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Sep 3, 2007 08:09 AM

Unforgettable Tenth Anniversary Dinner recommendations in Philly??

My husband and I will be in Philadephia for our tenth anniversary and are looking for a fantastic dining experience. We have lived in the San Franscisco Bay Area and in France, but moved to central PA 6 years ago and direly miss good restaurants. On other special occasions we have gone to the French Laundry, the Inn at Little Washington, and several 3 star restaurants in France including Auberge de L'Ill. Excellent food is our top priority. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

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  1. From your list of favorites (I wholeheartedly agree with you -- they were wonderful dining experiences), I wouldn't hesitate to mention #1 - Le Bec Fin without question!
    (#2 - Lacroix at the Rittenhouse.)

    1. LeBecFin - absolutely!

      1. You might want to consider Birchrunville Store also - although it is different than both Lacroix or Le Bec Fin. It is BYO, country inn feel, and more casual, although top quality food.

        11 Replies
        1. re: DanielleM

          You should definitely go to Le Bec-Fin. It compares very favorably to Restaurant Bocuse and Fernand Point's La Pyramide (as opposed to the current incarnation run by the Henriroux brothers). If you decide to go to Le Bec-Fin, be sure to request the lobster press when you make your reservation for a truly memorable meal. There are only 4 lobster presses in the world, and Le Bec-Fin has one of them.

            1. re: Philly Ray

              The lobster press is similar to the duck press used at La Tour d’Argent. It’s made from solid silver by Christofle.

              The lobster meat is prepared in the kitchen by the chef, while the sauce is prepared tableside using the lobster press (a lobster mousse can also be created using the press). When the kitchen;s preparation of the lobster meat reaches a certain stage, the lobster carapace, which includes the roe and liver, is placed into the press. The press squeezes the carapace, and the resulting outflow of juices is used to prepare the sauce (or mousse). The dish is then finished with the resulting sauce or mousse.

              Chef Perrier uses the lobster press himself. If he’s on his night off, then Christophe Tassan, the head sommelier for all of GP’s restaurants, will use it. It’s a remarkable dish both for the flavors that are created as well as the opulence of the presentation.

              1. re: Mr_Pickles

                Outstanding post Mr. Pickles, thanks for the heads up on that!
                I think over the last few years many of us have unfortunately overlooked this jewel in our city.

                1. re: JCap

                  Le Bec is fine if you're content with out-dated French that takes no notice of the advancements in cuisine in the past 25 years. If you want wonderful French in a fine-dining environment, go to Lacroix--its considerably better.

                    1. re: Alcibiades1

                      What advancements are better delivered at Lacroix than Le Bec Fin?

                      1. re: JCap

                        It's not the advancements, per se, just the artistry. You'll get something like rack of lamb with prune sauce at Le Bec. Not that there's anything wrong with that but the food at Lacroix takes into account the modern element of classical French as well as regarding the tradition that of French cuisine that has evolved over time. For the money Lacroix is a no-brainer and you won't be disappointed. It really is wonderful, especially in comparison.

                      2. re: Alcibiades1

                        Ah yes. That's the point of Le Bec-Fin. You get superlative execution of classical techniques that take advantage of the highest-quality ingredients. If you want food as performance art, of course, you won't get that at Le Bec-Fin (not that there’s anything wrong with food as "performance" - I like to be "wowed" just as much as the next guy).

                        This is always an interesting philosophical discussion. Lately, quite a few chefs and diners feel that innovation for the sake of innovation makes for a superior dining experience. This innovation often takes the form of fancy plating and culinary special effects. I've had more than my fair share of overly imaginative cuisine that focuses on the creation of three-dimensional structures on my plate with novelty effects, like puffs of mushroom smoke or candied monkfish liver or squid ink ice cream. Many "modernist" chefs also like putting multiple flavors on a plate using different form factors just because they can. It doesn't really matter that many of the flavors don't match, because the presentation is just so gosh darn cool. In spite of this trend, I’m quite thankful that there are some chefs, like Georges Perrier and Paul Bocuse, who are “standing athwart culinary history, yelling ‘stop’."

