after dinner sneeze

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Posts Tagged ‘Pierre and Charlotte Calmels

mon cheri, Le Cheri

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t says: The gang (a, v, g, and me) had the good fortune of going to Le Cheri on its second night open.  Would the Calmels be able to breathe some life into the ridiculously awesome location just off Rittenhouse that had been seemingly cursed to fail? (RIP Gardenia and Rittenhouse Tavern).  Let’s find out …

November 2013, Thursday Dinner, Party of 4.  We were happy to see lots of familiar faces, like our favorite server Ricky and Charlotte and Pierre.  They seated us promply (we had made a last-minute reservation through opentable, so I’m not sure they were expecting us), and gave us their menu.  The first impression was that this was a much larger space than Bibou.  While we knew it from going to previous restaurants in this location, I forgot just how much additional space there was.  The second was that the decor was a little haphazard.  On one hand there were sizable wine glasses, white tablecloths, and darker woods, but on the other, the walls were a peculiar color and the finishes weren’t as nearly upscale.  So was this place supposed to be more casual than Bibou – more like a bistro?  But can you really be more casual than Bibou?  Hmmmm – it’s only the first week, so we’ll see how things shake out with the decor.  No – we’re not expecting something as sensation as a Starr-ified or Garces-ified restaurant, but at least with a little bit more focus.

Now for the food:


these little cheese ravioli and buttery sauce were amazing.  they were like little puffs made to carry the buttery sauce to your mouth.  It was a delicious and rich dish that still had a hint of ?chive?/herby length.  Wonderful!  And they coupled so exquisitely with our wine of the evening: 2012 Massican “Sauvignon” Sauvignon Blanc.  The wine, made by Dan Petroski, had a broader palate than the lightning-in-a-bottle 2011, but still finishes with a snap of citrus so forceful it could give you whiplash.  It cut straight through the butter like a frickin’ lazer.  B-e-a-u-tiful.


welcome to the new escargot: as you can see, this is very different than the normal escargots than one can find at Bibou – gone is the classic snail-like dish, and in its place is a shallow bowl where the escargots are paired with chicken “oysters”, cauliflower, and some kind of parsley-laden broth.  And let me tell you that this was CRAZY-good.  It was much lighter than any rendition of escargots that Bibou has ever had, and the snails are smaller … BUT, the light and lively flavors danced on forever on my tongue.  I was forced to savor the seconds that went by.  If only the snails were a smidge larger …


this blurry picture is of the lamb pat-au-feu.  The broth was deep and lamby, while the pieces of lamb were moist and tender.  I wish that the sweetbreads had some color on them to add some depth, but overall this was a solid dish.


this blurry picture was the most surprising dish of the evening: boudin noir.  While it looks like a puddle of fudge or poo or whatever, I assure you that this was mindbendingly surprising.  I imagined that boudin would be very hearty or rich, especially after having boudin at other restaurants.  However, with a single spoonful, it was apparent that there was one part of thick rich boudin and one part of a light fruitiness (no, not literal “fruit” – more of a figurative light-and-agile-like-a-fruit.  I’m not sure how this is accomplished, but both a and I were stunned.  It’s worth trying again because I want to be able to understand it better.

The unpictured dish was the short rib and pasta which was downright amazing.  It’s everything that you’d imagine a pasta by Pierre could be.  The shortrib was perfectly cooked, as was the pasta.  I thought I was sitting in Melograno or something (except the portions were much larger here).  Very nice indeed.

