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Jul 15, 2008 08:37 AM

Parc (latest Starr venture)

Did anyone go to the first day yesterday? Any comments?

I was in the area and decided to give it a try (because even though I'm generally not a Starr fan, I like French bistros). My friend and I split the pate de campagne for an app - this was nice and moist and seemed wrapped in some sort of fat/skin thing that I knew the texture well enough (from Vietnamese head cheese) to guess at. I had a "Baguette Provencal" with, as far as I could remember, brie, saucisson sec, olives (I think nicoise), and some very lightly dressed greens & julienned carrots - this was pretty good but nothing terribly special, and the baguette was much larger, width-wise, than I anticipated (not necessarily bad, just an observation). My friend had the salade Lyonaise - she liked it, and it looked liked a perfectly poached egg from my perspective. Overall, the best part of the meal was probably the pate de campagne. (I'm a bit biased, though, since I always find the apps more exciting than the mains.)

Service is probably difficult to discuss since it was the restaurant's first day and the place was obscenely crowded. (I took lunch at 2pm, and we still had to wait for a table to be cleared for us to sit down.) Overall, things were slow. The pate came without bread, and we had to flag a runner down for a bread basket. The two mains were extremely slow in coming. It took us 1.5 hrs to finish, which is fast for dinner but not when I'm taking a luch break mid-day - honestly, I wouldn't mind this even if I weren't a little rush for time, but so much of the 1.5 hrs was spent finding the waiter for little things. However, to the waitstaff's credit, everyone was extremely nice and gracious (and thus got a 20% tip despite the slow service), and that went a long way toward us not faulting the slow service.

I sat outside, so I can't say much on atmostphere there other than it's a Rittenhouse sidewalk. My brief venture inside indicates a very pretty place, albeit a touch dark (aka sans light - not suprising since the only folks venturing to the back of the restaurant were the ones heading toward the bathroom). It slightly reminds me [uncrowded] Rx in that open, dark wood, working with instead of against the space kind of feel. Overall, it's not anywhere near the hustle, bustle, European-feeling Balthazar in NYC (as was hoped for by someone on a previous Parc thread), but I think it's on-mark as far as achieving something of a very casual, very French bistro-ish place.

Overall, it's not a terrible place for lunch but not exactly the greatest, either. I'll probably give it a while to get its act together before going back, but I wouldn't be opposed to going back. My current stance is that it's a good place if I'm in the neighbourhood but not a place I'd make a special trip for, which is what Starr was going for anyway, if I remember the concept correctly.

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  1. The fat/skin thing on your pate was most likely caul fat--the fatty membrane that wraps around a pig's internal organs. Most pates use some type of fat to moisten the meat and to keep the pate from sticking to the terrine mold and caul fat is one of the most traditional. In fact, if anyone knows a good supplier here in Philly, please chime in. I think I'll have to order it from Niman Ranch.

    Thanks for the report. Sounds like I'll have to head down there in a few weeks to let them get the kinks worked out. I still miss L'Ange Bleu.

    1. Did you get a chance to peek at the wine list, see the drafts or any other drinks?


      1. Boognish - I thought about it being caul fat, but this was about .25 in thick, and I've never seen caul fat that thick before so dismissed it. (For some reason, it didn't make any sense that they'd just wrap the caul fat around the pate until it reached desired thickness.)

        Chinon00 - I wasn't pay very careful attention (work day lunch, after all), but there was a decent wine list, though nothing exciting (your standard merlot, chardonnay, etc) that I could find on a quick pass - the caraffes were merlot & chardonnay and came in 15 & 25 oz options (don't drink chardonnay and the merlot was, well, merlot, nothing interesting but not bad). I did note a few interesting ciders and beers, but the selection there was extremely low and certainly nothing that caught my eye enough to make me want to order one. In short, it's a fine list for a casual dinner, but it's not a destination list like Le Bec Fin or anything.

        16 Replies
        1. re: Ali

          Bacon or pork belly are ofetn used on Pate de campagne

          1. re: Bigley9

            Good call. I glossed over the fact it was a pate de campagne. Jane Grigson's recipe does indeed call for bacon.

            Thanks for the clarification Ali and Bigley. Boy, .25" thick is awfully thick.

          2. re: Ali

            Thanks Ali and I must say that I find your tastes in wine interesting. When you say that you don't drink Chardonnay does that include those from Burgundy like Chablis, Montrachet and Meursault as well as those from the Champagne region?


