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Mar 14, 2012 09:23 AM

Lacroix Update

In the thread Why Bibou doesn't deserve Four Bells...
I indicated I was going to Lacroix, and someone asked for a review, expecially in light of Craig LaBan’s recent demotion to three Bells on 2/4/12:

Lacroix loses luster:

Based on his experiences, Laban’s complaints seem fair and gives Jon Cichon and his staff something to shoot for. If that’s the case, they hit bulls-eye during our visit.

My wife and I ordered the Tasting Menu:
which, at $75 is quite reasonable. We’re partial to big red wines and this menu was a poor fit, so a lower tannin Pinot Noir was more in order. After narrowing it down to several from Oregon, I let our waiter choose, and he did a fine job with a Yamhill for a good bit less than we were willing to spend.

Service was excellent, but the staff seemed younger than what I recalled when we were there when Lacroix himself was the chef. It was a special occasion, which was attended to without them going overboard. Jon Cichon came out and chatted with us for a good 10 minutes about preparation, technique, Japanese knives and work ethic. At 29 he’s just a kid but has a maturity that should lead to great things at Lacroix.

The meal itself was excellent. For me, the standouts were the foie gras and the veal cheeks.

Cichon and Pierre Calmels are friends and as we frequent bibou, a comparison is in order. Lacroix is a total fine dining experience. It takes a lot of staff and money to run the place properly. Bibou is a byob bistro, serving food every bit as good –and arguably better- than Lacroix.

We’re more bibou people, but are already talking about who we can corral into paying for another Lacroix dinner.

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  1. On a recent visit to Lacroix for lunch I found the service to be impeccable. Like could not be any better. Unfortuantely as far as the food went we had some hits (the Spanish octopus and fabulous scallops) and misses (like the very fatty brisket sandwich). Of course the desserts were very good. I just wish the food was more consistent, and I am still kind of shocked that they would serve pieces of brisket that were so fatty. It could've been easily trimmed off.

    I do applaud Lacroix for being open for lunch on Saturdays. I wish other finer establishments would consider doing the same because the number of nicer options at that time of the day around town is pretty limited.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bluehensfan

      l am sure they would have replaced it with a leaner one immediately.

      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        It was not a biggie. Easy enough to pick off :) Still even post-picked the brisket was nowhere near DiNic's of Percy Street when they are on. But the scallops more than made up for it!

    2. A Lacroix update (or maybe everyone else knew this already?), they are now prix fixe. Last time we were there, they had a $75 tasting menu and an ala carte menu. Last night they had a $75, 4-course prix fixe and a $120 tasting menu. There were wine pairings for each, I believe, but I don't recall the price. This menu was not on their website, that one is from April.

      There were choices for each of the 4-courses, but they said there was some flexibility in the first two courses (ligher apps vs heavier apps, you could have one of each or two in one category), the third was a meat-heavy main, and the fourth a dessert. We went with the 4-course prix fixe.

      Wine bottles under $300 are 50% off on Mondays.

      We started with half a dozen oysters (not part of the 4-courses), topped with a kim chee and bacon mixture. Very good, salty, but in a way that complemented the oysters.

      There was an amuse with three small bites, a smoked sturgeon piece, a hearts of palm vichyssoise with paddlefish roe, and a bacon madeline with horseradish cream. They were all lovely bites. I had a fluke and mango dish to start. Good tartness, light, a nice start. My second dish was scallops with some kind of pepper puree, I think, and a squash blossom stuffed with scallop puree (like a scallop sausage), that squash blossom just won, it was fantastic. My third dish was lamb... encrusted with lamb sausage (brilliant and tasty) along with mushrooms, tiny heirloom tomatoes, and peppers. For dessert, I chose the peanut butter souffle. I couldn't have been happier with it. Warm, light, fluffy, and peanut buttery. A little chocolate on top and some peanuts. Definitely in my top five desserts in Philly.

      Service remains spot on. It was a business-y dinner, and I like that it's easy to carry a conversation there, even when the dudes at the next table are loudly talking finance.

      12 Replies
      1. re: urbanfabric

        Wow, everyone hopping on the price-increase bandwagon? I realize food prices are going up and that the old pricing was a relative bargain compared to its peers, but $75 7 course tasting menu -> $120 tasting menu (still 7 courses?) and $39 3 course pre fixe (Sunday-Friday) -> $75 4 course pre-fixe is a bit of a sticker shock and really just seems like they are doing the "me too" in following LBF and Vetri.