We did get a chance to chit-chat with Pierre, and while we were privileged to pick his brain and get some insight into the inner workings of Le Cheri and Bibou, we won’t put it here – we don’t wanna start any rumors.  We’re just happy to be able to talk with Pierre to show him the smiles that the food he cooked put on our faces …

So yes … go to Le Cheri – and live up that BYO-ness while you can!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

3 December 2013 at 9:42pm

Bibou: Cozy and Delicious

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t says: As we sat in Meritage on the Saturday of the first big snowstorm we’ve ever experienced in Philly (and what turned out to be the first of many snowfalls for the 2009-2010 winter), we realized that, in all likelihood, restaurants were going to be empty the next day, as the accumulation was >20″.  So was there any place that we’ve been dying to try but just couldn’t get a reservation?  One name came to mind: Bibou.  So the next day, g camped out on and waited for someone to cancel their reservation – which they did!  Sooo … we aerated/decanted a bottle of ’05 Bordeaux (from the Left Bank), hailed a cab, and off we went!  We had effectively squeaked into Bibou!

Unfortunately, a lot of time has passed between now and when we ate, so our memories of the components of each dish are a little fuzzy – but our general impressions are intact and below for your consideration.

12/2009, Sunday 5:30pm, Party of 2, $45 4-course dinner. We were seated promptly at a two-top near the window, which would have been nice, but, because it was snowing, it was quite drafty!  We inched away from the window a little bit and went for our wine to give us a nice warm feeling inside.  Fortunately, the service was so good that I felt that our location was made up for.

For our first course, we both went with the white bean soup.  It was warm and creamy, but still very light and inviting.  I was not concerned with filling up on soup.

For our second course, g had the oxtail terrine and I had the escargots.  g’s terrine was a cold dish, and she was surprised that she liked it as much as she did, as she’s not the biggest fan of oxtail.  I felt that the escargots (with fava beans) outshone the terrine.  They were amazingly tender and in a garlicky sauce that tastes “like home”.  Don’t be confused – I never had escargots when I was growing up (I’ve actually only had them a handful of times) and I don’t make them in my apartment, but there was something about this sauce that felt homely – it was simple but delicious.  After I devoured the snails, g and I proceeded to sop up every last drop of the sauce with our bread.

For the entree, I had the lamb (+$8 premium), while g went for the hanger steak.  I remember that the lamb was superbly cooked and well-seasoned – it was a solid, delicious dish of lamb.  I unfortunately can’t remember much of the other flavors they coupled with the lamb because I also tasted g’s dish.  Hers was better.  This was shocking because I love lamb.  While I only took a few bites of hers throughout the meal (we like to share), I can say that hers was the best hanger steak I’ve ever had (something about their seasoning, their sauce, and the texture of the meat was as tender as a braised short rib!).  Now I know why every restaurant keeps trying to serve it!

We went for the optional cheese plate which gave us three super-flavorful cheeses (no wussy cheeses here).  While we don’t know a whole lot about cheese (except for that we like cheese), we appreciated that they picked cheeses with a variety of tastes and textures.  That said, g and I are not huge fans of blue cheeses, so we gravitated towards the other 2.

For dessert, we enjoyed the buche de noel and the slice of cranberry pie.  While the yule log was an excellent dessert, it didn’t really put forth a ton of flavor; it was simple and to the point: chocolate cake and creamy vanilla filling.  It was like a good dessert one could make at home (if one routinely makes buche de noel at home).  I preferred the pie.  First, the size of our slice of pie was very large for a dessert course – I wonder if they were just trying to get rid of it?  Even if they were, and gave us an entire pie, it wouldn’t have mattered – I would have eaten it all.  The cranberry tartness was salient but balanced well by the sweet.  The filling was not too stiff and not too runny – right on!  The crust wasn’t soggy, either.  Once again, this was a simple [well-executed] dessert with no frills, however, as you might be guessing, I finished the entire slice, even though I was full – I couldn’t help it.

In summary, Bibou offered a nice, cozy atmosphere and delicious, no-frills food.  The hanger steak and escargots were shining stars, while the desserts (that pie!) were a pleasant, simple period on the end of a great meal (Zahav has more of an exclamation point).  These, in combination with a great bottle of wine made up the best meal we’ve had since Cochon (it’d be a tough time figuring out who’s better).

Written by afterdinnersneeze

20 February 2010 at 10:16am