Typically, restaurant reviews might provoke a few laughs or inspire gnawing hunger, but it's not every day that they manage to tug at the heartstrings. This week, though, the critics seem to have injected their appraisals with a more significant dose of human emotion than usual.
First up, Philadelphia magazine's Trey Popp revisits Fond for his first formal look at the restaurant since it moved into its current space at the end of 2012. He finds it's aged and grown into its new home well — the space, service, and a menu with a more pronounced "sense of adventure" all receive glowing assessments. But it's this heartwarming anecdote about one guest who celebrated his 80th birthday at Fond 2.0 that stands out as the real highlight of the review:
As he sat down amidst the balloons, the honored guest realized precisely where his family had brought him: to the house where he had been born. The front had been a butcher shop, and his childhood had begun upstairs. As his eyes glazed over above the silver-oak chef's table in Fond's back room, he reminisced about the chickens that once had the run of that part of the house.
Meanwhile, Craig LaBan invokes imagery no less dramatic than the phoenix rising from the ashes in his review of recently reopened Hawthornes. He begins by recounting the saga of one of the worst weeks ever in restaurant history — the beer cafe suffered a robbery and a devastating fire within days of each other, only to rebuild and now earn a triumphant two bell rating from the Inky critic.
In fact, LaBan's appraisal of Hawthornes' "beery brunch" (he uses that phrase three times throughout) is a bit of a rollercoaster. It's doubtful a word has even been invented to describe sufficiently the feelings dredged up by reading about funnel cake-stuffed French toast, or this other foray into "unlikely food architecture":
I never expected that a burger over buttery Texas toast topped with a fistful of truffled gnocchi Parisienne would ever hold together. But then again, I didn't expect it to be so delicious, either. The superb custom-ground patty was rich with a dry-aged earthiness that took to the soft gnocchi's whiff of truffle.
· City Paper's Adam Erace wasted no time filing his take on Nom Wah Tea Parlor, which just last month began its piecemeal approach to opening. And though he met with some frustration while trying to eat the "poorly made" soup dumplings, he "found enough to enjoy [...] to encourage a revisit."
· South Philly Review's Phyllis Stein-Novack gives her highest rating (four tips of the toque) to Palladino's, despite some limp asparagus and too-chatty servers. Those small missteps were easily outweighed by "stunning antipasti," "succulent" swordfish and striped bass, focaccia that "may" have been baked in a wood-burning oven, dreamy gelati, and deft wine advice delivered to the table by owner Luke Palladino himself.