after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Resting on its Laurels

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t says:  Newly opened Laurel has received a ridiculous amount of hype.  Now declared the winner of Top Chef, Nicholas Elmi is definitely reaping the rewards; his E-Passy eatery is booked through June.  I’m happy he’s doing well, although I heard that some felt “the other guy” was supposed to win Top Chef.  Whatever.  I didn’t watch any of the season, so I have no idea who “should” have won.  I’m happy for Nick Elmi … but with my happiness comes high expectations … after all, Sbraga is kickin’ ass there on Broad Street, so Elmi should do just as good, right?  After all, he is the former Le Bec-Fin dude.  Having made a reservation before Elmi was announced the winner, g and I rode out to East Passyunk with a bottle in hand for g’s bday.

February 2014, Friday Dinner, Party of 2.  I have to write it here just to make sure he gets the message: a, I’m very sorry we didn’t invite you and v.  While I do try to include you two in all the fine dining we do, sometimes there’s just gotta be a good-‘ol-fashioned g + t date night.  You know how it is: wives before guys.

As far as atmosphere is concerned, I have to say that the vibe is definitely fancier than Fond used to have.  There are white tableclothes, plush chairs, and slightly more table space.  As a result, it feels like the place seats less people than Fond – which is quite impressive, as Fond was small enough as it was.  The result was a very pleasant, un-BYO-esque experience in a good way – there was ample elbow room, and we weren’t sitting on top of eachother.

And now … the food:

photo 1(174)

I started with the foie gras terrine appetizer, which looked like an interesting slab of marble when it came out, due to the cocoa that was pressed in there with the foie.  The citrus from the blood orange was a nice touch, but ultimately, I felt like the foie didn’t really shine through.  Don’t get me wrong, chocolate + citrus is delicious, but if I’m being charged for foie, I want to be able to taste it.  (It would have been real killer had one side been torched or bruleed or something for a little bit of that roasted foie flavor).

photo 2(183)

g did the tuna + asian pear + horse radish.  This was a peculiar dish in that the raw fish was coupled with frozen-then-shaved horseradish.  While this was texturally interesting (it was fun to have frozen horseradish melt in your mouth and slowly pick up in spice level), it was odd with the fish because the cold temperature muted the beautiful fish flavors.  Similar to how you’d never want sashimi to be served too cold, this crudo should also not be too cold.  A fun effect, but overall, it probably hurt the dish.

photo 3(156) photo 4(114)

We followed up with the charred Spanish mackeral, which was nicely cooked and without complaint, as well as the gnocchi, which featured pancetta and garlic, resulting in a bowl of warmth we wished would never end.  Bravo for course #2.

photo 5(66)

Third course featured a roasted “sheep’s head” fish, with … foam.  g liked the foam, as it brought an airiness to the cider-y flavors within.  Personally, I found it to be gimicky and unnecessary.  Instead, I preferred my seared fish instead (?trout?), which had a beautiful skin on it and nicely sized, nicely cooked snails.  It was pretty heavy-handed with the salt, but I’m down with that..

In all, I have to say that it was a “nice” meal.  It’s a step up in “fanciness” from Fond, which I’d have to say is Laurel’s competition in the area for this kind of food.  Whether or not “fancy” is a desirable direction for Laurel to go is debatable.  For instance, the set-up is more “grown-up date” than “let’s just go out on Friday” … which is good if you want a romantic evening (or at least want to give the impression that you’re mature).  The food is fussier as well, with more elegant plating and incorporation of techniques that are a little more new … which is fine … but I felt like some of these flourishes were superfluous, if not letdowns (e.g. frozen horseradish, foam).  Along these lines, I felt that there was only one actually “soulful” dish (the gnocchi) out of the whole evening.  Similar to the atmosphere and cookery, the service was quite professional, but lacking the warmth of something like a Talula’s Garden or Fond.  I guess what I’m trying to say is if you want to impress someone, go to Laurel – it won’t let you down and it’s sure to leave an overall good impression.  But, if you want to a meal to remember, one that will make you go ga-ga for the food, go to Fond … and thank me later.

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Written by afterdinnersneeze

15 March 2014 at 4:11pm

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