Dinner with George Sabatino and Some Light on Aldine

Photo by Neal Santos

Photo by Neal Santos

City Paper’s Caroline Russock reverses roles on local chefs in her “Turning the Tables” series. This week she cooks dinner for George Sabatino and his wife, Jennifer. Russock pulls off citrus-and-herb-roasted pork shoulder and much more. She also gets some good details on Sabatino’s upcoming restaurant, Aldine.

The plan is to offer herbivore and omnivore tasting menus at $55, along with a small a la carte menu and beverage pairings both boozy and non-alcoholic. The set menus will be a series of small bites interspersed with larger plates. He shares a sample menu that he recently demonstrated for investors in New York with elegant and intriguing combinations — spot prawns with fennel and oyster tartare and coconut, granola and white chocolate.

For more on Aldine and dinner at Caroline’s, hop on over to City Paper.

I invited chef George and Jennifer Sabatino for dinner at my place [City Paper]
Aldine [Foobooz]

Nick Elmi’s Laurel Called “Stellar”


Brian Freedman reviews Nick Elmi’s Laurel for Philadelphia Weekly. Freedman calls the East Passyunk BYOB “stellar.”

Berkshire pork lavished in its triumvirate of treatments, and each one, from silky slices of belly to roasted loin to a crepinette of braised shoulder meat secreted inside a cocoon of crisped-up brioche enshrouded in caul fat, had me longing for it days later. Dragging one bite through the mashed chestnuts, dunking another into the shimmering huckleberry-kale vinaigrette, and leaving a third one unadorned became an in situ study in the range and vision of this kitchen.

New East Passyunk BYOB Laurel serves brilliantly imaginative seafood [Philadelphia Weekly]
Laurel [Foobooz]

Marigold Kitchen Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Menus

2_MARIGOLD_Samuel Markey

Marigold Kitchen is doing away with menus. Now the only choice to make when you sit down to dinner at chef/owner Robert Halpern’s West Philadelphia BYOB is seafood, meat or vegetarian for the main entree. Beyond that, you’re in the chef’s hands.

The $85 prix fixe dinner includes up to fifteen courses consisting of bite-sized amuse bouches, small plates and an entree. Vegetarian options are available and other dietary considerations can be accommodated with notice.

Halpern says “this was always the plan” but he was still nervous about how customers would react. But three weeks in and customers tell Halpern, “that decision-free dining is more fun and that’s what Marigold is all about.”

Marigold Kitchen [Official Site]

Photo by Samuel Markey

Two Bells for The Pass

the-pass-porch Bryan Lauth

Craig LaBan visits haute chef gone rustic, Matt Ridgway at his country restaurant, The Pass. LaBan calls the Rosemont, New Jersey BYOB “one of the region’s best destination dining bargains.”

[S]o many of the brilliant touches here – enriching the red wine shellfish sauce for the lobster with earthy chicken livers; the cocoa-steeped agrodolce grapes that add juicy depth to the octopus terrine; the Roquefort glaze that lends transformative piquance to banana bread; a sweet-tart eggplant chutney that gives an exotic tang to the foie gras-turkey terrine – are whimsies best left to chefs with chops like these.

Two Bells – Very Good

The Pass: Comeback chef’s sophisticated fare [Philadelphia Inquirer]
The Pass [Official Site]

Photo by Bryan Lauth

Tavro 13 Reviewed


Terence Feury goes to Swedesboro and opens Tavro 13. But Trey Popp asks, is he what Swedesboro wants?

Feury is cooking as compellingly as ever. A crisp-skinned fillet of black bass made that clear. Sauced with shrimp jus and topped with blood orange suprêmes, with a bergamot hollandaise to provide a second-level spin on the citrus theme, the fish was exquisitely cooked and emblematic of the focused flavors that distinguished the chef’s work at Fork. And by no means did that dish lack company. A sea scallop entrée glistened with ginger butter, the fat accentuating the ginger’s fruity fragrance and attenuating its heat, but not so drastically as to deprive the accompanying sweet parsnip puree of a slightly spicy dance partner.

Two Stars – Good

Restaurant Review: Seasonal American Eats at Tavro 13 [Philadelphia Magazine]
Tavro 13 [Official Site]

Review: Chris Kearse Opens the BYO of the Year

Trey Popp calls Will on Passyunk Avenue the “BYO of the year” and praises the cooking of Chris Kearse.

You could label Kearse’s approach French, or seasonal, or postmodern, and be right every time. But add it all up—a red-wine béarnaise of almost liqueur-like depth; the Mexican cucumbers, as small as caper berries, that Kearse scored cheaply from a farmer at Headhouse Square; the crunchified quinoa and puffed wild rice that joined those micro-cukes in a late-season tomato salad—and what you really have is ADHD cooking.

But that’s praise, not criticism. Dish after dish here offered a busy variety that bordered on impatience but never fell victim to it.


Three Stars – Excellent

Philadelphia Restaurant Review: Will [Philadelphia Magazine]
Will [Official Site]

“Interesting” With Occasional “Wows” at Will

The chicken at Chris Kearse’s Will BYOB is far from ordinary or boring and it is Craig LaBan’s example of what is happening at this modernist Passyunk Avenue restaurant.

Paired with pureed Kabocha squash firmed into a cube with agar-agar and Tuscan kale two ways (baked into chips; creamed and rolled into a log set with “reverse gelatin” that holds as it warms), the once-boring chicken has been willed and worked into unlikely status: a Kearse-ified poularde star. Gorgeous, complex, intriguing, yet still comforting to eat.

Is there a more inspired example of avant-garde cooking in Philly now? If so, they’re few and far between.

The challenge for Kearse is harnessing that magic on every dish. And there are still too many experimental slips to earn unqualified praise.

Two Bells – Very Good

Will BYOB [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Will BYOB [Official Site]

Fond’s New Menu Has Us Salivating

We’re not sure anyone does a better risotto in Philadelphia than Lee Styer at Fond. And now he’s added luxurious lobster, hazelnuts and truffle to the dish. That’s when we started drooling, the rest of the menu is just as appetizing.

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Ela Adds Brunch Starting This Sunday

Ela - Photo by Jason Varney

This Sunday Jason Cichonski kicks off brunch at Queen Village’s Ela. Biscuits, Benedict, bone marrow and butternut squash highlight the fall flavors, and that’s just the “B”s. Among the other brunch highlights, ginger snap pancakes, cranberry crepes and short ribs benedict. Accompanying Cichonski’s food will be craft Bloody Marys, spiked Vietnamese iced coffee and a caramel apple mimosa.

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Le Bec Fin is Back from the Edge

Craig LaBan has several excellent meals at the Nicolas Fanucci’s Le Bec Fin where the Inquirer critic finds chef Walter Abrams is creating contemporary and adventurous dishes. But the question remains, can Le Bec Fin be of the here-and-now?

I’m still savoring some of the most elegant plates from our tasting menus: the meaty chunk of grilled cobia set beside the fresh pop of baby black-eyed peas; the ethereal crimson stream of chilled borscht poured tableside over tiny Mexican gherkins, puffed wheat, and tart yogurt; the pure silk of foie gras terrine, shaped like a gold brick beside fresh figs and a little baba cake dipped in coffee; the rosy glow of lamb chops with Fairytale eggplant; the juicy tenderness of St.-Canut Farms suckling pig with tart gooseberries and earthy farro.

Three Bells – Excellent

Le Bec rising [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Le Bec Fin [Official Site]

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