While it was a great week for Will and the rest of Philly's French revival according to Craig LaBan, one of the new guard failed to quite live up to the South Philly Review's standards. SPR critic Phyllis Stein-Novack filed on La Peg this week, with mixed results.
Sure, there were some problems with the food. While bread and salads provided a strong start to the meal, a foie torchon and beef tartare both failed to fully connect. A lamb entree was "way too salty and also cold," but was promptly replaced with a satisfying rabbit dish. Choucroute was needlessly, disappointingly deconstructed. Paris-Brest, thankfully, was a "fine dish," well executed. There was a problem with the menu we're not sure we understand:
The menu features small, mid-size and large plates. I am not a fan of this style of dining
But the uneven food and wide spectrum of plate sizes paled in comparison to the real issue at La Peg: It was dark. Oh, so dark. Stranded in a restaurant strewn "with hanging lamps that emit no light," Stein-Novack had to resort to lighting her way through the meal with the glow of her cell phone screen. She concludes:
Service was first-rate. Several people took fine care of us, but the rhythm of the meal was perpetually interrupted because our cell phone lights were constantly turned on. I do not understand why diners are forced to feel uncomfortable. Dining should be a pleasurable and enjoyable experience.
Two tips of the toque, comes the lukewarm final appraisal.
Meanwhile, City Paper's Adam Erace was checking out the Thai-Mexican fusion at South Street's Tuk Tuk Real. Here too, things started off quite well:
When it works, it works. Imagine a golden pyramid of nachos, accessorized with all the usual suspects: fresh chopped tomato, pickled jalapeños, melty cheese, a crema crisscross. Then trim the pile with ropes of braised, pulled, coconut-drenched Massaman-style lamb. Oh. Hell. Yes.
Hey, so far, so good.
It gets worse. And not just because of a hibiscus agua fresca that "tasted strangely of garlic." Aside from a few decent tacos, in fact, not a whole lot else went right. His server, Erace reports, was positive and energetic, at least.
So I didn’t mind the self-congratulatory declaratives that peppered the meal. At least when she said/asked, "Isn’t that great?" of the nachos, I didn’t have to lie.
But after that, I had to lie a lot. "OMG, these pork belly buns are amazing," I fibbed. In truth, the meat was salty rubber, an embarrassment.
There weren't many good dishes to follow, and even the few that held some promise invited some uncomfortably colorful descriptions, like the sea bass's topping of a "few strings of tasteless pickled cabbage" that "looked like matted streamers stuck to Broad Street on January 2."
The verdict: Execution needs to catch up to ambition, and fast.