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Laurel, new BYOB on EPx from Top Chef contestant Nicholas Elmi

Six of us had a fantastic dinner Wednesday night at LAUREL, on what was its second night open. Love what they've done to the ex-Fond space on East Passyunk (with super comfy chairs!). The service was excellent. I'll write more later about the food, but we enjoyed everything we had (the gnocchi was a standout dish in my mind).

The newest "must try (and keep coming back)" BYOB in Philly!

http://www.restaurantlaurel.com

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  1. hah, I knew you'd be the first report. Looking forward to hearing about it!

    And those chairs do look darn comfy.

    1. My husband and I ate there on Friday. It was fantastic. The decor is very soothing and it's not too noisy (the sound cushions on the ceiling and the comfy chairs help!). Service was very friendly and helpful. Here's what we had:

      First course
      Fluke crudo with asian pear and horseradish sauce - a surprisingly larger portion which 2 can definitely split. The sauce was creamy and complemented the fluke perfectly.

      Mache lettuce salad with honey buttermilk dressing - a light, fall salad; a good meal starter

      Second course
      Ricotta gnocchi with lardo and ricotta salata - this was the star of the night. Bowl of heavenly pillows of pasta with a nice crunch of lardo and croutons. My DH and I fought for the last bite!

      Third course
      Pork with chanterelles - I only had a couple of bites, but it was cooked perfectly

      Dourade with parsnips and burgundy snails - beautiful white, flaky fish with crispy skin. I'm not a big fan of snails, but if you like them, these weren't rubbery or chewy

      Fourth course
      White chocolate mousse with chocolate cookie crumbles - very nice, light ending to the meal

      I will definitely be back. I thought Chef Elmi had a knack for mixing textures, (like adding a bit a crunch to softer dishes) which I liked very much. All the flavors were well balanced.

      Chef Elmi was food running a bit throughout the night. I told him we were happy to have him in the neighborhood :)

      1. I indulged in the 7-course tasting menu. Highlights included the mackerel and the gnocchi, and everything else was also very good. He does have a knack for combining both textures and flavors rather well.

        I personally found it pretty noisy, but it was around 10-11pm on a friday night and the place was still full.

        It's definitely on the list of places worth going back to

        1. Amazing. There was not one thing on that entire menu that appealed to me. Not even the desserts.
          I wonder if Philly is ready for this "ambitious" menu.
          Of course this is strictly subjective and I am sure that there are many who will simply love everything.

          14 Replies
          1. re: arepo

            Interesting perspective. I'm surprised, as the menu does not look overly ambitious or unusual to me. To me, virtually everything on the menu looks like something I would be happy to eat, or at least interested in trying. I'm hoping to get there soon.

              1. re: JanR

                I am with hungry and jan - looking forward to trying it!

                1. re: Bigley9

                  I agreed with Arepo. I wasn't thrilled with the menu. But then, I'm not very adventurous.

                  1. re: JanR

                    Ah, my bad, thought you were agreeing with hungry

              2. re: arepo

                While l 'recommended' your post l realize we are coming to that conclusion from different ends. lt is not that it is too ambitious, for me it is that it is nothing l would want to eat.
                l understand l do not like precious or too many ingredients in a dish, but this menu has nothing that appeals to me, sort of voting against a candidate rather than supporting and liking a candidate, l would be picking the best of things l do not want.
                Certainly Hungry in the Burbs and l are not going to be great dinner companions as he/she would be happy with the menu.

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  Ok, now I'm curious. I just picked out a dish from each course that appealed to me: the scallop with apple; the gnocchi with pancetta, which looks very similar to a dish he made on Top Chef that was uniformly raved about the multiple chef/judges; and the pork with chestnuts and huckleberry/kale vinaigrette. What is it about those that doesn't appeal to you?

