More Of The Best Soups In Center City: Readers Edition

HippotShabu

A few days ago, we posted a list of some of the best soups in Center City–a perfect little thing for a gray, cold day. But almost as soon as it went up, readers started commenting with places that we’d forgotten. And since the first post was never meant to be anything like a canonical list, we’ve decided to expand it here with reader suggestions–plus a couple of extra places that we just love.

So first, I finally got the chance to stop by the new(ish) Hippot Shabu Shabu, which opened a couple months back in Chinatown. I have two things to say about it right off the bat…

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Philadelphia Art Alliance’s ‘Spring at the Mansion’

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Spring is in the air and it was very evident at the Philadelphia Art Alliance’s “Spring at the Mansion” party held Friday night in the jewel of Rittenhouse Square, The Wetherill Mansion across from the blooming park.

Black was out, and colorful dresses and dapper suits were in. Guests enjoyed a cocktail party under a tent on the closed Rittenhouse Street adjacent to the Wetherill before being led into the mansion for a delicious dinner prepared by the newly opened French bistro Le Chéri, whose rooms were decorated with springtime colors and flowers by Evantine Designs.

At 8 p.m. the Young Friends of The Art Alliance began their party under the tent. They enjoyed delicious treats from DiBruno’s and an open bar, and danced to the tunes of DJ Serop. A portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit the preservation and restoration of The Wetherill Mansion, home of the Philadelphia Art Alliance and the oldest cultural institution on the Square. Co-chairs for the evening were Nicole Cashman and Nigel Richards.

Philadelphia Art Alliance’s ‘Spring at the Mansion’ »

French Classics Prepared by a French Master

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According to Craig LaBan, Pierre Calmels is hitting on all cylinders at his new Le Cheri. LaBan’s list of favorites appears to be most of the menu.

I can’t remember a better steak tartare than Le Chéri’s finely diced filet, edgy with Dijon and glossed with raw yolk, mounded atop the crispy potato lattice of fresh gaufrette chips. The onion soup is deeply sweet from onions caramelized for hours, but balanced with wine and stock, then sealed beneath the nutty tang of molten Comte. Familiar steak-frites gets an upgrade with earthy bavette (flat sirloin) and shallots soaked in Marchand de Vin gravy. The potatoes “Darphin,” crispy rails of shredded spuds in clarified butter, are the hash-brown sticks of my dreams. The choucroute is a classic crock of kraut beer-stewed to brown with bacon, foie gras fat, and house-made duck-pork sausage, then topped with a crispy blade of braised pork belly and mildly salted but flavorful duck confit.

Three Bells – Excellent

Calmelses’ Le Cheri: Back to Bistro [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Le Cheri [Foobooz]

Having a Ball at Le Chéri

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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]

Philadelphia Restaurant Review: Le Chéri

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Boudin Noir. Photography by Jason Varney

YOU HAVE TO FIGURE that any ingredient is fair game in a menu section labeled “Bizarre.” But Pierre Calmels sure pulled a fast one on me at Le Chéri (which replaced the Rittenhouse Tavern after Nick Elmi left to open Laurel on East Passyunk). The only dish I didn’t like at the Bibou chef’s classically French makeover of the Philadelphia Art Alliance space was his lamb offal pot-au-feu, whose gutty broth occupied that uncanny valley that separates the authentic from the macabre. But oh, the “pistachio fries” floating in it! What culinary jewels, those mild and tender ovals bearing mosaics of crunchy nuts!

Only later did I discover the source of my captivation. “Ah, pistachio fries!” Calmels chuckled over the phone. “This is a way of saying ‘testicles.’”

Culinary jewels indeed.
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Chef Changes For The New Year

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So here we are, just two days into the new year and already we’ve got some chef changes to report.

First off, Pierre and Charlotte Calmels of Le Cheri have let go their opening chef, Waldemar “Val” Stryjewski after a little more than a month (Le Cheri opened in the Art Alliance space on November 20). According to the Insider, it just wasn’t a good fit with the kitchen there needing less of a chef and more of a manager. No replacement has been named yet, but Pierre has been holding things together at Le Cheri since the start while longtime sous Ron Fougeray has been running the kitchen at Bibou.

But wait, there’s more…

Le Chéri Opens on Rittenhouse Square

Val Stryjewski | Photo by Yoni Nimrod, Cook

Val Stryjewski | Photo by Yoni Nimrod, Cook

Le Chéri is now open in the Art Alliance building at 18th and Rittenhouse Square. The successor to Rittenhouse Tavern is owned by Pierre and Charlotte Calmels of Bella Vista’s much-praised Bibou. The chef de cuisine is Waldemar “Val” Stryjewski who comes from a.kitchen. The price point is less than that at Bibou with entrees ranging from $17 to $30.

For now the restaurant is BYOB but a liquor license is in the works. Reservations are already tough to land but a tipster informs us the bar is first-come-first-served.

Check out the opening menu » 

Pierre and Charlotte Calmels Look to Bring Bibou Magic to Rittenhouse

Vive La France with Pierre Calmels of Bibou

Charlotte and Pierre Calmels of Bibou are ready for their next venture. The couple who run one of Philadelphia’s most praised BYOBs are heading to Rittenhouse Square and the Rittenhouse Tavern space in the Art Alliance building. Michael Klein reports that couple are turning Rittenhouse Tavern into a classic French restaurant with a liquor license and at a price point lower than Bibou.

No name is set but they’re hoping for an October opening. Restaurants have struggled at the Art Alliance despite its location, attractive interior and tranquil outdoor garden. But the Calmelses have made a name for themselves at Bibou and the restaurant is one of just five restaurants that have received Craig LaBan’s four-bell rating. Before opening Bibou, Pierre Calmels was Georges Perrier’s chef de cuisine at Le Bec Fin for six years.

Bibou duo coming to Rittenhouse Square [The Insider]
Bibou [Official Site]

Photo by Yoni Nimrod | Cook