            1. re: Chinon00

              :) I should clarify that, as a general rule, I don't drink over-oaked Chardonnay wines. I'm all for the Chardonnay grape being used elsewhere (especially love its usage in the Champagne region), and I've even had rare ocassions where I was served some very nice, very well balanced CA Chard, but as a whole, I don't enjoy that buttery, heavily oaked, hits you over the head Chard that others enjoy and therefore just don't go for in on a menu unless there's a sommelier advising me otherwise.

              Bigley9 - Good call. It was very likely [unsalted] pork belly (not bacon, there was no meat there and no salt, either).

              Boognish - It was very thick but surprisingly not fatty feeling in the mouth. It didn't coat the mouth the way, say, bacon fat might.

              1. re: Ali

                "I don't enjoy that buttery, heavily oaked, hits you over the head Chard that others enjoy and therefore just don't go for in [sic] on a menu unless there's a sommelier advising me otherwise."

                So you can't distinguish one style of Chardonnay from another without the help of a sommelier you're saying?

                1. re: Chinon00

                  Can I tell the difference between a blanc de blanc and the "average" CA Chard (you know the one, it's the one most folks think of when the word Chardonnay comes up)? Sure (granted, one is a sparkler and therefore obvious). The difference between a Chablis and a Chard? Sure. I meant the difference between various houses that make Chardonnay-style wine (NOT the grape). I've already admitted that I don't drink that style as a general rule, so of course I'm going to rely on a sommelier to guide me.

                  I've read your posts. You're not obtuse. I'm sure you've heard the old ABC ("anything but Chardonnay") saying that gets passed around wine geeks (not that I'm one), so I'm not really sure where this prodding into my wine habits is leading ...

                  In any case, in reference to the thread topic, if anyone goes to Parc and has the pate de campagne, please let me know what you think the outer covering is. The menu is still not online, and my memory of the pate description didn't include that covering anyway. I'm dying to know ... mainly because I'd like to see if I could recreate the pate at home.

                  1. re: Ali

                    Will do. I probably won't go for a bit to let them get out their opening jitters, but ya better believe it'll be on my "to eat" list.

                    Heck, I'll even try to get someone to ask the chef/cook for me if I can't figure it out.

                    1. re: Ali

                      As a food and wine lover I’ve always found the whole “ABC” notion to be offensively imprecise. If what we are intending to convey is a dislike of overly oaked, fruit bomb style Chardonnay (a style which I would assume also that you’d find unpleasant regardless of the grape) then we should simply say that.
                      So when we use "ABC" others may not be aware of what we "apparently" mean and take our words at face value. And that would be tragic considering the importance of the grape to wine making.


                      1. re: Chinon00

                        2nd. I can't stand oakey whites, but am always willing to try Chardonnays, and have found some excellent ones from France.

                        1. re: saturninus

                          3rd. Really can't stand American Chardonnay (typically fat, dumb wines) but a really good French white Burgundy like a Pouilly Fuisse, Meursault or Chablis can be other-worldly. It's hard to believe that they are from the same grape, it's too bad we Americans have ruined the reputation of Chardonnay given its greatness in France.

                          1. re: Schpsychman

                            "ABC" suggests to me that some of us get caught up in ego and image and saying the right thing in front of an audience. Lots of good chow could be missed that way. "ABC" and the movie "Sideways" (which villified Merlot) were (are) unfortunately very influential.
                            I've found that if you want to make an impression on people just study and attempt to become more knowledgable.

                            1. re: Chinon00

                              At my advanced age, I have had the pleasure of learning and tasting wines from many places in the world. My genuine interest and excitement about sharing these experiences with family and friends and seeing their enjoyment as they try something new means more to me than impressing anyone with my knowledge. I can not stand "wine snobs". I always imagine, um never mind..........

                              1. re: crazyspice

                                a place where people can describe wines in terms that make sense to them, drink what they like, and understand why they like it.
                                (and realize that McWines like Oaky-Buttery Chards and very berry (this is NOT) Merlots are NOT representative of their grapes just like a big mac is NOT a hamberger

                                1. re: Bigley9

                                  LOL ~ My thought was not nearly that nice.

