This week, Inquirer critic Craig LaBan weighs in on The Olde Bar, the Garces Group's reincarnation of Old Original Bookbinder's. And while the bar hit a lot of positive notes (not least of which that "a genuine piece of lost Philadelphia has been rediscovered and restored") the food itself was hit-or-miss enough to yield a final score of two bells.
LaBan isn't shy about praising the space, the raw bar, the drinks (the bar is "fast becoming one of Philly's must-sip libation stations," he rhymes), or the dessert case. However, the rest of the menu was uneven, and many classics were updated so cautiously that "results can be described as solid more than inspired."
Some dishes, such as fish and chips, were all upside, while both oysters Belmont and clam chowder were near-hits marred by flaws in their crunchy, carb-y toppings. And there were some lowlights, like "not quite right" shrimp remoulade, a dry crabcake, and one problematic snapper soup:
My biggest disappointment at the Olde Bar was the dull snapper soup, which should have been a slam dunk. As if on cue, the kitchen does whip out its foaming siphon for a cumulus pouf of sherry espuma, but it cannot enliven an undistinctive brown broth that, while steeped from real turtle, was far too sedate with the aromatic spice that calls out its roots in Colonial port history.
· City Paper's Adam Erace visits Garces's other new spot, Buena Onda, only to find that it falls short of expectations and feels "a little tossed-together." Still, the signature fish tacos succeed, even if they are sold alongside a confused collage of kale salads, tanktops, and "tough, sopping-wet brisket."
· South Philly Review's Phyllis Stein-Novack continues to experiment with the very stuff and shape of restaurant reviews by putting forth a review of the idea of steakhouses (beef, she posits, is key; creamed spinach is a delicious mystery; she has a friend who drinks Scotch), and of the idea of reviewing some of them. (She intends to.)