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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dessert at Laurel
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.