Craig LaBan’s Year in Bells

Photo by Jim Graham

Photo by Jim Graham

Craig LaBan’s Year in Bells came out last weekend. The annual feature includes some revisits to restaurants reviewed earlier and the announcement of a Chef of the Year award.

The Saint James in Ardmore, which was skewered a year ago in its initial review has now been upgraded to a single bell (hit-or-miss). Citron & Rose, which lost its partnership with Michael Solomonov and his Zahav team maintained its two-bells, based on the strength of new chef, Karen Nicolas.

Tiffin Bistro and Red Owl Tavern rounded out the revisites. Each managed to hang on to their one bell ratings but frankly, each sounded lucky to have done so.

Chef Eli Kulp, who came to Fork and High Street on Market from New York’s Torrisi Italian Specialties was named Chef of the Year. LaBan said of Kulp’s cooking, “his knack for unexpected combos and rustic techniques (offbeat pastas, fermenting, charcuterie) produced grand presentations like his whole-duck feast – a multi-part poultry masterpiece that was among the best birds (and meatballs) I’ve ever eaten.”

Craig LaBan’s Year in Bells [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Execution Woes Doom Tiffin Bistro

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Indian Sloppy Joe sliders were another hit

Craig LaBan has problems with the service and execution at Munish Narula’s Tiffin Bistro in South Philadelphia.

[T]he Bistro has an air of the unattended stepchild, with a menu executed by line cooks whose efforts seem adequate for takeout, but not much more.

There are definitely some worthy highlights, especially with the starters. The chaat of fried baby eggplants drizzled with yogurt and multihued chutneys is a novel twist on the crunchy-creamy-tart chaat salad craze that’s finally taking hold locally. The cauliflower bezule, florets crisped in chickpea batter, then glazed in creamy coconut and mustard seed, are a hearty taste of South India.

One Bell – Hit-or-miss

Dining Review: Tiffin Bistro [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Tiffin Bistro [Facebook]

Where We’re Eating: Tiffin Bistro

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If Munish Narula’s Indian food empire has left you feeling like Goldilocks in the popular fairy tale, Tiffin Bistro might be just right. A step down in glitz from Tashan and more than a step up in style from the less formal Tiffin, Tiffin Bistro provides approachable Indian food in a white-tablecloth space. Highlights include the pepper crab, a promising rendition of chicken tikka Masala, the kitschy Indian Sloppy Joe (which is much better than the gimmick it suggests) and the chicken tellicherry pepper—chunks of boneless chicken with a sauce that heats up with each bite. Overall, Tiffin Bistro will satisfy your Indian craving, especially for South Philadelphians who remain just outside the original Tiffin’s delivery range.

Tiffin Bistro
1100 Federal Street
215-468-0104

First appeared in the September, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Tiffin Bistro Sets Opening Date

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Tiffin Bistro is set to open on Sunday, June 2 for dinner (ribbon cutting is set for Friday, May 31) at 11th and Federal. The newest restaurant in Munish Narula‘s growing Indian food empire that already boasts the upscale Tashan and half a dozen delivery-focussed Tiffin shps, Tiffin Bistro will have a more upscale feel than Tiffin without  the big night out feel of Tashan. We’re betting Tiffin Bistro becomes a neighborhood hotspot for in no time.

Check out a Foobooz post from early April with more details on the soon-to-be-opened restaurant. 

Kris Restaurant Has Closed, Paper Up in the Windows at Village Belle

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Kris Restaurant has closed, hand is now becoming part of the Munish Narula empire. The restaurant’s Facebook page says that all gift certificates will be honored at owner Kristian Leuzzi’s, Stogie Joe’s on East Passyunk.

Also in South Philadelphia, paper is up in the windows at Queen Village’s Village Belle and no online reservations are available before Friday, April 5th.

Lou Campanaro, chef/owner of the Village Belle tells us it’s some spring cleaning that will include a new look for the bar and prep work for the outdoor cafe.

Campanaro also tells us the menu is being reformatted to focus on small plates with small prices. The wine and cocktail lists are also being revamped and four new taps are being added.

Village Belle is aiming to reopen this Thursday or Friday and will have Allagash White, Victory Swing Sesion Saison, Goose Island IPA and Flying Fish Farmhouse Ale on tap.

Village Belle [Official Site]

Munish Narula Opening an Indian Bistro in South Philadelphia

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Munish Narula (left) is back on the expansion path | HughE Dillon for the Philly Post

After a series of profitable quarters for Tashan, Munish Narula is getting back to opening restaurants. His next restaurant will not be a Tiffin or a Tashan, but rather a Tiffin Bistro, slated for 11th and Federal at the former Kris. Narula declined to reveal the exact location until the lease was signed but did fill us in on several other details.

The Indian bistro will have a liquor license and a more upscale feel from a regular Tiffin, but not as high-end as Tashan. Narula stressed this would be a whole new concept as he doesn’t want to cannibalize Tiffin’s delivery business or the experience at Tashan. Expect a more traditional Indian menu but not the dishes you see on most Indian restaurant menus around town. Narula is bringing in a chef from Junoon in New York who has also worked at Amber India in San Francisco as well as London’s Cinnamon Club. Tashan’s Sylva Senat will be involved as well in fine tuning the menu and plating.

Narula hopes to sign the lease before the end of the week and open six weeks after that. As Kris, the restaurant had room for fifty people, plus ten at the bar.