Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan has weighed in on Avance, awarding it just two bells. While the rating technically translates to "Very Good," it's undoubtedly a hit to a restaurant of such lofty goals and expectations — especially considering it's one of the harshest two-bell reviews in recent memory ( and comes after a string of enthusiastic three-bellers like Laurel, Le Cheri, Osteria Moorestown, and the decidedly casual Fat Ham). Glowing two-bell reviews have gone to casual eateries like Inka Wall and Taqueria Feliz in recent months, while Farm and Fisherman Tavern yielded an optimistic writeup despite a number of issues. Contrast with LaBan's conclusion on Avance, after a last long-winded meal:
I only wish that I'd wanted to linger - and that Avance was the answer to the future of this legendary gastronomic address. But - after one last epic breath - we couldn't leave fast enough.
LaBan's assessment of the service was similar to Trey Popp's description in his review for Philadelphia magazine: it was in turns both overbearing and technically inept. Meanwhile, LaBan found the new interior to have "the soul-sucking effect of a hotel lobby," and he likens the music to "bad Vegas lounge music."
While some dishes impressed, Avance's problems extended into the kitchen. While LaBan was optimistic after a first meal in the bar that touted "cocktail wizardry" and the "memorable" lamb burger (which has been widely noted as a favorite, including by Eater readers), the more ambitious meals in the dining room were problematic. LaBan was taken by the swordfish in yeasted chicken broth (notably, a dish that Popp could find no kind words for) and the pork neck over rice porridge grits. But bread, while good, arrived either cold or scorched, chawanmushi was overset, and flavors were often out of balance. Finally:
And the desserts, lowlighted by a caramel-glazed sphere of dry cake and an aerated buttermilk parfait that looked and tasted like a sponge, were simply disasters.
It should perhaps be noted that some early staff casualties included Avance's opening pastry chef, and the kitchen's desserts have been a major point of criticism ever since.
· Avance Has a Way to Go to Live Up to Its Address [Inquirer]
· All Avance Coverage [-EPHI-]