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Le Bec-Fin revisited

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Le Bec-Fin revisited

Adam Stephanides | Jul 14, 2002 10:09 AM

I'd been to Philadelphia for three days about a year ago, and recently returned for a week. I'd had a memorable meal at Le Bec-Fin the last time, so I had to go back (even though I heard that the chef had changed). Of course, returning to a place where you've had a great meal is always tricky: since your expectations are so high going in, no matter how good it is it's unlikely to produce the same feeling of excitement as the first meal. So my comments should be read with this in mind. Even so, I have to say that I was disappointed this time around. Not that I didn't have some delicious food, but the consistency of my previous visit was lacking.

As before, I had the six-course tasting menu. The amuse-bouche was a brandade of codfish with summer truffle. The first course was four soups: carrot with curried shrimp, white asparagus, green bean with bacon, and fennel. This was the high point of the meal. All four soups were very fresh-tasting and delicious, especially the carrot. And even though they were all vegetable soups, the flavors were quite different, making an interesting contrast.

Next was tuna tartare garnished with caviar. This was very good, though tuna tartare isn't my favorite. Next came shrimp and curry wrapped in zucchini, served in lemongrass sauce. This wasn't bad, but didn't seem to have too much flavor. Next was filet of dorade with black olive sauce. This was delicous, with very flavorful flesh, but may possibly have been a little undercooked. (Actually every time I've had dorade it's been good.) I didn't get an extra course for being a solo diner this time; the main course followed, and was veal tenderloin served in natural au jus and accompanied with a fricasse of chanterelles, onions and sweetbreads. This was the biggest disappointment: the veal was nothing special, and the fricasse didn't have much flavor at all.

The cheese course, as before, was very good. The standout was a parmesan with truffles whose name I didn't catch (I don't recall if it was the same cheese I'd had last time). Next was a scoop of caramel ice cream, also very good. The dessert cart was excellent, especially the Colombian (chocolate, mocha and walnuts), the frozen Grand Marnier souffle, and the Piedmont (chocolate ganache and marjolaine). The server did seem a bit grudging, though, about giving me everything I wanted. Finally, the petits fours were excellent.

I'd have to say that this particular meal wasn't worth the very high price I paid for it. But it could be that this was just a bad night. Certainly the chef is capable of excellence: the soups proved that.

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