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Le Bec Fin

Regina Schrambling

The Barnes Foundation is not the only Philadelphia institution reveling in a glorious second life. Le Bec Fin, the city’s top French restaurant for more than 40 years, reopened this summer with a new owner, chef, and pastry chef, all of whom worked with Thomas Keller at the French Laundry. The team enhanced many of the luxuries for which Le Bec Fin had gained renown, reviving the Louis XVI decor, reducing the number of tables from 18 to 11, hiring a staff of 60, and bringing back a jackets-required dress code.

 

The new management also brings the lighter, more contemporary sensibility of Napa Valley. Chef Walter Abrams works with local farmers and foragers to source ingredients for his eight-course, prix fixe menu ($150), which abounds with clear flavors. Dishes include halibut with English peas and truffles, and Mangalitsa ham with cranberry beans, mizuna, and Parmesan broth. Pastry chef Jennifer Smith’s desserts, such as celery sorbet with wild berries and candied-pecan shortbread, express the same bright notes. Downstairs, the old bistro has become a bar called Chez Georges after the restaurant’s legendary founder and chef Georges Perrier.

 

The new owner, Nicolas Fanucci—who, before overseeing the French Laundry, was Le Bec Fin’s general manager—is especially pleased with the wine list, for which he bought a private collection that includes all first-growth Bordeaux. You will not find 1947 Pétrus at the Barnes.

Le Bec Fin, 215.567.1000, www.lebecfin.com

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Photo by Olivier Pascaud
Copyright by Luc Castel
Photo credit Bonjwing Lee