        1. re: bsims76

          Looks like a perception game... they want to be considered in the same league as LBF and Vetri. I have a $100 gift card for Lacroix... looks like I might be using it for lunch instead of dinner (not valid for brunch sadly).

          1. re: barryg

            Yes, I think the tasting is 7-courses, although I didn't really look closely since that's not what we were going to do.

            barryg, I used my $100 gift card for lunch a few months and it was a good move. They do lunch on Saturdays, which is nice.

            1. re: barryg

              Don;t get the brisket sandwich if you do go for lunch. Instead stick with the hamachi, the octopus, the scallop, and (of course) dessert.

              1. re: bluehensfan

                Thanks for the tips. What was wrong with the brisket besides it being fatty? I actually prefer my brisket on the fatty side.

                1. re: barryg

                  That was my main beef with the brisket. But it and the fries were just so-so compared to the other things we had. As a comparison, the brisket is much better at DiNic's or Percy St. (on most days).

                2. re: bluehensfan

                  bhf, the brisket sandwich I had a few weeks ago was excellent, the right amount of fat/beef, and while I'm not a fry guy, they were good, too. I'm sure you'll agree that our single experiences with a particular dish don't define it forever and for everyone.

                  However, you're more generous than me. If I pay my hard-earned money and get a unsatisfactory meal I'm unlikely to go back at all.

            2. re: urbanfabric

              ugh. this is obnoxious. i was a big fan of lacroix and would dine there ~ 4 times/year but vastly preferred ordering a la carte to the prix fixe menu which i felt over performed and under delivered on many of the dishes.

              1. re: urbanfabric

                addendum to the original update: while the menu you are presented with is set menu for $75, there is a note on the bottom that says to inquire with your sever about a la carte pricing. there is no separate menu but any item on the tasting can be purchased separately - our server was kind enough to write down next to each item what the pricing would be. apparently due to the hospitality group, the chef has never had full control over the menu until now, which is why they have decided to shift to (mostly) a prix fixe. the 4 course tasting is set up with a normal sized appetizer, then two 6 oz portions for the seafood and meat courses. even though we mentioned that we would prefer the a la carte, the prix fixe was being pushed, VERY HARD which was a real turnoff, but once we did actually order, service was great.

                we split the foie torchon appetizer with pickled figs, crispy chantrelles and a white chocolate heart of palm ice cream ($22 or $5 suppliment on the tasting). the amuse of three small bites, a sturgeon pastrami piece, a hearts of palm vichyssoise w/roe, and a bacon madeline with horseradish cream were good but if i could i would have ordered an entire bowl of the vichyssoise - excellent flavors.

                for mains, the server recommended the pork dish which originally wasn't on our radar but ended up the favorite. pork prepared a few ways: breaded rillette with bing cherries, airy chicharrones, crispy skinned loin, and a bone in fried pork belly with corn foam. the lamb saddle dish had great flavor and was served over long beans and a grain salad with champagne grapes. both dishes had been scaled up to a very generous main course portion ($42 a la carte) but the lamb dish looked more like a scaled up version rather than a true composed plate. no real complaints because both were excellent and arguably even larger than a la carte dishes of the past.

                the usual mignardises and biscotti completed the meal, we left feeling pleasantly full and very satisfied with the $100 check.

                1. re: kasiav

                  Thanks for the great write up. Were you offered wine pairings with the menu?

                  1. re: cwdonald

                    we didn't ask for any though i'm sure they would have been happy to provide. the server did mention that they had to bring in a new wine specifically to pair with the pork pate appetizer (he mentioned what it was but unfortunately it escapes me). honestly i can't even remember if the tasting menu quoted a price for wine pairings or if you'd just be ordering by the glass.

                    1. re: kasiav

                      I am thinking that it did, but I can't remember for sure.