                        I prefer dishes that contain a maximum of three perfectly executed flavors that best accentuate the chef's true skill at manipulating the finest, freshest ingredients of the season. That style of cooking is what you'll find at Le Bec-Fin. It ultimately comes down to what you want from your dining experience. Le Bec-Fin is like driving a Mercedes S600. Dining at some of the more "innovative" places is like driving a chipped-up BMW M3. Both vehicles are great, it just depends on what you want. I can also extend the analogy to music. Dining at Le Bec-Fin is like listening to Mozart or Bach, while dining at many of the more "innovative" places is like listening to John Cage. And so forth.

                        1. re: Mr_Pickles

                          Bravo, Mr. Pickles!
                          Your analogies are right on the money!
                          Le Bec Fin enjoys a worldwide reputation and it has the staying power to prove it. They must be doing something right.
                          I am just as impressed by the attention the wait staff provides without being pretentious.
                          State Collegian: I have been to The Inn at Little Washington many times. If you liked the experience there, you are home free with Le Bec Fin. In fact, if I were you, I'd ask their opinion and see what they have to say.

                      3. re: JCap

                        Thanks JCap! With so many great choices in Philadelphia, it's sometimes tough to try everything.

              2. I would go to Morimoto, which is excellent, unique food and definitely for special occassions at those prices, particularly if you do an omakasa. Thank you.

                1. While I would agree that the food at the Bec Fin is quite good, I've been less than impressed with the service.... Twice (on 2 different occasions), my dinner companion was corrected on his choice of order (are you SURE you want that?)... by waiters who mispronounced the French, were SLOWLY writing down the orders (for a table of 2), and brought the wrong entree to the table. Somehow I feel used tipping >18% on service on a hefty 5star bill when it doesn't meet the standard of many of the other restaurants in town. After all, the tip is for the service, right?
                  On the occasions where the service was good, it was admittedly fantastic.
                  I'd hesitate to go there for an event that one hopes is perfect.
                  So, while I agree that it's about the food, not the "wow".... I hope you don't find yourself thinking of alternative uses for the lobster press (on the waiter) if you have a bad experience with the staff.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: pathgeek

                    I'm sorry to hear you had some sub-par service. About how long ago did you run into your service issues? I hope you let the general manager and Chef Perrier know.

                    I've always experienced and observed at other tables superlative service in both the main dining room and at Le Bar Lyonnais. I wouldn't hesitate in recommending Le Bec-Fin for a perfect experience.

                    1. re: Mr_Pickles

                      Must agree. I have witnessed the sweet young couple on their first venture into fine dining be guided through the menu and wine list with a deft touch and no condescension at choices or questions. Their bottle of ordinary white zin was presented with as much respect as the loftier selections were to experienced diners. Recently, we dined next to a lone woman who was not going to give up her reservation simply because her dinner partner needed to cancel. The wait staff was very attentive to her; she readily spoke to us about how pleased and comfortable she was during her special dinner. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but that's a mark of "classy" service to me.

                      And the food ain't bad either. Is it a sign of strange times when we talk about the "simplicity" of classic French cuisine? Perfectly-sized portions,marvelous flavor profiles, clean presentation, wonderful wine pairings. I'm a fan!

                      1. re: wandasue

                        I completely forgot to mention the wine service! Le Bec-Fin has significantly upgraded its wine cellar and wine service over the past 2 years. The head sommelier, Christophe Tassan, is a bona fide wine celebrity - he won the Meilleur Ouvrier de France award for the sommelier's craft in 2004. He's also one of the most personable, modest people I've ever met.

                        The sommeliers, Christophe and Michael Franco, both do an excellent job with pairing each course with a different wine. Not only do they explain in great detail what each wine is like and why they selected it for a particular course, they also try to accomodate your wine preferences with each course as much as possible. For example, if you just hate any and all white wines, they will do their best to pair each course with a red wine, even if it would ordinarily demand a red. I even once saw Christophe personally bring ice cubes for a gentleman who liked to add ice to his red wine. And yes, that guest had never been to the restaurant before and was not some visiting celebrity. Just a guy who likes ice cold red wine. Not once did any of the staff give even the slightest indication that the ice cube request was odd.

                        By the way, the selected wines are drawn from a very nice selection, not just from the "by the glass section" on the wine list as so often happens at many fine restaurants.