Open Stove XXII was on Monday night, and like most of our Open Stove events, the guests got drunk. Not just because of the beer and wine, but because of the shots of Jameson tossed both into the food and down the throats of the patrons and chefs. It was a crazy night of Irish kitchen shenanigans, all in the spirit of St. Patty’s Day. Because we’re well into March, aren’t we? And it just seemed like the right time to start celebrating.
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Starting today from now until 5pm we will be taking reservations for June at Laurel. Please call 215 271 8299 to reserve
— Laurel Restaurant (@LaurelEPX) February 24, 2014
Get them now, they’re sure to be going fast.
Nick Elmi is having quite the 2014 so far. His win on Top Chef became public, his Laurel has been praised by the critics and has just been nominated for a James Beard Award for Top New Restaurant. All of this has made his restaurant impossible to get into. Elmi is preparing to open up June resteverations to Laurel sometime next week.
This past weekend he appeared on CBS This Morning and talked about his start in the kitchen and prepared a rustic cacciucco dish for the show.
So it’s not like Laurel was easy to get into before chef Nick Elmi was named Top Chef last week. With 22 seats, a five-night-a-week dinner schedule and an already well-known white jacket in the kitchen, it was never going to be a walk-in kind of joint.
But now, with the TV and the fame and everything else, it’s just bonkers. As I’m writing this, Laurel’s Open Table reservation system is down–I assume because it has just plain melted–but last I heard, you were looking at a wait of months for a prime table, and weeks for anything at all. But there is another way…
See, Laurel is one of the restaurants that’s going to be at Philly Cooks this year. And there are still a few tickets left for the big event, happening Wednesday the 19th. So if you’re interested in tasting the food that won Elmi the big prize, this might be your only chance for a good, long time.
Here’s hoping we see you all there.
Philly Cooks Tickets [The Big Event]
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
Congrats to Philadelphia chef Nicholas Elmi, who won Bravo’s Top Chef competition on Wednesday night. Read more »
Trey Popp reviews Nick Elmi’s Laurel for the February issue of Philadelphia magazine. Popp writes that Elmi’s cooking has been unshackled from cooking other people’s food and has found his way. It’s a three-and-a-half star review, the highest rating Popp has doled out as reviewer for the magazine.
The dish I least wanted to order—pork with acorn squash and
chanterelles—turned out to feature loin and belly and the best “sausage” I’ve ever had: pulled pork shoulder perked up with sherry vinegar, set on brioche, and wrapped in caul fat that, when pan-fried, transformed the bread into the Platonic ideal of crispiness. And the accompanying pumpkin seed vinaigrette revealed itself as a rustic cousin of marmalade, sharpened by the trace bitterness of oranges blanched 10 times.
Yet never did this finely wrought food feel fussy. Some chefs put so much intellectual effort into a dish that the plate resembles a notebook crammed with all the scratch notes that preceded it. Elmi doesn’t show all his work, only the elegant answers.
Three-and-a-half-stars – Excellent to Extraordinary
Twelve years is a long sentence for someone who hasn’t committed a crime, even if you get to serve it in some swanky cells. Ask Nicholas Elmi. The onetime apprentice at Manhattan’s Daniel and Lutèce rose to become Georges Perrier’s right hand at Le Bec-Fin, then glided into the blue-blooded precincts of the Philadelphia Art Alliance as head chef at Rittenhouse Tavern. But in 2013, at long last, the golden handcuffs came off.
His coming-out party began on national television, where he competed on Season 11 of Bravo’s Top Chef. But that’s beside the point—not just for this cable-shunning critic, but for any food lover within taxi distance of East Passyunk Avenue. Because it’s there, in a 10-by-15-and-a-half-foot kitchen barely big enough to afford him the company of a single sous-chef and a culinary student, that Elmi is finally doing things his way. And what a way that is.
After a career spent “cooking other people’s food” and then chafing against his corporate leash at Rittenhouse Tavern, Elmi opened Laurel as a co-owner in November. Two weeks later, he cooked my favorite BYO meal of the year. Three weeks after that, my favorite meal anywhere. From the thimble-sized snowballs of frozen horseradish that bedazzled cubes of poached tuna to the tongue-tingling windfall of pink peppercorns clinging to a marbled foie gras terrine shot through with brown veins of cocoa, his plates took my table by storm.
While many of us were watching Top Chef last night, Nick Elmi was at Laurel where he was just finishing up cooking for Top Chef former castmates Jason Cichonski and Travis Masar.