Where We’re Eating: Chris’ Jazz Cafe

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I don’t look for much in a jazz cafe—a stiff drink, a solid menu and, hopefully, good music. But at Chris’ Jazz Cafe, when I had to clarify that my Negroni needn’t have salt on the rim—and when it arrived watery, with a few bobbing ice cubes and no garnish—I realized this place was, still, only about the music. New chef Laurent Leseur’s menu ranges from Asian spring rolls to escargot and frog legs to pasta primavera to jambalaya to a four-course chef’s tasting that I, unfortunately, took a chance on. A dry field greens salad was a bed for chewy confit chicken gizzards, topped with a knob of foie butter that made no sense. My “boneless” frog legs came bone-in, with nothing resembling the promised potato-stuffed choux pastry. The duck parmentier’s salt seared my tongue; the dish was crowned by mashed potatoes browned and piped in the 1970s. This city is crying for a good jazz cafe, but with its dated food, nonsensical menu and I-can’t-believe-there-are-still-teal-tablecloths, Chris’ just ain’t it.

Chris’ Jazz Cafe [Foobooz]

First appeared in the March, 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Having a Ball at Le Chéri

le-cherie-review-

According to Trey Popp, the Art Alliance may have finally found its restaurant in Pierre and Charlotte Calmels’ Le Cheri. Popp bestows three stars on the French bistro, despite being served testicles under the guise of “pistachio fries.”

Calmels cuts his boudin noir—another “Bizarre” selection—with extra flour, pushing the sometimes-crumbly texture of that blood sausage into the realm of dense chocolate cake. Best I’ve ever had.

And if there’s ravioli on the menu, get it—even if it sounds boring, like the delicate cream cheese ones whose tangy fillings turned out to be infused with truffle peelings one night.

Three Stars – Excellent

Restaurant Review: Le Cheri [Philadelphia Magazine]
Le Cheri [Foobooz]

Three Bells for Laurel

laurel menus

Craig LaBan finds that Nick Elmi is doing more than just turning out fantastic plates at his BYOB, Laurel. It appears the chef has also found serenity.

His albacore starter may be the best raw tuna dish in town, firmed ever so slightly in tepid olive oil before being dressed with the delicate sweetness of shaved Asian pears and a powder of frozen horseradish and yuzu “snow” that melted in mouth with a cooling sparkle. A bracing edge of mustard oil, chile-spiked ponzu, and fermented daikon cubes were the perfect foil to assertive Spanish mackerel seared crackly warm on the skin side and sashimi raw on the reverse. A study in Berkshire pork – loin roasted, belly braised, tender shoulder pulled then formed into a patty – was memorable for its elegant necklace of huckleberry, kale, and chestnut sauces.

Three Bells – Excellent

A “Top Chef” champ returns to his roots [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Laurel [Foobooz]

Where We’re Eating: The Good King Tavern

the-good-king-tavern-philadelphia-squareThe neighborhood let out a collective groan when, over the summer, Chick’s announced that it was closing. But the good news came with its replacement, The Good King Tavern—this excellent little brasserie with chef Paul Lyons (a graduate of Barbuzzo and Jamonera) in the kitchen. Fans of Chick’s cocktail program will be pleased to know that the list here features drinks like the Sazerac, Aviation and French 75, and there’s a wine list filled with relative bargains. Lyons’s menu is small and unambitious, but that’s okay. The octopus will make you forget about neighboring Dmitri’s, and the substantial $15 steak frites is understandably an early hit. And when your server tries to sell you on the crispy chickpea flatbread as a starter, just say yes. 

The Good King Tavern [Foobooz]

First appeared in the February, 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

The Gastronaut: In Search of the Michelin Man

Michelin guide for Philadelphia restaurants

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

In the beginning, there was France—just this dumpy two-bit European country where everyone grubbed around in the mud, ate rocks for dinner, caught cholera and died at 34.

But over time, France became a colonial power. It went all over the globe picking fights. And everywhere they went, the French brought their armies, their ridiculous hats, their whores and, because they were French, their chef’s knives.

Everywhere they went, they pillaged the local cuisine, stole every good idea, then gave them all French names. To the French, codification was tantamount to ownership. The great French cookbook-slash-encyclopedia, Larousse Gastronomique? A world history of plundered cuisines.
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Peter Woolsey Stepping Away from the Kitchen a Bistrot La Minette

Peter Woolsey | Photo via COOK

Peter Woolsey | Photo via COOK

Peter Woolsey has been the face of Bistrot La Minette since it opened almost six years ago. But with another restaurant project on the horizon, Woolsey is turning over the day-to-day running of his restaurant to Kenneth Bush, a longtime employee who also has had experience working for the Garces Group.

Woolsey wouldn’t go into details regarding the new project but we have previously reported that Woolsey has been tagged as the man in the kitchen for the restaurant coming to the FringeArts space at Delaware Avenue and Race Street.

In Woolsey’s own words » 

Wine Dinner at Fitler Dining Room

fitler-dining-room-400Tomorrow, February 5th, Fitler Dining Room is welcoming wine consultant David McDuff for a special four-course wine dinner featuring wines from the Savoie region of France. Before Fitler Dining Room opened, chef Robert Marzinsky toured through France and Savoie  in particular. For this dinner he’ll be highlighting the region’s cuisine with gruyere souffle, musssel cream soup and spiced duck breast. 

There will be two seatings, 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Dinner is $85 per person and includes wine pairings (but not including tax and gratuity).

Reservations are required and can be made by calling 215.732.3331.

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Today Sees the Release of Beaujolais Nouveau

Nov13-Beaujolais-PosterToday the wine world (except for exasperating cork dorks who seem to increasingly hate on the day) celebrates Beaujolais Nouveau. The first wine from the 2013 harvest.

In Philadelphia, Midtown Village goes French for the night with a series of events at the neighborhood’s restaurants and boutiques. There are free samples, specials and sales galore.

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