A strange thing happened this week. The Inquirer's critic Craig LaBan wrote up his review of The Little Lion, and afterwards, found out the chef he'd written about, Sean Ciccarone, left the restaurant due to "temporary health issues". Now, sous chef Andre Davis will step up during the interim.
But Ciccarone or not, LaBan took to Twitter today and reaffirmed his point:
Ouf! Awkward. Chef change @LittleLionPHL lands after review went 2 press. But message consistent: improvement needed https://t.co/QrRw59ra8V— Craig LaBan (@CraigLaBan) April 22, 2016
Any review toting words like "gloppy" and "plopped" is never a good sign, and yes, this review came with only a single bell (hit or miss). But LaBan saw promise in the Southern-inspired restaurant. Its locale, in the heart of Old City among all the tourist spots (including the Museum of the Revolutionary War opening next year), could be a big draw for the restaurant. Its stylish interior might be an enticing option for those roaming the streets and sights hungry for lunch or dinner:
That mostly reasonable price point will probably guarantee that the Little Lion remains an enticing option for tourists who happen by, see a handsome dining room, and find the name intriguing. Old City, which has struggled lately to attract substantial new restaurants instead of the creeping haze of vapor bars, could do worse.
But beyond all the kitchen "missteps", like liquor-less char-grilled oysters, overcooked shrimp, and "scorched" catfish, one skill prevailed: fry-cooking.
It was a steady theme at the Little Lion, where the most reliable things were fried, from the crispy green tomatoes with tomatoey bacon jam to the fried goat cheese fritters that were incongruously plopped on top of a pile of deeply roasted carrots and bitter greens but that ultimately gave personality to the dish.
So for a sure-fire dining experience at Little Lion, according to LaBan, it's better that you stick with the simple things, entrées that need less "finesse".