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

Last Reservations for Rittenhouse Tavern

Rittenhouse Tavern - Jason Varney

The writing has been the wall at Rittenhouse Tavern for quite some time. When Nick Elmi announced he was leaving the attractive restaurant tucked into the Art Alliance, he told Michael Klein that Restaurant Associates (Rittenhouse Tavern’s corporate overlord) had offered him the opportunity to take over the business. Elmi declined and the restaurant continued to operate through the summer. Last week, Eater reported that it was hearing solid reports that the restaurant would close in late September or early October.

A look at OpenTable today shows that the last reservations available after Saturday, September 28th.

Meanwhile if you are looking to eat Elmi’s food again, you’ll have to wait till November when he opens Laurel on East Passyunk. Elmi will also be competing on Top Chef New Orleans which debuts on Wednesday, October 2nd.

Photo by Jason Varney

Six Pack: Eat Where Top Chef Contests Nick Elmi and Jason Cichonski Cooked

nick-jason

Yes, we still have some time before the first episode of the new season of Top Chef, featuring Nick Elmi, Jason Cichonski and a bunch of other people who aren’t from Philly.

But for those of you out there who just can’t wait, we thought it might be nice to offer up a bit of history–a way for you to get a handle on our two hometown chefs and maybe come to understand, once the show starts, why this one is freaking out over his pork chops or why that one is doing that thing to that scallop. To that end, we’ve assembled a Six Pack of places where the two chefs trained, rose to prominence, made names for themselves or, in the case of Jason Cichonski, are still currently cooking (Elmi is unemployed at the moment, but working on opening his first restaurant–Laurel on East Passyunk).

It would make a helluva restaurant crawl. Or maybe something to do on the weekend before Top Chef premiers. But we’re not telling you how to live your life…

Check out the list

UPDATE: Now That Nick Elmi Is Out Of A Job, Sbraga’s S.O.S. Dinner Features All Unemployed Chefs

Rittenhouse Tavern- Chef Nick Elmi & Chef Ed Brown_6887 FINAL Credit Jason Varney

Remember back a couple weeks ago when we wrote about Kevin Sbraga’s No Kid Hungry/Share Our Strength charity dinner? Of the five chefs that Sbraga was bringing on to cook with him (Walter Abrams, Shola Olunloyo, Jonathan Adams, David Katz and Nick Elmi), four of them were currently without kitchens, and the joke around Foobooz World HQ was, what does Kevin Sbraga know about Nick Elmi–the sole working chef on the list–that we don’t?

Well apparently he really did know something because word came down this weekend that Elmi was leaving his position as chef at Rittenhouse Tavern to open a restaurant of his own. Which means that Sbraga’s dinner can now function as a kind of support group for Philadelphia chefs without kitchens (including three former Perrier vets: Adams, Elmi and Abrams) as well as raising money for a good cause.

No Kid Hungry [Official]

50 Best Restaurants Poll: Rittenhouse Tavern

On Foobooz, we’ll be running daily surveys, polling readers about where they believe certain restaurants will land in the Philadelphia magazine list of the 50 Best Restaurants.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

50 Best Restaurants will be in the January issue of Philadelphia magazine, hitting newsstands on Wednesday, December 26th.

Photo by Jason Varney

Good Stuff and a Slip-Up at Rittenhouse Tavern

Photo by Felicia Perretti

Oops, a foie gras froth winds up on the plate of Christina Perachio’s pescatarian guest at Rittenhouse Tavern.

The next dish is a doozy: five large day-boat sea scallops, perfectly seared on top with a golden-brown crisp sitting in a heavy-handed amaranth truffle butter sauce with fresh and tender chanterelles and turnips that stand on their own. They are gorgeous, rich and delicious. And their inclusion in our meal comes as a result of my companion’s request for an entrée fit for a pescatarian. Which is why, the next day, when I call to double-check the ingredients, I’m startled to learn that they the scallops were topped with a vanilla foie gras froth.

Simple and Seasonal Fare at Rittenhouse Tavern, With an Unexpected Surprise [Philadelphia Weekly]
Rittenhouse Tavern [Official Site]

Nick Elmi Brings Life to Rittenhouse Tavern

Trey Popp checks in on Le Bec Fin alum Nick Elmi to see what he’s doing at Rittenhouse Tavern, the latest restaurant to live in the Art Alliance building on Rittenhouse Square.

[S]ummer found Elmi breathing real personality into his creations. Plancha-seared octopus arms sprawled across a black smear of blood sausage, fermented garlic and squid ink—a brilliantly funky foil for the half-moons of apricot glistening above it. In a cool, minty potage of pureed romaine, spinach, cucumber, peas and dill, he had hidden a globe of horseradish ice cream between citrus-poached shrimps. It didn’t burn so much as sparkle.

Two-and-a-half stars (Good to Excellent)

Philadelphia Restaurant Review: Fresh Surprises at Rittenhouse Tavern [Philadelphia Magazine]
Rittenhouse Tavern [Official Site]

Philadelphia Restaurant Review: Fresh Surprises at Rittenhouse Tavern

Nic Elmi's Rittenhouse Tavern cuisine at the Art Alliance in Philadelphia.

Nicholas Elmi is no stranger to the haunts of the landed gentry. Before becoming executive chef at the original Le Bec Fin (where he spent the past three years), he apprenticed in restaurants ranging from Lutèce and Daniel in Manhattan to Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris. But for the first 12 years he lived in Philadelphia, he had something in common with a lot of local gourmands: He’d never set foot inside the Art Alliance.

The Italian Renaissance mansion that is the erstwhile home of Gardenia, Le Jardin and Opus 251 has a way of making anyone not wearing a tailored jacket think twice about darkening its door. But with Rittenhouse Tavern, Elmi hopes to unbutton its reputation. The richly plumed birds in Richard Blossom Farley’s dining room mural now preside over bare tables of reclaimed wood upon which land deep-fried frog’s legs with banana pepper necklaces dangling from their slender femurs.

Those grenouilles jambes are also stuffed with cream cheese, by the way—straight-up jalapeño-popper style—but don’t untuck your shirt just yet. Elmi may tease you with Americana—fried chicken Sundays; deviled eggs with morsels of fried scrapple (cute as buttons, and about as big)—but only at the menu’s edges. In the main, his cooking here has enough refinement and restraint to fill an hour of Downton Abbey.

At an early dinner, it also felt staid (halibut in an excessively subtle broth; a mushroom soup far too timidly flavored with cacao nibs and walnut milk) and offered portions tuned to a Junior Leaguer bent on squeezing into last year’s St. John pencil skirt. But summer found Elmi breathing real personality into his creations. Plancha-seared octopus arms sprawled across a black smear of blood sausage, fermented garlic and squid ink—a brilliantly funky foil for the half-moons of apricot glistening above it. In a cool, minty potage of pureed romaine, spinach, cucumber, peas and dill, he had hidden a globe of horseradish ice cream between citrus-poached shrimps. It didn’t burn so much as sparkle.

The best pleasures weren’t even hinted at by the menu’s descriptions. A tingly top note of pink peppercorns on cold-pressed foie and plums, the water-crisp crunch of ice plant rounding out springtime scallops and peas, whiffs of burnt cinnamon haunting the fresh and pickled berries (and crispy thyme streusel) in a phenomenal blueberry/red wine dessert soup—such exquisite flourishes sometimes upstaged the main acts.

Better (and more damning) complaints, though, would be cocktails that lag badly behind Elmi’s creative lead, and wine markups brazen enough to make even blue blood boil. Still, if he can fix those, Elmi has a fair shot at making the Art Alliance a building people will think twice about walking past.

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