Thursday, August 27, 2009
You know what's better than eating at an exceptional French restaurant? Eating there for a third of the price and being able to bring your own wine. That's what Georges Perrier of Le Bec-Fin has done in Philadelphia. Every Monday starting at 5:30pm, Georges has opened his doors to the, how can I say this, lesser fortunate Foodies. That is, those Foodies who love to dine at the best restaurants in the world, but who can't afford $180 for food and $200 for wine. To help us out Georges has given us a 3 Course Prix Fixe Dinner Menu for only $35.
In preparation for my meal I decanted a bottle of 1998 Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Masseto about 2 hours before leaving for Le Bec-Fin. Bottle in hand I entered the lavish, but slightly outdated entryway. We were seated right by the door leading out to the reservations desk, which annoyed me more than I care to say and after much deliberation between me and the other diners we decided to stay put and just be bitter and grumpy for a while. Just long enough for the waitstaff to notice and hopefully offer us a better table, the Chef's Table perhaps.
Our waiter came by a few minutes later with our menus and we were all shocked to see that they were the normal menus, with the normal prices. We swallowed hard and decided to bite the bullet and pay full price even though I had checked with the reservations gal a week prior and she said they did indeed still have the BYOB offer and the $35 Monday 3 Course Dinner. And as I was about to call Amex to see if I had enough credit to cover the meal, one of the diners spoke up and asked the waiter if there was a separate menu with the $35 3 Course Dinner listed. He fumbled around a little, obviously not wanting to give in and he finally said, "well, well, yes... you mean the 3 Course Dinner? Yes, there is." Ah, just for the record, I have never been in a restaurant which didn't advertise their specials, but I understand his reasoning. Try to bone the customer for everything they're worth. Fair enough. Well played sir.
Our Appetizers arrived in very good time considering the amount of people streaming in the door. Their plastic or paper bags, clutching the Yellow Tail Shiraz they just bought down the street. Up first was the Terrine Du Jour with Rustic Toast and Moularde Violette. The Terrine had very little gelatin on it which I appreciated. It was quite tasty. Next was the Crispy Veal Sweetbreads with Coddled Egg, Artichoke, Arugula Salad and Lemon Vinaigrette. They were incredibly delicate and pungent at the same time. A masterpiece of finesse. No French meal is complete without Snails and our Escargots Cassolette with Champagne and Hazelnut Garlic Butter was a testament to the beauty of Garlic overload. I loved it. Our Appetizers went down very easily and our Main Courses were brought out with the speed of a restaurant trying to serve 100+ people in a single evening. It felt a little rushed, but didn't detract from the meal.
My Roasted Flat Iron Steak with Pomme de Terre, Carrot Confit with Sauce Bordelaise was a brilliant example of timeless French cooking. Although there were some bits of chewy, tough fat running lengthwise through my meat, it was not horribly affected and the flavors were intense and juicy. The meat paired perfectly with the Masseto and the two tastes merged into a harmonious, rhythmic dance of flavor in my mouth. Masseto truly is one of the greatest wines I have ever had the privilege of tasting. I urge each and every one of you to seek out a bottle and try it. Ideally, in a Michelin Starred restaurant where you eat for $35 a head.
Dessert was equally delicious. As the trolley was wheeled over to us I saw heads turn and mouths open. Our French waiter began spitting out names of desserts with mind blowing rapidity. I didn't understand the name of one dessert except for something with Pistachios, so that's what I ordered. I lovingly disposed of the Pistachio Cake with Petit Fours and a gorgeous Raspberry Sauce accompanied by fairly decent coffee. Although it did taste like Juan Valdez was in the back brewing this coffee rather than our friends at Illy, or Lavazza.
Le Bec-Fin is without question the best restaurant I have been to in Philadelphia. The fact that they offer BYOB and $35 Mondays just adds to the importance of this longstanding establishment. Georges Perrier strikes me as someone more concerned with keeping Philadelphia from becoming a restaurant graveyard than turning a profit, or appealing to the Michelin-Men. I applaud him for his effort.
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