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LaBan is Hot for Jason Cichonski's Oysters; Adam Erace Goes "Full-Frontal Umami" for a Burger

Jason Cichonski and Chip Roman at Ela
Jason Cichonski and Chip Roman at Ela
Photo: M. Edlow/GPTMC

Craig LaBan jumps in on the Jason Cichonski lovefest, giving the beefcake chef 3 bells for his delicious work at Ela. Eater's Hot Chefs contest gets a shoutout in the review (thanks, Craig!), but he saves his highest praise for Cichonski's culinary skills, most notably the numerous oyster preparations.

"I even slurped down a half-dozen oysters each topped with something ominously called a "dill pickle sponge" - and wished I had six more. The "sponge" atop those oysters was really more of a marshmallowlike pouf of foam. And once it dissolved like a creamy dilled cloud in the mouth, a hint of warm bacon faded in, only to be washed away by the bracing brine of raw Shemogue oyster liquor. Another oyster whimsy at an earlier meal - dashed with hops-infused vinegar and the crunch of fried shallots - was also thrillingly complex."

LaBan goes on to reiterate what has been the common theme among our more notable critics: Cichonski keeps mashing up flavors that shouldn't work, but just do. Maybe this review will help take the sting out of only being the hottest in Philly and not the U.S. Maybe not.

Adam Erace heads to Matt Zagorski's Hickory Lane in Fairmount and falls all over himself telling us how great the burger is. Zagorski, the man who made the Rouge Burger famous, is no stranger to praise like this, but it's even more impressive because Erace generally doesn't give a rat's ass about them.

"The beef exploded with flavor, full-frontal umami I could taste in my nose. Cool, quenching Bibb lettuce (the best choice for a burger, in my opinion) and sliced tomato derailed an imminent meat delirium, a refreshing intermezzo in each bite, while a lick of piquant garlic aioli also had a tempering effect on the challah's eggy sweetness."

That's pretty hot. I guess we should eat it.

Phyllis Stein-Novack keeps it together this week without any attacks on chatty servers, and talks about her absolute love for Joe Scarpone's Ulivo, specifically his gnocchi.

"The gnocchi almost floated off the plate. Scarpone prepares these little pillows with ricotta, adds some fresh spinach for color, flavor and texture and bathes the pasta in truffle butter. I have no more to say."

It seems everyone is loving that gnocchi, and it just might unseat Vetri's famous spinach gnocchi as Philly's favorite if the buzz keeps building any higher. Well, maybe not. This town can surely support two gnocchi dishes.

THE BLOGS: 22nd and Philly heads to Marabella Meatball Company to eat meatballs on their recent sandwich quest; Philly Phoodie does the cheesesteak dive at Mike and Emma's and finds it contends with the big-timers; and Two Eat Philly do a whole Chinatown walking tour hitting some of our favorite spots.