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Le Bar Lyonnais: Upscale Philadelphia dining at Le Bec Fin made affordable


Le Bar LyonnaisGet it in while you can; the word around town is that iconic Philadelphia restaurant Le Bec Fin will serve its final meal June 11, 2011. For the past 40 years, Le Bec Fin has been the very definition of fine dining in Philadelphia, and is arguably responsible for the food scene as we know it today. Forever known for its elegant atmosphere, beautiful design and spectacular food, Le Bec Fin will leave a legacy as high as the standards it set for the past four decades.

I paid my respects recently with a dinner at Le Bar Lyonnais, the bar that sits beneath but shares a kitchen with Le Bec Fin. Le Bar is a more laid back (and significantly more affordable) version of its upstairs counterpart, with a very decent happy hour and a simpler a la carte menu. The happy hour runs weekdays, 5-7 pm with a rotating seasonal drink menu and $5 bar bites. The menu is a scaled down version of the upstairs menu with the convenience of not committing to a pricey prix fixe tasting menu.

Le Bar LyonnaisOrdering downstairs, I’m excited to say, does not diminish the quality Chef Georges Perrier demands from his kitchen. The Galette De Crabe, Le Bec’s signature crab cake, is exquisite. A beautiful, chunky crab cake drenched in light, tangy mustard sauce does wonders to the palate. The presentation, as usual, is gorgeous, as the crab cake is flanked by buttery haricots verts and rich tomato.

The beauty of excellent cooking really relies on greatness through simplicity, and nowhere was that more evident than the wild mushroom ravioli, earthy and sweet and swimming in a rich ivory sauce. Coaxing so much flavor out of a handful of ingredients is what separates good cooks from great chefs, and this dish was an utter delight.

Ditto for a buttery, perfectly crisp Mediterranean bass, resting in a pool of sweet sugar pumpkin and finished with a foamy brown butter and dotted with delightfully roasted sprouts. Deserts featured a fun array of sorbets, including what can only be described as the only proper pumpkin flavored desert I’ve had all season. The entire meal was a proper tribute to the fall season, and a reminder to have one last go at this piece of Philadelphia history before it’s gone forever.


Wine & cheese events are featured once a month for $35: six cheeses paired with three wines. The tastings begin at 6 pm. Please see website for details. Seating is limited, so be sure to call ahead.



1523 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

(215) 567-1000



Tuesday - Saturday
Lunch 11:30 - 2pm
Dinner 5:30 - 10pm

Le Bar Lyonnais is open for Happy Hour Tuesday through Saturday 5-7pm.