Inquirer critic Craig LaBan finally hit the Gaslight, the Old City bar and restaurant from Ela chef and Top Chef alumnus Jason Cichonski, which opened way back in February of this year. And he liked the chicken nuggets. Otherwise, it wasn't pretty. In fact, it was so unpretty that LaBan used the word "carrot-cide." Why? Check out the description of the carrots that inspired it:
Their weird chemical aftertaste was only overshadowed by the mealy sourness of salt-cured cranberries scattered on top.
That sounds bad. LaBan dulls the blow just a bit with a few kind words: Cichonski's "culinary talent is legit," he writes, even if "his real talent is cooking. Building a team and managing it? Not so much." And the critic appreciated the "excellent whiskey and beer list that compensates, somewhat, for a silly cocktail list." (The goofy cocktail names previously caught some flak in poor reviews from both Philadelphia magazine's Trey Popp and City Paper's Adam Erace.)
But really, it's not good news — the only food that satisfied LaBan was the chicken nuggets, and the service was upbeat but clueless. There was "flabby, thick, and fatty" veal bacon, overly fishy octopus, potato chips where there should have been bread, overpriced wine, and liver mousse with "an unfortunate aftertaste reminiscent of old blue cheese."
In fact, it was bad enough for LaBan to conclude that:
It was, in sum, a performance worthy of No Bells. But Cichonski has earned a bell's worth of hope with the self-awareness to clean house (before ever reading this review) and hire a new chef de cuisine.
And ultimately, he did give it one bell, which didn't sit well with one man: David Fields (who was part of the team that opened A.Kitchen, since revamped by High Street Hospitality Group). Fields cried foul on social media:
@CraigLaBan if a resto turns in 'a performance worthy of no bells,' why doesn't it get no bells?!— David Fields (@DavidFields) November 15, 2014
In his replies, LaBan more or less repeated what he'd said in his review — and far more importantly, chucked in one stellar hashtag-based dig:
But Fields would not be swayed.
@CraigLaBan review was nine months in. Not your usual 3-4. Every resto tweaks/changes during and after your review. Doesn't change the bells— David Fields (@DavidFields) November 15, 2014
Easy 2 be MrHardAss w/competitor's bells @DavidFields. Review was plenty tough. But ratings r judgment call, not rigid science. 1 =fair here— Craig LaBan (@CraigLaBan) November 16, 2014