It is always so sad when a gem of a restaurant fades into the sunset, and so it is with Le Bec Fin. It had been over ten years since I last visited Philadelphia and had what was one of my most memorable dining experiences. I can still vividly recall the glamour, the civility and the exquiste presentation of some of the most amazingly delicious foods and wines. Oh such a sweet dream.
Upon returning this past Saturday, I was prepared for something less than that memorable night ten years ago. I knew that Chef Perrier had willingly given up one of his stars in order to achieve a more relaxed, less formal and more widely accessable restaurant. I knew that he was now overseeing five restaurants and thus not able to give the attention a truly fine restaurant needs in order to shine. I knew that life had changed and that even for a glamorous occassion today, jeans, wrinkled shirts and unpolished shoes are considered appropriate attire by many.
Nevertheless, my dining companion and I spent Saturday afternoon searching for the perfect shirts, the perfect ties and polishing our shoes to a mirror finish. We arrived early, expecting to sit in the bar for about thirty minutes - we did not anticipate a wait of over ninty. Once seated, we again waited and waited...and that seemed to become the most consistent part of the experience, because between courses, we waited and waited...Perhaps that is why the greater part of the $80 dover sole remained untouched. Perhaps that is why we forego dessert, we simply could not wait any longer.
Yes the signature crab cake was everything I remembered and certainly worthy of accolades, as was the sauteed foie gras; although I was puzzled by the presence of soggy french toast which fortunately could be pushed aside. The dover sole, unfortunately, did not rise to the occassion - the butter having been browned a bit too long (burnt) and the waiters somewhat less than adept at their boning skills
And as for the group sitting at the next table, the Le Bec Fin of the past would never have attracted nor tolerated such a raucous crowd. Why the staff did not in some polite manner request that they tone done their boisterous howling and gutteral sounds is beyond my comprehension. I guess times have changed.
Sorry Chef Perrier, but I strip you of yet another star...