In this week's South Philly Review, Phyllis Stein-Novack visits Le Cheri, the second restaurant from Pierre and Charlotte Calmels of Bibou fame. Stein-Novack describes her previous experience with the pair:
More than four years ago, Chef Pierre Calmels and his wife Charlotte lit up the South Philadelphia dining scene when they opened Bibou, a small and warm BYOB where French cuisine takes center stage. I've been there several times and on a brutally hot July day, Calmels arrived in my kitchen armed with a big fatty lobe of Hudson Valley foie gras.
Hopefully he was invited. After enjoying pate en croute and lamb pot-au-feu starters, Stein-Novack had difficulty choosing an entree, but finally settled on the ballotine of rabbit.
A ballontine is a boned piece of meat or fowl that is stuffed and rolled up. Calmels used foie gras in his preparation, and when my dinner arrived at our table, it looked like a pinwheel. The sauce was extraordinary, rich with wine and herbs.
Braised red cabbage can be tricky since vinegar is an important ingredient. This was perfection. And the spaetzle, as fine and light as my Austrian grandmother's, were heady with rich chestnut flavor.
The service received high marks, as did the desserts, and Stein-Novack was pleased to find a new place for classic dishes she's missed, like Paris-Brest and French onion soup. The verdict: a perfect four tips of the toque.
For City Paper, Adam Erace checked in at Porto, the casual breakfast and lunch spot that replaced Carman's Country Kitchen. His experience was a little uneven:
[Linguica, salt cod, and piri-piri] mingled with two quivering poached eggs and terrific sweet-potato-and-olive hash on a breakfast platter called Black Dawg, one of many cornball names splashed across this menu, where healthy salads are "Afternoon Penance" and pastries are found in the "Confessional Box." Liskowicz should find a real confessional box to apologize for crude salt-cod cakes, made with powerfully stinky bacalhau that could have soaked another day. The piri-piri is bold, spicy and bright, though, whether splashed on eggs or a juicy grilled half-chicken. Her thick, robustly seasoned chili should be canned and sold across the country.
Despite the powerful stink and some "airport quality" coffee drinks, Erace notes a number of high points and remains hopeful that traditional Portuguese food will move more into the spotlight.
Meanwhile, on the blogs:
· Bridges, Burgers, & Beer checked in at Jerry's Bar for a brunch burger, where both patty and egg were overcooked. Still, the patty was juicy, the bun-to-burger ratio was "perfect," and the fries on the side were "tasty."
· Two Eat Philly goes to Serpico and finds the small plates more compelling than the entrees. Duck liver mousse and the fried duck on Martin's potato roll were highlights, while a duck breast was "incredibly well-cooked" but fell short due to missteps in every other element on the plate.