Digging into Dinner

Laurel – Top Chef Dining in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, Restaurants by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch0 Comments

Dinner at Laurel Philadelphia can be a tough reservation. However, it’s worth the wait to eat at this BYOB helmed by Top Chef Winner Nicholoas Elmi.

In today’s dining universe, rock star chefs and savvy eaters have become the norm. It started in the 1990s with the Food Network, and now we are bombarded with celebrity chefs on local, national and international levels on a daily basis.

Dinner at Laurel Philadelphia

When we decided to try the new restaurant Laurel in Philadelphia, we liked the fact that it’s BYOB located in a nearby neighborhood and favorably buzzed. But, truth be told, we were somewhat motivated to make the reservation based on Chef Nicholas Elmi‘s reputation as an accomplished chef (Le Bec Fin and Rittenhouse Tavern) as well as his successful, yet tumultuous run on the current Top Chef season. Plus, we suspected that we should reserve a table before the potential media frenzy kicks in.

Walk to South Philly

Holiday Time at Passyunk Square

Holiday Time at Passyunk Square

For the end-of-December dinner, we walked a mile south from our house to bustling Passyunk Square, hand in hand, enjoying the twinkling holiday lights along the way.

Cocktails at Stateside

Pre-Dinner Drinks at Stateside Philadelphia

Pre-Dinner Drinks at Stateside

When we arrived at the restaurant, we found that our table was not quite ready. Since the 24-seat restaurant is a cosy BYOB without a bar, we chose to go across the square to the cocktail mecca Stateside for some bubbly pre-dinner drinks.  Our two friends met us there.

Inside Laurel

Laurel - Inside and Out Philadelphia

Laurel – Inside and Out

After toasting the quickly approaching new year, we scurried back across the square and were immediately seated in Laurel’s comfortable, intimate dining space.

Food at Laurel

Upon being seated, we got to business with opening bottles of wine and perusing the four course menu. Having four people in our party allowed us to taste every item.

Foie Gras and Cocoa Terrin with Blood Orange, Candied Celery Root and Brioche Laurel Philadelphia

Foie Gras and Cocoa Terrine with Blood Orange, Candied Celery Root and Brioche

Torn New Jersey Scallop with Mutsu Apple, Sea Lettuce and Celery Laurel Philadelphia

Torn New Jersey Scallop with Mutsu Apple, Sea Lettuce and Celery

Albacore Tuna with Horseradish, Shallot, Asian Pear and Yogurt Laurel Philadelphia

Albacore Tuna with Horseradish, Shallot, Asian Pear and Yogurt

Mache Lettuce with Sumac Ranch Dressing, Shaved Radish and Cured Egg Yolk Laurel Philadelphia

Mache Lettuce with Sumac Ranch Dressing, Shaved Radish and Cured Egg Yolk

The gorgeous, cocoa marbled foie gras had veins of earthy, bitter cocoa that contrasted against the rich, fatty duck liver.  The contrasting clean, herbaceous flavors of torn scallops showed Elmi’s range as a chef. These were the two standout dishes of the first course.

We came prepared for the BYOB. There was definitely no lack of beverages at the table.

Beer, Wine and More Wine Laurel Philadelphia

Beer, Wine and More Wine

We shifted around our glasses to make room for the next round of small plates. Lucky for us, our friends don’t eat gluten, which meant we got to eat all of the ricotta gnocchi.  The ricotta pasta was perfectly pillowy, and of course everything tastes better with pancetta. There’s a reason that Chef Elmi’s gnocchi was a Top Chef winner, and this was our favorite dish of course two.

Charred Spanish Mackerel with Crushed Mustard Seed, Jalapeño and Ponzu Laurel Philadelphia

Charred Spanish Mackerel with Crushed Mustard Seed, Jalapeño and Ponzu

Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi with Pancetta, Sourdough and Garlic Laurel Philadelphia

Fresh Ricotta Gnocchi with Pancetta, Sourdough and Garlic

Grilled Maitake with Roasted Hazelnut, Preserved Lemon and Lemongrass Chicken Broth Laurel Philadelphia

Grilled Maitake with Roasted Hazelnut, Preserved Lemon and Lemongrass Chicken Broth

Before the third course arrived, we opened the bottle of red –  Nalle Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. The unusually restrained yet complex California wine brought back memories of our travels through Sonoma.

Nalle 2006 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley

Nalle 2006 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley

As we sipped the delicious red wine, the third course arrived –  berkshire pork, poulet, roasted cod and seared ocean trout.  All were excellent, but the berkshire pork served with juicy huckleberries was the star of the course.

Berkshire Pork with Crushed Chestnuts, Huckleberry-Kale Vinaigrette and Pumpernickel Laurel Philadelphia

Berkshire Pork with Crushed Chestnuts, Huckleberry-Kale Vinaigrette and Pumpernickel

Poulet with Meyer Lemon Reduction, Winter Alliums and Black Trumpet Mushrooms Laurel Philadelphia

Poulet with Meyer Lemon Reduction, Winter Alliums and Black Trumpet Mushrooms

Roasted Cod with Green Meadow Vegetables and Pecan Mulled Cider Laurel Philadelphia

Roasted Cod with Green Meadow Vegetables and Pecan Mulled Cider

Seared Ocean Trout with Turnip, Burgundy Snail and Black Quinoa Laurel Philadelphia

Seared Ocean Trout with Turnip, Burgundy Snail and Black Quinoa

Dessert at Laurel

Desserts Laurel Philadelphia

Desserts

Since we had ordered the entire menu, we got all three deserts. Unlike the previous plates, the deserts were good but not great.  Our favorite was the caramelized white chocolate pudding with shortbread, plums and almonds.  The lemon curd dish was just okay, and the cheese plate was kind of boring.

We ended the meal by chatting with Chef Elmi.  We talked about the neighborhood, the restaurant scene and our favorite dishes of the season.

We now we have an extra interest in seeing who wins Top Chef. Hopefully, the winner will be the intense chef from Philadelphia. Either way, we’ll be back to Laurel again to enjoy the restaurant’s food and our wine.

Update: Chef Elmi won season 11 of Top Chef. 

Laurel is located at 1617 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA, 19148.


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