Two Bells for Bardot

 

Craig LaBan heads to Northern Liberties to take in the cooking of Rhett Vellner atBardot, the French bar/restaurant from the Pub on Passyunk East’s Dennis Hewlett.

Vellner shows real delicacy in his take on the common beet, salt-roasted in coriander-fennel spice and paired with creamy onion soubise, goat cheese, and the crumbles of a walnut-rye bread streusel (de rigueur these days, as faux “soil”). A crisp fillet of arctic char was also spot-on, with an earthy duo of parsnips (pureed and creamy with ginger; crisped into ribbons) and the surprising fusion spark of funky kimchi.

Two Bells – Very Good

Bardot Cafe: Sophisticated, if a bit faux, French fare in Northern Liberties [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Bardot [Foobooz]

Bells Ring for Will BYOB

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Craig LaBan has been promoting and demoting restaurants almost weekly in his online chats and Thursday food columns. Today, the Inquirer critic sings the praise of Will BYOB. He promotes Chris Kearse’s BYOB to three bells, stating:

[E]very intricate touch amplified the central themes, rather than distracting. Foie gras mousse enriched a bar of rabbit rillettes accented by wine-poached figs. Citrus-caramelized Belgian endive and licorice called out Sichuan spice on the duck. An entire hen of the woods, meanwhile, was cooked to two striking textures – buttery-crisp across a pan-roasted face of flattened fronds scented with sumac and rose hips, lusciously fleshy and moist at its heart, beneath which a Madeira caramel and smoked ricotta smear amplified its earthy savor.

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Two Bells for Society Hill Society

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Craig LaBan enjoys much of what he eats from chef Yun Fuentes’s menu at Society Hill Society. In particular he enjoys brunch and the fresh Pilsner Urquel.

His ode to pierogi are delicate, their handmade sour cream dumpling skins stuffed with truffled mashed potatoes over molasses-sweetened Vidalia onion jam. He tapas-izes chicken pot pie, tucking a creamy velouté of leg meat, carrots, and peas into croquette sticks that would please even the toughest Amish Spaniard. His summer peach soup is simply a gazpacho-good tribute to ripe local summer fruit, the sweet pureed peaches tanged with a hint of vinegar and garlic, sparked with salty bits of shaved ham and tiny floating spheres of creamy goat cheese.

Two Bells – Very Good

For another opinion on this Society Hill restaurant, read Trey Popp’s review of Society Hill Society from the October issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Society Hill Society inspired by the past [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Turney and Safran 13th Street Update

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Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney at a still under construction Lolita | Photo by Jack Cotter

There’s always a lot of going on along the Thirteenth Street empire of Valerie Safran and Marcie Turney, although recently, it has been extra newsworthy.

Craig LaBan visited the post BYOT Lolita and rewarded the Safran and Turney’s original restaurant two-bells, though he predictably does gripe about the noise.

What’s happening at 13th and Locust » 

Craig LaBan Finds Age And Wisdom The Best Ingredients at Paris Bistro

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Tracking the long road from Oberon To Paris Bistro, Craig LaBan finds a chef (and a restaurant) that’s all grown up.

Begin with some of the bistro bellwethers. The French onion soup has a soulful balance of slowly caramelized onion sweetness and savory veal stock tinted with nutty sherry, the crock sealed with a proper lid of stretchy Gruyère cheese. The lobster bisque has a vivid crustacean richness, with well-steeped lobster flavor, sweet chunks of meat, and just a hint of cream and a flicker of cayenne at the finish. The salmon tartare is simple but beautiful, the fresh raw orange fish freshly minced and brightened with lemon and olive oil, then scattered with capers and a mimosa of grated hard-boiled eggs.

Two Bells — Very Good

Paris Bistro Approaches Fluent French [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Paris Bistro [f8b8z]

Mistral in Princeton Gets Two “Very Good” Reviews

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Mistral in Princeton lands reviews in the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer this week. Scott Anderson and business partner, Stephen Distler who also on Elements in Princeton, opened the BYOB in May with Ben Nerenhausen as the chef de cuisine. Both the Times’ Fran Schumer and the Inquirer’s Craig LaBan gave the Mistral a “very good” rating. Both highlighted the octopus and scallops. LaBan definitely had problems with service (they lost his reservation on one occasion) or he might have even rated it higher.

Small Plates, and a Taste of Many Cultures [New York Times]
Mistral helps put Princeton in culinary Ivy League [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Mistral [Philadelphia Magazine]

LaBan Reviews Heirloom in Chestnut Hill

Craig LaBan lets chef Al Paris off the hook for serving a tomato-mozzarella salad in April at Heirloom, because so much else is right at this Chestnut Hill farm-to-table BYOB.

I loved the appetizer of French snails simply tossed with hand-cranked noodles, zucchini laces, and a hit of Fresno pepper to warm the butter-garlic sauce. The wonderfully refreshing Carolina chop salad, molded into a pedestal of crunchy romaine studded with crab, shrimp, and the campfire tang of smoked tomato vinaigrette, has the look of a Chestnut Hill classic.

Two Bells – Very Good

Craig LaBan reviews Heirloom [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Heirloom [Official Site]

Photo by Kelly Turso

Stateside Receives Enthusiastic Two Bell Review

George Sabatino and Stateside on East Passyunk get a praise-filled two bell review from Craig LaBan.

Whether Sabatino can more than double his kitchen’s already labor-intensive output remains to be seen. But he’d better start stuffing more of those homemade sausages right now – because I loved the duck link seasoned with sage and cinnamon. And I was especially taken by the truffled sausage with molten rich marrow, set over vibrant green Brussels-sprout puree with pickled sunchokes, which more than any of the other celebrated ingredients was the dish’s brilliant spark.

Two Bells – Very Good

Stateside [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Stateside [Official Site]