                  1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                    Okay, I take it back (sort of).
                    I think the problem is the additions that turned me off.
                    I actually liked the idea of the scallops (torn? what is that?) with apple but frankly I am not a seaweed kinda kid and the idea of sea lettuce crinkles my nose.
                    The chicken sounded possible for me but I didn't bother to check my dictionary to find out that winter aliums were nothing more than onions.
                    I guess that's what I mean by an ambitious menu.
                    Like Jan, I am admittedly not very adventurous. That is my loss but at least in most places if they don't have anything that particularly appeals to me, at least there is always going to be the usual steak of some sort as a last resort for me to choose from.
                    I wish Nick the very best and hope his venue makes it big.
                    For me, I need to look at a menu and complain that my biggest problem is that there are so many delectable choices I can only choose but one.

                  2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    I wrote that before I read this review, which makes me even more interested in the gnocchi and the pork.

                    http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/foo...

                    1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                      Did anyone watch Nick Elmi on Top Chef last week (latest episode is on at 10PM tonight)? The Twitterverse was all in a dither over whether he should have voluntarily resigned or not (he didn't).

                      Philly certainly has more than it's fair share of controversial Top Chefs (Nick, Jason, Jenn, Kevin).

                      1. re: Hungryin theBurbs

                        l am not implying at any level that l am right and others are wrong. Restaurants l go to are very, very menu centric to me.
                        l love scallops, the other bunch of ingredients do not appeal to me with scallops.
                        The other first courses again do not appeal to me, like a kid being forced to eat overcooked liver.
                        Next course nothing, maybe the gnocchi but after Zeppoli's last week, how can they approach them.
                        Next, not a flaky fish or US chicken guy and huckleberry-kale vinaigrette, that is the king of precious.
                        l know it is just me but l am not entranced.
                        To make my position worse have never seen Top Chef.

                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          Nick almost had a meltdown over another contestant touching his pots last night on TopChef!

                    2. re: arepo

                      Before I went there I would have disagreed with you, the menu looked good to me, with interesting flavor combinations. But after having dinner there, most of those interesting combinations didn't quite work out for me. I think the menu is a little too ambitious, too focused on trying to make unusual ingredient combinations work.

                      The best things I had there were the simplest: the pork dish and the mackerel dish were my favorites. The gnocchi was good too, but making delicious parisian gnocchi is frankly not that hard. The foie gras was interesting for one or two bites but the bitterness of the cocoa ended up overwhelming it.

                      It's obvious that Nick can cook, the pork in the pork dish was some of the best-cooked pork I've ever had, but I think he needs to simplify things a little.

                      1. re: arepo

                        arepo - i would agree... the menu doesn't really excite the palette and sounds a bit too 'frou frou'. The diner has to trust in the chef in a case like this. I never had the pleasure of eating Chef Elmi's food, but the devotees from Rittenhouse Tavern rave. Worth trying, I'm sure.

                        1. re: sal_acid

                          If you have a pop up blocker it might not work. Try this direct link to the pdf.

                          http://www.restaurantlaurel.com/pdf/M...

                            1. re: cwdonald

                              Thank you. Looks wonderful!
                              Is yalu the fish that Nan used to have on the menu?
                              I loved that fish. Not at all like mahi mahi.
                              I think they compared it to butterfish.

                              1. re: sylviag

                                Wikipedia entry on Waloo. Might change your opinion on it.

                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escolar

                                  1. re: sylviag

                                    I think they rotate the fish that they have on there. I know when I went they replaced the ocean trout with dourade, same preparation. Maybe for freshness and availability?

                                    1. re: lawgirl3278

                                      According to the NY Times, it doesn't sound like much of an issue, as long as you don't eat a lot of it (and it's not actually toxic, it just has a laxative-like effect).

                                      http://www.nytimes.com/1999/03/10/din...

                                      Not sure if I had it when we went to Laurel. I would definitely try it (but then I'm adventursome).

                                      1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                        When in Indonesia my fav sushi resto had butterfish, loved it, ate a lot, no leakage, lucky me, well lucky my companion.

                                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                          I've had it many times without a problem.