                                2. re: crazyspice

                                  Please tell me if I’m barking up the wrong tree (it wouldn’t be the first time) but if I’m reading you correctly can I ask, can you draw a distinction between being knowledgeable and as you put it “impressing [one] with [your] knowledge”? You said yourself that you’ve had the pleasure of learning and tasting wines from many places in the world (which tells me that you’ve become knowledgeable). And yet you’ve utilized that knowledge apparently not to "show off" around others (that would be snobbery) but rather to generate rich and rewarding interactions and experiences with loved ones correct? Believe me we shared absolutely the same passion.
                                  My only point about making a good impression (and again, not showing off) was to let those who would be overly concerned with it realize that it too is achieved by just knowing what you’re talking about and not by desperately attempting to align oneself with the food and wine trends of the moment.


                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                    Thank you for elaborating on the use of "impression". My final comment was directed to the "wine snobs", not you. Nothing makes me more uncomfortable than becoming a prisoner at a table with wine snobs present. Discussions about wine should be casual to allow all individuals, regardless of their wine knowledge, to feel they can comment and ask questions without being self conscious. When this happens, everyone learns something new and valuable about a subject often very intimidating. It is one way to ensure folks will feel confident enough not to align themselves with the trends of the moment as you aptly put.

              2. We went last night (around 745) and had a great time - it was pretty packed and they told us the wait for a table (both outside and in) was around an hour, which it was. We started with a beer by the bar (Saison Dupont). I didn't pay too close of attention to wine list as I'm more a beer-girl but the beer list was nice. On draft they had Hoegaarden, Pilsner Urquell, Flying Fish 60 min IPA, Stella and one other I can't remember. On the bottle beer list they had probably around 12-15 or so. Some of those that I remember: Chimay (though I think big bottle only), Duvel, Saison Dupont and Yuengling Lager - though at the same price as Saison Dupont please go with the Dupont.
                For dinner we got a few dishes to share - the Lobster cocktail, Escargots, Salade Lyonnaise and Tuna Carpaccio. The Escargots was probably my favorite, came in small black pot with two slices of toast as well and a delicious butter sauce. All was enjoyable - though the lardons on the salad seemed a bit chewy/overdone. For dessert we split the apple tartine which was great - perfect size for two, didn't feel overly heavy or full from it either.
                As for atmosphere - I thought it was great. by the time we left (10pmish) they had opened the glass window doors which was such a nice touch. It really is spot on for European cafe, I kept thinking how there should be a ton of cigarette smoke in my face! I told my friend that the worst part was how I was going to be walking out the door into the streets of Philly...not Paris :)

                1. Ate at Parc this weekend. We were seated promptly (had reservations) and were immediately approached by our waiter to take water/drink orders. The menu is what one would expect from a French bistro, and every dish we had did not disappoint. IMO, the portion sizes were spot on for the price. The drink menu is pretty wide-open: milkshakes, kitchy cocktails, Absinthe (interesting to see on menu as I think that it was basically banned from US until 2007), wine by the glass, etc. They also offer carafe's of wine, both red and white.

                  What we ate:
                  Small Plat de Mer: Two tiered cold seafood tower with two types of west coast oysters, seriously large shrimp, clams on the half shell, and green-lip mussels. The platter also contained an octopus salad with large chunks of octopus in a tasty marinate. Onion Soup: Oh my, this was everything onion soup should be...cheesy, with loads of onions and a rich broth. Yes it was near 100 degrees outside, but as a big fan of onion soup I couldn't resist. salad lyonnaise: it was okay... Frisee, bacon bits, potatoes, and a soft boiled egg. Roasted lamb + polenta: lamb tender, poleta creamy. So much food on the plate!

                  And finally after all of that food we still tried dessert, profiteroles, and they were worth it. Four (maybe five?) mini puffs encasing vanilla ice cream with a bittersweet chocolate sauce on the side.

                  My only issue with the evening is the noise level in the restaurant but that will no way deter me from returning to Parc again. The food and general ambiance is way worth shouting across the table to your diner companions.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: wetlands559

                    Interesting that your experience was "too much food on the plate." My gf had dinner there last week and her calf's liver entree was just that. Calf's liver. We're used to steak houses where everything is ala carte, but a french bistro? Would putting a potato and something green on the plate have killed them?

                    1. re: hungry100

                      the too much food comment was just about the lamb. It was a plate half lamb, half what I think was polenta.