Inquirer critic Craig LaBan ate his way through the eclectic Jewish menu at Mike Solomonov's Abe Fisher for this week's review — and we think he liked it:
It was so profoundly good, the first bites radiated pleasure to my knees.
In that case, LaBan was speaking specifically of the already famous Montreal-style smoked short rib dinner. But when his harshest criticism of the food throughout the entire review was declaring two dishes (namely, the kasha varnishkes and Roumanian steak) "a nudge away from spectacular," it feels fair to pull the quote as a kind of watchword.
There's high praise within as well for the other large-format feast on the menu, the Hungarian duck for two, which is presented as a prime example of how, in Mike Solomonov's words, the team is "not cooking here like Jewish grandmothers":
Unless your bubbe stuffed duck necks like sausage with a kishke of ground leg meat, challah, and eggs, then served it over ducky lentils with a plump whole dry-aged breast that has been rubbed with smoked paprika and roasted Hungarian-style for a masterful two-person feast.
In so modernizing and elevating their source material, LaBan imagines partners Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook brought Abe Fisher to life as "a gastronomic golem."
While Abe's executive chef, Zahav alum Yehuda Sichel, has led a kitchen for CookNSolo once before — the restaurant group put him in charge when they partnered with Main Line kosher restaurant Citron + Rose, an arrangement that only lasted about half a year — LaBan notes that he "has grown as a lead chef since their first stab at" interpreting the food of the Jewish diaspora.
Rounding out the three-bell experience were "outgoing, informed service" and a notable bar program that was "thoughtfully conceived." (For those keeping track, CookNSolo is two-for-two this year for new restaurants earning "excellent" ratings.) Aside from the two dishes above that LaBan had minor quibbles with, he could find fault only with the maple mustard served with the smoked short rib (he'd prefer a spicy deli mustard) and the "spare (and noisy) dining room" — though he concedes that the space makes sense, "vague design" and all.