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Dec 13, 2013 12:00 PM

Craig LaBan's brutal review of Ocean Prime

Wow. I think this may be worse than Serafina


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  1. I don't remember a review of his ever appearing online this early. The meaning I choose to ascribe to it is that this place is so abominable that he wants to give people who may have thought of going there this weekend as much notice as possible.

    How is it possible that a megabucks steak chain like that doesn't hire somebody to recognize him when he comes in? Nevermind trying to move him to a crappier table!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Buckethead

      It's ridiculous. Victor Fiorillo did a mini-review a month or two ago that was mostly negative. In that case, they KNEW he was a magazine writer and still served him cold food and provided crappy service.

      1. re: Buckethead

        I know Bucket, I've never seen a weekend food review posted on a Friday afternoon before. And front page on philly.com too.

        1. re: Buckethead

          You may be right Buckethead. This was LaBan's tweet in advance of the review...

          "My review is released a little early this weekend for planning purposes: the "no bell prize" given to Ocean Prime"

          I can only assume that "planning purposes" is as you mention...notice to stay away!

        2. Ya gotta love this guy LaBan! I have read some of his detailed reviews of other Philadelphia restaurants and found him extremely knowledgeable and interesting to read. The few times I have been able to compare my impressions with his notes I found him, for the most part, to be quite accurate. I have eaten at one other Ocean Prime in Atlanta and found it to be second rate in food and service, first rate in cost only. The times I have not agreed with his comments on food items it could certainly be that my palate is not as educated as his with regarding to what a specific dish should be. Philadelphia has a food critic worth reading who I am willing to use as a guide post to your food scene when in town.

          1. that was awesome.
            i'm oddly tempted to eat there now, to see if it really is that bad.
            not tempted enough to pay those prices, of course.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Bob Loblaw

              That can be a fun thing to do. Some time ago, I was walking past a restaurant when I looked up and realized it was Serafina. I thought -- can this place (packed, with people waiting) be as bad as I had read on CH? I went in and sat at the bar, had the minestrone and coffee. It was among the worst minestrone I've ever had. Of course, I didn't pay for a full lunch but it reminded me to pay attention to what CHers and others say.

              1. re: jfr

                Serafina was probably the worst meal I ate in Philly. Ever. Too bad I didn't wait for the review.

            2. I have to admit that I think I enjoy reading the bad reviews more than the good ones. Plus, that's one more place that I don't ever have to worry about visiting.

              1. Unbelievable! I don't know that I've ever before read such a scathing report from LaBan. And to Buckethead's point about recognizing him -- I totally agree. A few years ago I was at a local Chester County restaurant that had just been reviewed (fairly favorably) by LaBan. We had a conversation with one of the servers about LaBan's visit, and the server took us into the kitchen to show us pictures of LaBan, still hanging throughout around the kitchen. They wanted everyone on the staff to recognize him.

                2 Replies
                1. re: CindyJ

                  My all time favorite bad review is one that he gave over 5 years ago to a place called Sammy's BBQ. Even though they still managed to get one bell, this one is priceless.

                  Laban insisted that the smoked bologna appetizer arrived at the table with bite marks in it. I couldn't find the whole review, but I found this excerpt from a Fishtown website...

                  But all the smoked meat in Tennessee wouldn't do you any good if there was no one to serve it to you. And the waitstaff at Sammy's is basically the next-worst thing. You can stand at the entrance for 20 minutes before anyone acknowledges you. In the dining room, young servers wander aimlessly in T-shirts and pink trucker hats and seem startled when a customer actually asks for food.

                  When we informed our waiter that a slice of our smoked bologna appetizer appeared to have been bitten into (yes, there were teeth marks) before it was brought to our table, he blanched and threw up his hands: "I didn't do it!"

                  A manager generously offered to remove half of the $6 charge from our check, all the while denying the bite existed despite the physical evidence. Classy.

                  1. re: Philly Ray

                    This must have been before social media. The picture of that bologna would definitely go viral today!