How Many Stars?
Me, Mike, Stuart, Josh, Gerry, Laura and Rich came out to Le Bec Fin’s specialty “Pay What You Wish” dinner.
So here’s the the deal: This was supposed to be a special meal in which you are seated with a group of about 20, and you get to know the people at your table. We were told that chef/owner Georges Perrier would personally come out and talk to everyone about that evening’s food and he would concoct a special menu based on what we like, allergies, etc.
At first, I asked to reserve a spot for two people, and sent out an email to a couple of my friends to call and reserve a spot too, so we could all have a fun dinner together… but my friends called me and told me that they were all being put on “waiting lists” and were unable to join us at the table on that date or any of the promoted dates. One of my friends said she had actually heard about this promotion before I reported it and had tried for weeks to get a reservation. So I called the restaurant back and asked for as many places as I could get. While my friends who wanted to join me were unable to do so, I was able to get 7 reservations so they all just joined us under my name. I really didn’t like that LBF made me do that. It just showed me that they were playing favorites and saving spaces. That’s why the day we arrived for the special dinner, I was expecting a giant table of 20, but there were just two other couples who joined us at the meal. Hmmm….. As for those couples, they seems a bit stuffy and didn’t really want to talk to us across the table, so there was a bit of a disconnect there. I sort of felt a little bad for the other couples, since there were so many of us who knew each other (7 outnumbers 2 and 2), it was kind of as though they had crashed our party.
Once everyone was seated, the main server announced the meal and asked us if that was okay. Some of the menu items were unfamiliar to me. We all figured, oh well, let’s just try it and see how it is! I was a little confused as to why Georges Perrier didn’t come out himself, but I just figured he was really busy that night.
Anyway, we were all still really excited about this Le Bec Fin food event and started taking photos of each other and filming videos.
Here’s Laura and I:
And Josh and Gerry:
Here’s Gerry’s persepctive — she’s filming:
Since we all basicly monopolized the table, I felt as though I was having sort of a birthday dinner with friends.
My birthday’s not until September though, so we called it my “non-birthday” dinner, and we toasted to Laura and Rich who had just recently gotten married.
Now back to the food.
I have to say, Le Bec Fin was already starting off at a disadvantage because my expectations for them were already really, really high. Then, Stuart told us about an AMAZING meal he had there back in 1994 and I was really excited to taste the perfection of a 5-star restaurant.
1st course: Chilled pea soup with almond ice cream.
They forgot to put the almond ice cream in Mike’s soup, and he joked that they have such great service, they were clairvoyant that Mike has an almond allergy!
Our server overheard us and I think he was embarassed about the oversight. He brought Mike 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream on a separate dish. That was nice.
The pea soup was okay, but lacked a bit of flavor for my taste. It seemed as though most of the others really liked it, though.
2nd course: Scallop
While I’m not much of a scallop girl, I really liked this dish. It was one juicy scallop in a broth with fruit — peaches, I think. It was meaty and fruity and yummy. My favorite dish of the night.
3rd course: Skate
Skate is a bony fish. I was really excited to taste something new, but boy was I disappointed.
By the looks of it, I wasn’t the only one. Josh, Geri, Laura and I just picked at the poor fish. It was a bust. Again, not much flavor. A real disappointment.
Those of us that didn’t like it were served another fish. This one was a little better, but not the best fish I’ve ever had. Here I was expecting a meal to remember and it really wasn’t materializing.
4th course: Meat
I didn’t realize we were on “Top Chef” and the chef had to execute so many dishes. That being said, the beef was tender and good. Not amazing, but very good. We all liked it.
5th course: Dessert
Dessert was a pastry, but I’m a real chocolate girl. I have been known to love sweets that are not chocolate, but they have to be done really well.
Having listened to bits of our conversation, our amazing waiter brought out two coffee creme brulees — one was in honor of Laura and Rich’s wedding…. the other, for my “non-birthday” you can see my surprise in the video when he brings out the special creme brulees.
The creme brulees were actually much better than the patries they gave us. We shared them with our newfound dinner friends.
At the end of the meal, Mike asked the waiter if Georges Perrier could come out so that we could thank him and ask him questions. That’s when everything was revealed — it wasn’t Perrier in the kitchen that night; it was his sous chef!
Luckily, I was in really great company and had some amazing conversation and a great time with my friends, otherwise, I would have been super disappointed by the food.
I didn’t even bother to get this chef’s name. He seemed tired and beat down and ready to go home. I wonder if he even enjoyed cooking for us that night because I certainly didn’t taste it in his food.
The young chef told us that Perrier was in Atlantic City at his new restaurant that night. I wish Le Bec Fin wouldn’t have promoted this dinner as a dinner cooked by Georges Perrier and then they tried to slip it by us that he wasn’t there. I felt as though they were trying to be sneaky. That’s something I certainly wouldn’t expect from a 5-star restaurant.
After the meal was done and we “paid what we wished,” we talked about what went wrong. (Thank goodness it was pay what you wish!!!! LBF usually costs hundreds of dollars and while we paid what I consider a fair price for the meal, they really should take what was paid as feedback.)
I think it was Mike or Stuart who pointed out that since Le Bec Fin’s glory days in the 1990′s, Philadelphia has really become an amazing food city. There are some incredible chefs in Philadelphia that can cook like crazy. They use spice and flavor. They take me traveling with the stories they tell through their food. They pair foods together that I would never consider. It’s more than just good food, it’s an experience — and you can really tell that the chefs love what they do.
But unfortunately, I don’t think Le Bec Fin has evolved with Philadelphia. While the city has grown up and expanded and tried new things, LBF has gotten old and tired. Perrier wasn’t even there. The sous chef seemed tired. (Did he even taste the blandness of his food?) Had I not experienced other nice restaurants, LBF might be wonderful. But really, it seems they can do better. Is this really the best Philadelphia has to offer? In service maybe, but certainly in my opinion, not in food.
Once bright spot was the bread. That’s one thing the French really know how to do well. Bread and butter. I ate a lot of it and left stuffed from it that night.
LBF was a nice experience, but I don’t think I’d choose to return. Recently, I’ve had meals at Audrey Claire, Meritage and Mercato and at each of those restaurants, I’ve been amazed by the quality, presentation and creativity of the food. Yes, the Philadelphia restaurant experience has changed. As folks get more educated about what’s good, the restuarants will have to challenge themselves and try harder to keep up… and as a city-dwelling food patron that’s evolving into a bit of a “foodie,” I love the competition! Keep up the cooking!