Two Bells for Franky Bradley’s

Franky Bradley's

Photo via Franky Bradley’s

Craig LaBan very much enjoys the feel that Marc Bee has created in his new take on Franky Bradley’s, but it is chef David Kane’s food that makes the trek down back alley’s worth it for the food critic.

Pink slices of smoked duck breast are at the heart of a pressed Cuban sandwich, plumped with tender duck confit and tart house pickles inside its fontina-and-butter-crisped crust. Tender slow-smoked brisket is also a highlight. I enjoyed it layered with celery-root slaw and BBQ sauce as a hearty sandwich. But there was something about that brisket, moistened with veal stock and mounded into hollowed-out potato skins with Cabot cheddar and a creamy drizzle of horseradish sauce, that persuasively evoked an old-school aesthetic while updating it at the same time, as though crystallizing Franky Bradley’s weird hybrid as a sort of offbeat modern-day Steak & Ale.

Two Bells – Very Good

Franky Bradley’s offers old comforts in new style [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Franky Bradley’s [Foobooz]

Zero Bells for Bonchon

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Craig La Ban lowers La Boom on Philadelphia’s first franchise of the Korean fried chicken chain, Bonchon. LaBan drops zero bells on the K-Pop blaring, No-Korean-in-the-kitchen Chinatown outpost.

Bonchon does serve many other Korean favorites beyond wings. But there isn’t a single Korean in the kitchen at this Bonchon, owned by Chinese Americans (“I have Korean friends,” Taing notes). And it shows with off-key renditions of bibimbap (with mushy rice), dully flavorless japchae noodles (despite a splash of sweet soy wing sauce), and a seafood-scallion pancake scorched black on the bottom.

Hyped Korean chicken chain arrives, disappoints [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Bonchon [Foobooz]

Three Bells for Mainland Inn

Courtesy the Mainland Inn

Courtesy the Mainland Inn

Craig LaBan finds a much needed wake up to the farm-to-table trope at chef Ezra Duker’s Mainland Inn in Harleysville. La Ban finds lots to praise in Duker’s use of Quarry Hill Farm, the farm two miles away that is owned by Sloane Six, who also owns Mainland.

The extraordinary lamb dish, meanwhile, was a snapshot of two farmyard generations on one plate. A roulade made from a yearling, its braised neck meat shaped into a disk glazed coal-black with olive puree, anchored one end, while the long bones of two amazingly tender chops from a milk-fed baby arced over a spring montage of new onions, favas, and a salsa verde piquant with sorrel and boquerones.

Three Bells – Excellent

Mainland Inn: Direct from the farm, with flair and flavor [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Mainland Inn [Foobooz]

Retro Week: Revisiting Ralph’s

Photo by Stephanie Viggiano

At Ralph’s Italian Restaurant, where a century’s worth of footsteps have buffed the dining room’s floor mosaic as smooth as the inside of an oyster shell, the idea of a regular customer takes on a genealogical hue. Five generations of the same family have owned and operated the place, which was founded by Francesco Dispigno in 1900 and has occupied its current location for 100 years. But one of their biggest points of pride is a clientele whose claim on the tables is almost as ancestral.

“We have three and four generations of families as customers,” marvels Jim Rubino, the 53-year-old great-grandson of Francesco, and grandson of Rafael Dispigno, whose Anglicized name the restaurant bears. “It’s a remarkable thing.”

Read more »

Bright Lights, Big City: Palladino’s Reviewed

Pork osso buco and Stecchini Genoves | Courtney Apple

Pork Osso Buco and Stecchini Genoves | Courtney Apple

With all due consideration for sore thumbs and Kim Kardashian’s badonka-donk, nothing sticks out from its surroundings quite like Palladino’s on Passyunk.

The Italian chophouse rears up over the Avenue’s Broad Street gateway like a wedge of layer cake iced by an architectural prankster. Its banded black and white facade serves up an allusion to the medieval tower of Siena’s Duomo atop the Streamline Moderne curve of a sidewalk-sheltering hip roof, and the whole thing is capped off with a sky-scraping signboard that broadcasts the restaurateur’s name in lipstick red.

And you can hear Luke Palladino’s Philadelphia debut from nearly as far away as you can see it. Saxophone-rock solos and Super-tramp reverberate on the covered curb with a brashness compounded inside by crowds that can be as boisterous on a Wednesday evening as on a Saturday night. You can take a chef out of Atlantic City, but apparently you can’t take Atlantic City out of this chef. Read more »

Two Bells for Olde Bar

olde-bar-bookbinders-940The Inquirer’s Craig LaBan experiences Jose Garces’s reboot of the Olde Bar at the Original Bookbinders. LaBan is particularly impressed with the drinks, calling Olde Bar “one of Philly’s must-sip libation stations.” As for the food, LaBan is disappointed with the snapper soup and dry crab cake.

LaBan does take a liking to chef de cuisine Mike Siegel’s raw bar as well as  the beef fat fries and a fish and chips that now rivals LaBan’s local favorite at the Dandelion.

Two Bells – Very Good

With the Olde Bar, Garces pays homage to long-gone Bookbinder’s [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Olde Bar [Foobooz]

The Revisit: Fond

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Every cook loves getting a bigger kitchen, and Lee Styer is no exception. Two-and-a-half years after moving Fond half a block from its original niche on Passyunk Avenue, he still remembers the liberation he felt.

The new liquor license was just the beginning. All of a sudden he had a walk-in fridge. Enough dry-storage capacity so that he could buy a whole case of onions at a time (rather than just five pounds). The days of sharing a single oven with his pastry chef (and wife) Jessie Prawlucki were definitively behind him. Read more »

Molto Molto: Gran Caffè L’Aquila Reviewed

Spaghetti carbonara | Photo by Ryan Scott

Spaghetti carbonara | Photo by Ryan Scott

Pretend you’ve been led into a new restaurant wearing a blindfold. We’re playing a game: When I uncover your eyes, you try to piece together enough clues to guess what sort of place we’re in. Go! The 24-flavor gelato counter would give it away too easily, so I yank the blindfold a few steps beyond it. Your eyes fall on a white wall lined with bottles of Campari and Martini dry vermouth. Fresh espresso hits your nose just as a Serie A soccer rerun steals your gaze. You look around. The place is choked with waiters rocking natty short-brim fedoras of a sort most often found atop comic-strip gangsters (but apparently resurgent in Milan). A montage of touristic photos and factoids loops on a second TV — tidbits about Venice and Rome alternating with Maserati commercials. Read more »

The Electric Dim Sum Acid Test: Bing Bing Dim Sum Reviewed

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Bing Bing Dim Sum | Photo by Courtney Apple

If restaurateurs were rock stars (and in Philly, they’re as close as we come), Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh would be vintage R.E.M. Whether they’re slinging ramen with brisket and matzo balls, as at Cheu Noodle Bar, or papering the walls of their new Bing Bing Dim Sum with acid-trip dumpling emojis, they have a knack for twisting a budding trend just far enough to make it unmistakably their own.   Read more »

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