The Philly Mag 50: Hall of Fame: Le Bec-Fin

Georges Perrier’s iconic restaurant may be gone soon but will never be forgotten.

Since July, when Georges Perrier put Le Bec-Fin’s building up for sale, there’s been plenty of speculation about when, exactly, the iconic restaurant’s famed dessert cart will make its last trip around the dining room. Was it all just a stunt?

In a lunch-hour call in November punctuated by the sounds of slurped oysters, Perrier played coy with great aplomb. He’d lost 32 pounds, he claimed, and hadn’t had a drink in four weeks. He hinted at new projects outside the city. When asked whether Le Bec would still be open in January, Perrier was all optimism. “And February, and March, and April, and May, and June,” he added in escalating pitches. “Then, we will make a decision.”

We made one, too: to make Le Bec-Fin our first 50 Best Hall of Famer. To the chef with the legendary capacity to feel unappreciated, who says he created a $40 menu for the restaurant’s 40th anniversary “to say thank you to Philadelphia, which I love so much, because you have appreciated me,” we say, thank you.

The reasons: Shrimp mousse still binds his crabcakes, as it has since 1974. But there are newfangled hibiscus foams and clouds of pomegranate tinged with burnt cinnamon on the menu now, too. And, flanking foie gras, a riveting Meyer lemon puree whose purity is wrung from lemons poached and rinsed 10 times, until they run out of bitter tears to weep.  

And so, it seems, has Georges. The end may be near for Le Bec, but in its creator’s voice there was something like a statesman’s solace — as though he’d made peace at last with this truth: Maybe his gilt-and-crystal dining palace couldn’t fixate Philadelphians forever, but we’ll never really be ready to bid it goodbye.