Hot on the heels of a strong Philly Mag review, Kensington newcomer Helm has earned an impressive three bells from Inquirer critic Craig LaBan. Deft cooking, enthusiastic service, and standout local ingredients all contributed to the score, though LaBan seems just as enamored by the restaurant's story and the fact that its owners had a mere $10,000 in their pockets when they took the plunge.
Helm proves once again that genuine talent can overcome a lack of big-money backing to find an audience here, unlike other East Coast cities, where rents and liquor licenses boost the point of entry. When the chefs behind the stove are cooking with the fluid seasonality and contemporary ease of co-chefs and owners Kevin D'Egidio and Mike Griffiths, the 34-seat horsepower of a simple BYO - and a willingness to be a neighborhood pioneer - is all that's needed to focus on the food and shine.
Standouts included starters like the unusual burrata packing a seasonal bounty of ramps, herbs, and long hots packing a "sneaky green herbal heat," pasta that made him forget the notion he might be "over" charred Brussels sprouts, and all of the seafood dishes — in particular, an impressive monkfish entree for two, which highlighted carrots in three ways.
· City Paper's Adam Erace paid a visit to Heritage in Northern Liberties, even though he "didn't want to eat" there after perusing the menu, expecting another in a line of what he calls "casual-sex restaurants" that are good but feel ultimately inconsequential. Good thing he gave it a shot anyway, because this newcomer secured a spot "in the personal top 10" after just a few dishes (including a surprising foie that sealed the deal).
· South Philly Review's Phyllis Stein-Novack weighed in on the Prime Rib, making good on an earlier promise to begin revisiting Philly's steakhouse staples. She recommends dining on Sundays (when a three-course prix fixe is just $45 all night, and you can BYO with no corkage) and enjoys it all enough to dole out three-and-a-half tips of the toque out of a possible four.