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Poor Service at Le Bec Fin

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Poor Service at Le Bec Fin

cabrales | Oct 20, 2003 10:50 AM

The cuisine at Le Bec Fin is still what it was -- good (by Philly standards), but my recent dinner there was significantly compromised by poor service provided in the little room one accesses by ascending stairs from the physically gorgeous main dining room. Unfortunately, the best dish was the appetizer and the meal became progressively worse as it progressed.

The restaurant's least expensive prix fixe during dinner is $135/person, which it misleadingly describes as a six-course dinner (it must be counting either the tiny amuse or the minor pre-dessert; or the mignardises, hah, hah). In fact, the table next to us walked out upon looking at the menu, claiming the female diner of the two "was not feeling well". This is a restaurant which, even though it probably serves the best French cuisine in Philly, does not offer a good value-for-money notion even among haute cuisine restaurants (including purported ones) in the US. (The only other choice at dinner is a $155/person tasting menu. The $38 lunch is a much better opportunity)

Anyhow, we are talking about a dining room team in that terribly small upper room that did not know any of the following, until inquiry with the kitchen: (1) whether black truffles included in multiple appetizer selections were fresh or frozen, (2) whether black truffles were from the Perigord or from Southern France, (3) whether snails in an appetizer selection were from Burgundy or whether they were petit gris, (4) did not know that Societe Roquefort has several caves (and insisted following consultation that societe does not have separately labelled caves), (5) seemed shocked (almost to the point of suggesting it was an unusual question on my part) when I asked whether the restaurant has an aperatif de la maison (house aperatif; it does not), and (6) seemed surprised that I wanted to have a look at the wine list (which is generally overpriced even for a restaurant at this level) before ordering aperatifs (I was seeing what the price of the champagne by the bottle was, as a possibility). The knowledge of the dining room team at the upper little room, which is much less favorable than the main room, was surprising for a restaurant that is a Mobile 5-star (recently regained).

Amuses was a bit of rhubarb, exhibiting its crunchiness, with watermelon jus. Not bad, but not special. I was still smacking from the horrendous menu knowledge at this point, and slightly disappointed I had not received the main room (highly unusual for me to be seated in a Siberia, of sorts).

(1) Soupe a la Truffe, Quenelle de Poulet et Collared Green (misspelling from menu); Truffle Soup, Chicken Dumplings and Collared Greens, with glass of Vueve Cliquot

This soup was very good, although I wouldn't say that every diner taking it in would share that assessment. A thin, gentle soup that expressed chicken and truffles subtly. Tiny bits of minced, quenelles of chicken (white meat) and small specks of black truffle. Slight pepperines in collard greens and microgreens on top of the soup. Very good, including with respect to consistency.

My dining companion's foie gras with roquefort-stuffed fig was hampered by an unduly vinegar-laden saucing and marinade for the figs (non-balsamic, likely).

(2) Homard du Maine, Cognac, Corail et Cresson; Maine Lobster, Cognac, Coral and Watercress

A passable dish, with butter poached lobster that was less buttery than most of its kind and that was poached with at least 1/2 of the shell on. I noticed this, and Mde Perrier advised that it was, as I suspected, to protect the moisture of the flesh as well as to imbue the flesh with the flavors from the shell. However, I found the butter poached lobster variations I have tried at the origination point -- T Keller -- much better. Here, the lobster seemed not necessarily moist; it was overcooked at LBF. Saucing was too meagre, and did not help to mask the overcooking of the lobster.

(3) Filet de Faisan Croustillant, Cuisse Confite, Consomme a la Truffe et au Madeire; Crispy Pheasant Breast, Leg Confit, Truffled Madeira Consomme, with a glass of 1997 Hermitage La Sixeraine (sp), Chapoutiers. Significantly overcooked pheasant breast was slightly dry and not appealing. Confit of thigh section was better, more moist. Served in a beef-stock-based bouillon that had madeira and small amounts of black truffles. A thin small piece of cabbage had been made into a tuile-like texture, and as irrelevant to the dish.

Interesting that the Chapoutiers label had brail on it. Apparently, the winemaker's brother is challenged with respect to vision.

(4) Cheese -- Aging was not ideal for the two I sampled; some version of Societe Roquefort and a mediocre Epoisse.

Pre-dessert was a passionfruit sorbet, with stewed pineapples in caramel sauce. Pineapples had a black peppercorn aspect to them. Not bad, although the sauce had too much cinnamon for my tastes (this is a complaint I always have).

(5) Desserts from Trolley -- While we were told we could sample as many of the cakes as we wanted, I only had a single slice of poached pear (red wine; mediocre) and a sliver of lemon tart (traditional; passable).

We drank very little, given that this was our second meal of the evening (5 pm reservations at Morimoto's, with about 6 dishes shared betwee us; disappointing overall) and we had drank quite a bit at Morimoto's. With my two glasses of wine by the glass and my dining companion's single glass, the bill was a little over $400 with tax and tips included. Very low for LBF. My second visit lifetime, and probably not my last. I would choose LBF the next time I am in Philly, but I would not deliberately go to Philly for the restaurant.

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