after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

“Helm … it’s like Star Wars …”

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t says:  So, for our last visit to Philly before the big move, the gang (g + t + a+ v) decided we go out with a bang.  a and I thought it’d be fun to see Star Wars.  g and v disagreed, feeling it would be more fun to get manicures.  So the boys went to the movies, and the girls went to the salon.  We met up at Helm to compare notes.

December 2015, Friday Dinner, Party of 4.  We Uber’d our way to Helm as it is tucked away in north-east Philly (although not too north-east – wouldn’t want to go beyond where the hipsters live …).  Jus having seen Star Wars, a and I had to control our conversation as we strolled in with our bottles of wine in hand, as we did not want to reveal the super-not-so-secret-plot-twist.  Fortunately, we were promptly seated and introduced to the menu.  The format of the introduction was was weird.  Really weird.  How?  Well, they have a super-“cool” chalkboard menu on the wall (i.e. the entire wall is essentially the chalkboard), on which they have scrawled all of the dishes.  But unlike classy chalkboards (e.g. Little Fish), this one was only one part informative and one part hipster-cool and 18 parts kindergarten disaster.  Seriously.  There were colors everywhere, changes in font size everywhere, no empty space whatsoever; it was super-hard to read.  That’s ok, we found out that they must feel that reading would be “soooo 2000’s”, because our trusty waiter walked us through the menu.  Like the whole menu.  Like every frickin’ dish on the menu.  Like every ingredient in every frickin’ dish on the menu.  Like how every single ingredient was prepared and assembled to make every frickin’ dish on the menu.  And he did so with the gusto of 1980’s robot; it was clear that he was going to finish his memorized speech come hell or high water.  So we let him … not even calling him out on the dish he forgot to tell us about, or the disparity between some of the ingredients he was mentioning and those listed on the menu.  But, to be fair, he probably forgot those, himself, because the chalkboard menu which was supposed to remind him was illegible.  There is only one way to summarize our first impression of the restaurant: foodie-douche-baggery.  Fortunately, we were able to get the waiter to open up as the meal went on (and we were among the last diners remaining), but we had to break down his forcefield of douche-baggery to get to the actually nice, pleasant, Philly-BYO-attitude underneath.  We’re glad we found it before we left, otherwise the title of this review would have been something different entirely …

The food?  Well, it had lots of potential, but felt short:


This guy, an assortment of nature’s bounty, ultimately had every texture coming out identical …



… meanwhile the Brussels sprouts (with almond, not hazelnut as on the board) was inundate with salt and fried garlic so that your palate was beaten to within an inch of its life. (Although death by garlic wouldn’t have been that bad – I do like garlic).




One of our mains was a filled pasta with a duck-containing sauce that would have been delicious had not been for the excessive saltiness … which was similar to our complaints with the other three mains on the table (so I’m not going to bother showing them to you).  For all of the praise that Helm has been getting, is it possible that people are mistaking “flavor” for “excessive salt”?  And what gives with all the blank space on the plates?  This is a Philly BYO for godsakes – get over yourselves.  Give us an appropriately-sized plate or give us more food (with less salt).



Dessert … *sighs* … how did I go wrong?  I chose “the chocolate one”.  (g says: oh gawd. that looks awful).  t’s back: Why is it a puddle of goo?  Covered in what appears to be blood and dirt?  Ok – that’s an exageration (blood is more opaque) – so let’s just say that it was not a feast for the eyes.  It did taste better than it looked, which is a plus, but it’s not like I was taken to the highest clouds of chocolate heaven …



But this is Helm’s redemption.  A Basque cake.  Really.  This little P.O.S. cake was insane.  While it didn’t totally make up for every one of Helm’s wrongs, it came pretty darn close.  We should have just ordered four of these for our mains and called it a night, as it was butter-sugar perfection.

So, in the end, we have no choice but to compare our experience at Helm to a’s and my experience at Star Wars.  A lot of critical acclaim built up some high expectations, followed by a lot of buzz by normal people who loved it, too!  But ultimately, from our firsthand experience, we are left wondering, “gee, were we in the same theater/restaurat as everyone else?”.  Don’t get us wrong, Helm and Star Wars weren’t “bad”, but we were left wondering, “where’s the magic?”  For The Force Awakens, yes, it was certainly better than Episode 1, but it lacked some of the “wow”/”magic”/”attitude” of Episodes 4-6 that presumably inspired it, with its super-fast-moving plot and “twists” that were not at all unpredictable, while being marred by excessive CGI.  Similarly, Helm was better than eating at McDonalds, but it lacked some of the “wow”/”magic”/”attitude” of the old guard of Philly BYO’s that presumably inspired it, with its stupid chalkboard and foodie-douche-baggery “twists” that were not at all unpredictable, while being marred by excessive salt.  Helm is no Django.  Sorry guys.  Time to go back to Mercato …


Written by afterdinnersneeze

31 December 2015 at 2:21pm

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