Early report from Will BYO; Tashan's future

Posted: September 06, 2012

Excerpts from Craig LaBan's Tuesday chat:

Craig LaBan: Good afternoon, my hungry friends, and welcome back to Philly Food Chat Central. What's been making your plates hum of late? I know I've been eating well, as you can tell from last Sunday's three-bell review of Vernick Food & Drink, one of the best new restaurants in a year that's already been memorable. I've also had a chance to cook some favorite things at home. With leftover pizza toppings I wrapped meaty fillets of fresh cod in a band of sheer prosciutto and basil leaves. Just a light dredge of seasoned Wondra, a crisp on both sides, and finish for five minutes in a 400-degree oven. Simple, delicious and light.

 Reader: I was lucky enough to get a table at Will last week, and my meal was amazing. We started with the scallops and the rabbit rillette, and would suggest them to anyone. The rest of our meal was delicious, especially the desserts, which we were told were made in-house. Have you had the chance to visit yet?

C.L.: Will BYO is one of the fall's hottest new openings, but as it's only a few weeks in, that's too soon for me. But I already knew chef-owner Christopher Kearse had serious skill after my meals at Pumpkin (which he helped elevate to three bells.)

I've been having fun exploring the Inquirer's new neighborhood around 8th and Market. Pagano's has been in the food court of Market East (701 Market) for a long time. It's a South Philly-style sandwichery that makes steaks, hoagies, cutlet and meatball sandwiches, etc. The pork, though, is pretty standout. Everyone's been talking about DiNic's TV nod for best sandwich in America. (We can debate that one another time - I like DiNic's but prefer their "new" pork to the "old" pork, which won; and as you know, I still think John's RP is a notch better.) That said, Pagano's belongs in the conversation. This good Carangi's roll was nearly soaked through with juice (and the wrapper, too!) before I could even unwrap it. The meat isn't overwhelmed by garlic - you really taste the good, tender pork. By the end of the roll, though, I was definitely in need of a breath mint. There was garlic in there, for sure!

Reader: Do you think Tashan will be busy enough stay open? I dined there last week and it was completely dead. Our server said it was that way all summer. Nonetheless, chef Sylva Senat is extremely talented though he is overshadowed by owner Munish Narula's ego.

C.L.: Who knows what goes on behind the office doors of any restaurant when the accountant's books are opened? Tashan sure seems like a long shot from a business perspective - innovative and upscale dining on a slowly gentrifying stretch of Broad with little foot traffic, etc. . . . But I found it to be one of the most exciting restaurants to open in Philly in the last two years, and can only hope that means it has a chance. Sylva is a very talented chef. As for Munish, I can't comment about the ego, but he deserves nothing but respect for (1) upping the standard for traditional Indian food in this region with Tiffin, (2) having the savvy to build that into a successful chain, and (3) having the guts to risk it all in order to realize his dream to bring Indian cuisine into the high-end contemporary dining conversation for Philly 2012. It was a huge risk, and I sure hope he succeeds with Tashan.

On that note, I'm going to end this chat. Thanks to everyone who came with great questions and comments. We ran a little over and still couldn't get them all in! Please come next week, when I'll be here and starting to feel that Philly fall food groove. Until then, may you all be well and eat something worth bragging about!

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