One Bell – Hit-or-Miss

Craig LaBan visits Ardé Osteria & Pizzeria [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Arde Osteria [Foobooz]

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