              2. I eat at Lacroix a couple times a year, and have always felt that the tasting menu is one of the better bargains in the city. I ate there a few weeks ago before the apparent price change. As usual, a couple courses were excellent, a few were so-so, and I enjoyed the single best scallop of my life as a substitute for foie gras. (Contrary to Laban, I feel that the food there has noticeably improved over the past 8-12 months The menu seemed more focused thematically and their execution was more consistent.) Service with Jean-Paul was superb as always. Sylvan, the old GM at LBF, is a manager at Lacroix now, may have tinted my vision a bit since he sent over a round of superb port at the end of dinner. He was certainly not the problem with LBF, and so I'm glad he's found a good landing spot.

                Naturally the new menu changes things, though it isn't that surprising. Meals at Lacroix have never been showstoppers, but even a hotel restaurant can't survive charging $75 for the quantity and quality of food they offered, regardless of the restaurant's attempt to make up the difference with their utterly absurd wine mark-ups. All that said, $120 is steep for Lacroix, especially when Fountain Restaurant and DeStefano are putting out world-class cuisine for the same price. If this holds, it will be hard to justify eating at Lacroix as much. I don't want to digress to much on the Fountain, but DeStefano is getting almost no press despite some mild praise from the ever-uninspired Laban. The Fountain's food has added creativity and dynamism to it's legendary execution over the past year. It is head and shoulders above even Vetri now, even ignoring it's substantially lower price. If DeStefano continues improving and experimenting, the Fountain will become one of the country's premier non avaunt-guarde restaurants. I'm not exaggerating.

                1. We ate there last night,after having been away for years.

                  It wasn't great. Small portions were artfully placed on plates with dribs and dabs of sauce...not enough to actually use as a sauce, just enough to look pretty. What food was there was tasty, but cooled quickly because it was basically all alone on the plate. The dishes looked great but didn't eat well. Desserts were "clever" takes on standards like cheesecake, which ended up being balls of mascarpone covered in white chocolate with a schmear of blueberry.

                  The whole meal was...uhhh...immature. Like a newly minted chef trying out all his ideas.

                  8 Replies
                    1. re: barryg


                      BTW The only dessert that looked appealing was the cheese plate but they wanted $18 extra for three little bits of cheese! Screw that! I recall LBF had a big trolly full of cheeses at no extra charge.

                      The Lacroix dining room was only half full.


                      1. re: sal_acid

                        Cheese and dessert carts are no more at LBF...

                        1. re: cwdonald

                          The poor mice...what will they nibble on :)

                          1. re: bluehensfan

                            Are those the riff raff in the bar?

                            I am very surprised at the LaCroix descriptions. This goes contrary to everything I have heard lately about the restaurant. I am trying to figure out if the person doesn't like smaller sized portions for tasting menus, or whether there is a a real problem in the kitchen.

                            1. re: cwdonald

                              sal_acid, how long since you've been? We've been going pretty regularly for the past 5 years and I didn't think it was at all out of character with our previous meals.

                              Also, I can only speak to the peanut butter souffle, but it was straight forward and remarkable.

                              1. re: urbanfabric

                                Its been many years since I'd been there. I had fond memories of the place and heard that it was still top notch and expected a great meal.

                                This wasn't a tasting menu, it was the four course dinner, one of which was dessert. But portion size was the least of the issues.

                                The only dish of the several that were served that had enough sauce to eat with each bite of the meat was the wagyu brisket. The rest had little dots of sauce, more decorative than useful.

                                Some of my problem with the place might lie with not knowing what to expect since the dishes weren't adequately described by the menu or the server. For example, when a menu says "cheesecake" one expects something that looks and/or tastes like cheesecake. Lacroix' cheesecake neither tasted nor looked like cheesecake so it was a disappointment.

                                That food cooled quickly was a function of its shape (lots of surface area) and the absence of other hot food on the plate to hold heat.

                                So even after all this self analysis of my criticisms, I stand by them. The kitchen seems to care more about how the dishes look than how they eat. The menu and the staff don't give a naive diner an idea of what to expect which can make for disappointments.

                                In sum and in short, it should have been better. Wasn't terrible, but at this level and at this restaurant I expected better.

                    2. re: sal_acid

                      That was kind of how i felt about their prix fixe, I would much much rather order a la carte and get fully formed dishes. Definitely feel the tasting menu dishes were half baked, though I haven't ordered this in about a year. Will be hitting it up within the next week as I have a Gift Card expiring soon so we'll see how it goes...