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Sep 19, 2009 07:47 PM

One day in Philly

We are passing through on the way back to Canada so I figured we should spend a day.

My last trip to Philly was disappointing. I could not find a cheese steak sandwich that was even good. Lot's of recommendations but give me a break with the cheese whiz and canned mushrooms. Nothing close to a good sandwich when you use those toppings.

This time around I had very limited time and reservations at Bibou so as soon as I got to the city I went to Dalessandro's. Finally a cheese steak that I consider to be really, really good. I'm sure there are many more in the city but the last time I only went to 3 places and all were average.

That brings us to Bibou.
I did a lot of research on this board and others and the consensus seemed to be that Bibou is the best if not one of the best restaurants in the city. Really?

With all due respect this restaurant is average.
And I don't even mean average by big city standards. I can name 4 better restaurants in Charlottetown, PEI.

Started with the foie gras.
I'm pretty skeptical when I order foie and it's only $15 but they pulled this dish off very well.
A tiny poached pear with a cinnamon scented pastry and ginger jus. Very nicely done and a good portion of foie.

The chilled fennel soup was good. I'm not a big fan of fennel but this was balanced well with the tomato. My wife enjoyed it more than I did.

They had a special of sauteed chanterelle mushrooms on this evening. Pretty basic, sauteed with shallot, garlic, port/sherry, and cream.
This could have been very good because I love all mushrooms but as usually happens the shallot/garlic blend is sauteed at too high heat and the flavor ends up dominating the dish and you can't taste the mushroom.
IMHO the mushrooms should always be sauteed first and then the shallots and garlic just sweated in the mushroom juices before adding glace and cream.

Main courses were the Pied de Porc, which was OK. The flavor was fine and it was served in a bowl of lentils flavored with bacon. Certainly nothing outstanding and very little foie gras to be found.
A few days ago I had the stuffed Pied de Cochon at the restaurant of the same name in Montreal so the bar was set pretty high. This one didn't match up at all.

I also had the veal dish. Veal medallions with sweetbreads.
I love sweetbreads but not the way they were presented here. The veal medallions were fine but they were just salted and seared on a flat top. Nothing new here.
The sweetbreads, instead of being cut in nice slices were basically chopped into small bits and almost seemed deep fried. They were mixed in with an unremarkable orzo.

Risotto would have worked much better and a simple seared slice of sweetbread would serve the dish much better.
Worst of all, the greens that were mixed in with the orzo were very gritty. They were either not washed at all or they were very poorly washed.
That is unacceptable on all levels.

I don't mind a crowded room. I don't mind a little noise.
The hostess, (one of the owners?) was very friendly. The servers ranged from good to sloppy.

Overall I would only give this restaurant a 5.
I know that may be fair based on a single visit but that's the only visit I will probably make.

On a side note, what is the deal with the traffic.
We were in Philly on a Saturday Afternoon and it too an hour to get a few blocks in any direction.

I assume that at least one of the teams were playing.
Was Penn playing? I didn't think Ivy league started this early.
I know Temple was playing at Penn St.
Is PS in the city?

There is also a ton of construction it seems.

It must have been a nightmare summer of driving if this day was any indication.

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  1. So glad you enjoyed your stay! Any more complaints?

    3 Replies
    1. re: PhillyA

      Sorry if it sounds like complaints. These are only observations.
      Are there better restaurants than Bibou?
      Is the traffic always as bad or is this an anomaly?

      I did enjoy my stay in fact, as I have on other visits to Philly.

      1. re:

        Like any large city you can get caught up in construction. There does tend to be more on the weekends when the traffic is lighter. I live in the city and can count on one hand the number of times that it has taken me that long to go a few blocks so I think you were just unlucky. Whatever so there was traffic. Don't understand what you want the chows to do about that.

        Regarding Bibou, never been but heard nothing but good things about it. It's always good to get another perspective. There are lots of really fine places. We are fans of Matyson , Bar Ferdinand and Bistro7.

        1. re:

          Were you stuck in traffic on I-76 (expressway)? Traffic is always bad on that and there is major construction going on, so it has been particularly horrendous lately. If you were stuck on roads downtown, probably some major streets were closed for an event or something. Penn State is not in Philly and the sports stadiums are not downtown, so that is unlikely to be the cause of the traffic.

          I have not been to Bibou so I can't comment about the food, but it is the current "flavor of the month" in that it is new and has been generating a lot of buzz, both on forums like this and in the press. There is always an amount of hype that builds around whatever is new and good, so perhaps some of the praise you read was a bit overstated or your expectations were set too high.

          Next time you come down, drop a post here first. We can steer you towards lots of excellent, reliable grub spots without hype.

      2. I believe the Philadelphia Distance Run was Saturday morning and resulted in a number of street closures around the city. Not sure exactly where or for how long but the route is sorta from Eakins oval to Independence Hall etc.