Sunday, January 25, 2009

Le Bec-Fin (Philadelphia) 09

In Philadelphia French haute cuisine has been driven by two outstanding chefs over the last two decades - chef Lacroix at his eponymous restaurant and chef Perrier at Le Bec-Fin. Lacroix is modern experimental and Perrier is modern in the style of Escoffier. We chose the classical for our last night in Philadelphia. Sited in a long high ceilinged room reminiscent of the hall of mirrors in Versailles with wall papered and mirrored walls

dominated by three enormous chandeliers

which cover the entire ceiling it has a gentle, romantic and relaxing atmosphere. Four servers attended to us. They were enthusiastic about there work, happy to knowledgeably discuss the menu and wines as well as other aspects of dining in Philadelphia. They were particularly aware of our needs and managed to be available and informative without being in your face. There was an a la carte menu or a five course prix fixe with multiple choices ($145 or $210 with matched wines) which we selected.
Before the meal we were presented with a beautiful silver covered dish of cold butter with an attractive silver plated butter knife and a variety of breads.
An amuse bouche of lightly set sweet sour cranberry jelly covered with a rich oyster paste made a mutually enhancing combination.
From the entrees I had Snail cassoulette in a garlic, hazelnuts, and champagne butter sauce. Served in a miniature covered silver casserole this rich thick sauce melded into the snails - a great entree.

Good as it was nothing could surpass the foie gras ($5 Supplement). This lightly pan fried delicacy was the richest mouth watering, meltingly tender delight imaginable.

Next came a fish course. Sauteed wild striped bass, with delicate Puy lentils in a light Bordelaise sauce was good enough for any three star restaurant.

This was followed by the meat dishes. I chose the Duck mallard

two medium rare thick slices of breast with baby turnips with a green spinach like vegetable in heavier Bordelais sauce was dominated by the sauce and had only very little of the flavour I
associate with duck. The milk fed veal was yet another superb, delicate and tender dish brilliantly offset by the sweetness of roasted chestnuts and the crunchy small slices of celery.

After a delicate palate cleansing blueberry sorbet served in an impressive glass dish

we came to the cheese dish.

A trolley loaded with about 15 cheeses - goat, washed rind and cow French cheeses from the mildest to the tastiest. After naming them all and describing their characteristics we were invited to make our selection. Our server was not at all abashed when we asked for a taste of the lot except for the pecorino and a Dutch Gouda . He promptly produced two platters with thin sliced bread, a fruit bread and grapes and cut a generous portion from each cheese. Each had its 0wn definite character the Robelaird being the most enjoyed. A part washed rind tasty cheese, soaked daily in marc was remarkably strong and the smell of it stayed on my hands for a considerable time. This is the first platter of cheese.
And this is part of the second.

The two tiered dessert trolley

had about 20 varieties of cakes and tarts. The almond flottant in a fine custard was excellent. We also tasted an assortment of other offering

once more providing calories for the week in an irresistible format. Coffee, not included in the menu, was stronger and more distinctive than the very mild drink that we have normally been served. Service was not only prompt it was also very generous. I began the meal with a Lillet aperitif ($10) and my partner with a glass of NV Champagne ($20) When she decided on taking the wine flight they included the champagne as a complimentary drink! When she expressed particular appreciation of a wine the sommellieur offered her another glass of it and the person who served the cheeses cut off a good size piece of our favourite to take away with us. All the wines were French and when the sauterne had insufficient sweetness to match the dessert a different bottle was opened.

With the 20% tip it came to US$485 for a remarkable dinner

Score 18.5/20

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