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Another Side of Le Bec Fin

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Le Bec FinI recently had the chance to dine at Le Bec Fin, arguably Philadelphia’s most famous French restaurant. For 39 years, Chef Proprietor Georges Perrier’s landmark restaurant has served as the very definition of fine dining in Philadelphia, a reputation that can sometimes be misconstrued through word-of-mouth recommendation. Ask your average Philadelphian diner about the restaurant, and likely you’ll receive a wide roll of the eyes followed by a snide remark about money growing on trees. Le Bec Fin is the spot for anniversaries, birthdays and other celebratory gatherings, but as a spur of the moment destination? Not typically.

This was my first time dining at Le Bec Fin, and as I arrived at the restaurant for lunch I was curious about what to expect. Any restaurant as famous and well-established as Le Bec Fin hardly needs another review posted to its long list of accolades, and I wondered what I could add to the mystique of this restaurant.

And so, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Le Bec Fin’s wallet-gouging reputation was not entirely accurate. There are a number of options available for diners looking to sample fine French cuisine at reasonable fare. Once upon a time, a meal at Le Bec Fin obliged diners through a three or six prix fixe courses in the range of $150 per person. Times have changed, however, and Le Bec Fin has adapted with a number of more current options. For instance, show up for lunch and enjoy soup or salad and a burger for around $15. Order a la carte (off the menu) and options range from $10-25. Of course, if you prefer the traditional methods, an exquisite prix fixe menu is available at $35. Dinner has some reasonable options, as well. The main dining room opens at 5:30 pm; if you show up before six, a prix fixe menu is available for the same price as the lunch’s. After six, it’s bumped up to $50. A la carte items go anywhere from $10-$42. And downstairs, at the cozy Le Bar Lyonnais, the prix fixe menu is set at $35.

As I was trying to wrap my head around these options, Chef Perrier ordered us a small sampling from each of his menus, prepared by Executive Chef Nicholas Elmi. The menu at Le Bec Fin changes to correlate with the colors and flavors of the seasons, and Chef Perrier’s selection was a marvel of autumn inspired dishes. The meal started off with a delectable Truffle Artichoke Soup, a creamy soup served with a black truffle mousse and a little parmesan to give it a nice kick. The soup was complex, yet light and very tasty; a great beginning to a meal as you shake off the cold.

We followed with a Roasted Diver Sea Scallop with kohlrabi, braised radish, mulled cider and sauce Normande from the lunch tasting menu. The scallop is plump with a nice sear, and the cider glaze is subtle and sweet and provides a nice contrast to the vegetables the scallop is served over. The radish gives some weight to an otherwise airy dish.

Next, we were treated to fantastic New Jersey Wild Striped Bass drizzled with fall squash puree and beurre rouge sauce, served over chanterelle mushrooms and apricot kernel. The bass was perfectly cooked, tender and rich, with just the lightest touch of citrus. The sweet, creamy squash puree blended with the beurre rouge was heavenly, and the apricot kernels added a pleasant, nutty crunch to the dish. Overall, the entrée was an explosion of bright, savory flavors and autumn colors. The kind of dish justifies reputation.

Our entrée selection was topped off with a delicious smoked lamb with potato, red onion aigre doux and drizzled with a zucchini mint puree. The lamb was juicy as a tangerine and absolutely bursting with flavor. I especially enjoyed it paired with the aigre doux, a rich, carmelized onion exuding hints of cherries and figs. The zucchini mint puree wasn’t aggressive enough to take over the dish, allowing the succulence of the lamb to speak for itself.

When dessert finally arrives, we’re treated to confections as beautiful and artistic as they are delicious. A champagne and strawberry terrine starts us off, topped with a dab of tart sour cream and an elegant sliver of sugar glass. The terrine is light enough, an unassertive balance of sweet and tangy, without sacrificing flavor. It’s followed by a rainbow assortment of sorbets to round out the meal.

At the end of the meal, as is always the case when eating at a restaurant such as Le Bec Fin, you are almost forced to ask yourself, “Was it worth what we paid?” The answer, in my opinion, is yes, it can be. Thanks to the array of menu options now available at Le Bec Fin, you can fine dine at a reasonable price or celebrate like the world’s ending, and either way you’re treated to an elegant atmosphere, fantastic and knowledgeable service, and wonderful food.

Le Bec Fin is currently featuring a number of events worth noting in addition to normal dining. Tickets are available for a specially prepared six course prix fixe New Years Eve dinner at $145 per person. 1-3pm Fridays and Saturdays is Tea Time, $25 for adults and featuring three tiers of French finger sandwiches, scones and pastries, plus tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Also, all through December at the downstairs Le Bar Lyonnais, an all-you-can-eat small portion desert buffet is available for $10 from 8-11 pm.

 

Address: 

1523 walnut street philadelphia, pa 19102
 [P] 215.567.1000
 [F] 215.568.1151
concierge@lebecfin.com

http://lebecfin.com/ 

Hours: 

Lunch served from 11:30-2:30
Tuesday through Saturday
Happy Hour at Le Bar Lyonnais from
5:00pm-7:00pm Monday through Friday
Dinner served from 5:30pm-10:00pm
Monday through Thursday.

Dinner served from 5:30pm-11:00pm
Friday and Saturday