Once upon a time I was sitting outside of Varga Bar at 10th and Spruce, looking over at the packed sidewalks at Kanella and remarked this might be the most bumping corner in all of downtown Philadelphia without a place named Parc on it. I also remember thinking, now if something could turn up the voltage at 20th and Lombard across from Pub & Kitchen, then 10th and Spruce would have some competition. Read more »
One recent evening, after picking up a four-pack of Allagash at Cambridge — the go-to place in this ’hood for quality takeout beer — I wandered with a friend into Entrée, a BYOB that opened in September. We weren’t expecting much. It was prime dinnertime, but the restaurant was empty, and the chef and his lone server were sitting out front. As things turned out, even if our expectations had been moderately high, they would have been exceeded. From the perfect calamari with slivered sweet peppers (one of my favorite versions in a city with many great calamari plates) to the pan-seared cornish hen to the pan-roasted halibut, everything was meticulously executed, yet presented simply and unpretentiously. Another win for the western end of South Street.
Entree Bistro [Foobooz]
Brian Freedman reviews Avance for Philadelphia Weekly. Freedman is full of praise for the two-month old successor to Le Bec Fin and sees it soaring even higher.
But it’s a very good start. In fact, Avance as a whole is so much more than that: Just barely two months into its tenure at that famous address on Walnut Street, it has already done what many thought would be impossible: Staked its own claim on the space and drafted a brand new set of rules. If Avance is this good so early in the game, I can hardly wait to see the heights it eventually achieves. It’s already a standout.
Avance transforms Le Bec-Fin’s old space into brilliant dining magic [Philadelphia Weekly]
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