For this week's edition of Week in Reviews, Craig LaBan popped into Restaurant Neuf, Joncarl Lachman and Bob Moysan's new Italian Market venture, a restaurant worlds away from their preceding South Philly success, Noord eetcafé. The North African-French bistro brought on a sense of nostalgia to The Inquirer's critic, especially since at the time of his visit, Paris was under attack.
The international headlines on Nov. 13 were horrific as I headed out to my first meal at Restaurant Neuf. As someone who had lived in Paris for a couple of years, my mind couldn't help but linger over the scenes of Boulevard Voltaire, where terror that night had transfixed the globe.
Of course, the confluence of world events and a Philadelphia dinner reservation is completely random. But the subtle irony of visiting a bistro devoted to melding French and North African flavors that night was impossible to ignore.
A few "technical slips" revolving a few of Neuf's dishes (the lamb tagine and kusheri) were counter-balanced by Lachman's command of the dining room, paying tribute to the bistros of Paris, acting as Philly's "ultimate patron du bistro".
Few personalities on the local scene have been able to create destinations that feel as effortlessly congenial as does Lachman. And Neuf, with the bonus of fine cocktails by Jesse Cornell and an affordable wine list that roams from Morocco to the Canary Islands and the Rhône, succeeds much like Noord in that it is simply an enjoyable place to be.
Jason Sheehan of Philadelphia magazine gave Aldine a second chance with a three-star re-review, bumped up a notch from Trey Popp's two-and-a-half-stars. Sheehan threw George Sabatino, chef-owner of Aldine, a few nods of monumental praise:
George might understand the layering of flavors better than any chef in the city...
George has more potential for greatness than almost any chef I've ever met.
And there are moments when tasting one of his plates is like a glimpse into the future—not just of Philly's cuisine, but of American cuisine.
Buckminster's, Michael and Jeniphur Pasquarello's new neo-bistro in deep Point Breeze, had less than a month to prepare for its first review, and fortunately, chef Rob Marzinsky and his small team (Palmer Marinelli and Andrew Farley) pretty much nailed it:
To wit: At Buckminster's you can also order crisp takes on pierogi and golabki, the Polish stuffed cabbage rolls you'll find steaming away in Philly's Northeast river wards. Taking the city as part of a region, as well, is one of Marzinsky's strengths. Slices of smoked ham ($6) from Ely Farms in Washington's Crossing floated on a pool of parsley sauce that was striking in its emerald shade; on top, a chutney made with ground cherries — they taste like a cross between tomato and pineapple — offered a sweet-and-savory interplay with the smoke of the ham below. You can — and should — double down on pork with another Pennsylvania Dutch tip of the hat. The simply named Pork & Apples ($16) was a clinic in fat and acid featuring a braised and seared block of local pork shoulder dressed with pickled apples, pearly pickled mustard seeds and warmed sauerkraut shot through with caraway.