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Mar 9, 2012 07:16 AM

Fine dining in Philadelphia… what is it and who provides it?

"Georges Perrier and his restaurant introduced me to fine dining."

Yes, to what fine dining WAS.

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  1. What is it today? Or should I say what is it today ... in Philadelphia? Do we have any fine dining chains? (oops thats the other thread... ).

    9 Replies
    1. re: cwdonald

      "What is it today?"

      It's up for debate. I can only comment on what it was with any certainty.

      1. re: Chinon00

        I think for starters, you can define "fine dining" as, at a minimum:

        1) service that gives a crap
        2) comfortable and pleasant decor & atmosphere
        3) decent quality table settings
        and, last but not least,
        4) high-quality, expertly-prepared food

        1. re: deprofundis

          Does the style of the food qualify or disqualify? What if the "high quality, expertly prepared food" is Carolina BBQ?

          1. re: Chinon00

            Not if you eat it with your hands.

          2. re: deprofundis

            Deprofundis: May I enhance your definition of four points from my perspective?

            1.) Socially-skilled, gracious and non-solicitous service that is maximally attentive but minimally intrusive,
            2.) Visually captivating surroundings and seating that invites a lingering experience
            3.) Spotless china, crystal and flatware on fine cloth enhanced by floral arrangements,
            4.) Fare that is as fresh as possible, cooked to perfection and seasoned to intrigue not obfuscate.
            To me, that's just "fine."

            1. re: Chefpaulo

              I love that definition ChefPaulo.. now which restaurants would meet that criteria in Philadelphia... I think places like Zahav might fall a bit short, especially from a decore standpoint.

              1. re: cwdonald

                Interesting discussion. Perhaps you'd get some good input by starting a new thread on this Fine Dining discussion....what is it and who provides it? I agree that i like CP's definition

              2. re: Chefpaulo

                Here, here. Very well said Chef Paulo and to my mind right on point. I might just adopt your definitions with no claims of origination. Thanks

                1. re: Chefpaulo

                  Could a BYOB qualify? I think all but the rarest could pull off your second requirement. Also I think noise level is an important factor too.

          3. Yes, first time in 1983; last time 1999. It ranked in my mind no lower than the seafood buffet I had the pleasure of enjoying at Hotel Du Pont's Green Room.

            Recently only a meal at Per Se complete with a handshake with Thomas Keller did compare.

            1. We had dinner Saturday night at the Fountain Room at the Four Seasons and it met every criteria for fine dining.
              We hadn't been there for dinner for years. It was superb!
              The ambience, service, food and presentation could not have been better.
              This ranks at the top of my list for taking out somone for a special occasion. This time, we were the fortunate guests!

              6 Replies
              1. re: sylviag

                What did you have Sylviag? Did you do a tasting menu?

                1. re: cwdonald

                  There were two choices. On the left side of the menu, you could do three courses for $80; on the right side, six courses for $140. You could choose two appetizers and an entree and skip dessert - no way for me!

                  Our small group all chose the three courses. There were lovely little extras - an amuse bouche, something before dessert, etc. Good breads, of course.
                  You can look at the menu online, but everyone loved what they had. The accompaniments and embellishments were beautiful and delicious.

                  There were some specials not on the regular menu that went with the more expensive choice.
                  Although the service was impeccable, at no time did you feel it was pretentious. We were offered ice water, with no mention of bottled water. That was refreshing!

                  Our hostess is petite, and was given a pillow to put behind her.

                  The drinks were great.

                  All in all, a great place to celebrate!

                  1. re: sylviag

                    I've given this long thought since my embellishment of deprofundis' definition and concur that my only experience that meets criteria is The Fountain Room. The cuisine is superb but, even more so, the personnel reflect the highest blend of professionalism and innate emotional intelligence. They must have a very rigorous selection process to ensure that there is the social acumen to assuage the unreasonable behavior of the occasional disordered personality yet have the sensitivity to spontaneously get a pillow for your petite hostess. Concern and graciousness are genuine, not feigned, and you've given me impetus to get down there again.

                    Years ago, some local Hounds may remember my favorite French restaurant, La Truffe, which ran a close second and is sorely missed. Quality and service were comparable to Le Bec-Fin but in a much more relaxed atmosphere.

                    1. re: Chefpaulo

                      Isn't fine dining really an outgrowth of the royal kitchen and dining room? So all that attention to care and comfort is an attempt I think to approximate how a royal might expect to be treated. It goes back to that I think.

                  2. re: cwdonald

                    I will add this, cw -
                    our son did the tasting meny at Vetri and while everything was delicious, he felt the food was too rich for him. He is a very good cook and knows his food.
                    The advantage of Fountain's menu is that if you are on any kind of food regimen, you can
                    choose the lighter offerings and still have an outstanding meal.

                    1. re: sylviag

                      I agree completely that a fine dining establishment should be able to blow you away with a lighter menu as well as with a heavier one. However what I think epitomizes gourmet and should always be available at a fine dining restaurant is rich decadent rare prized menu items: e.g. cavier, foie gras, demi-glace, truffles, sea urchin, etc.