Friday, January 01, 2010

Lacroix at the Rittenhouse: Philadelphia

I think it's befitting on multiple levels that my write-up of Lacroix is the first of the new year.

The main reason is that I will no longer be referring to my dear dining partner as my girlfriend; rather, now I'll be referring to her as fiancé.

Yes, you're quick on the uptake.  I did indeed propose to her at Lacroix.

I do want to clarify how things went down, since I do think proposing at a restaurant is a bit old-fashioned and sometimes if done in front of other diners, can be somewhat tacky.  As you might have gathered, I originally wasn't planning to propose at Lacroix, but things fell into place such that it just felt right to.  We had gone on an extremely quiet Monday night and had fortuitously been seated in a corner off by ourselves.  With our table overlooking Rittenhouse Park on a cold winter evening and with only the unobtrusive wait-staff occasionally passing by, the feel was similar to that of a private, quiet retreat away from the city.  So I thought why not?

Anyhow, as this was unplanned and I had not told the staff beforehand, this did catch them off-guard when my fiancé suddenly was wearing a shiny ring on her left hand.  (You should have seen the look at the table-busser when he realized what had happened...)  But the staff truly did an amazing job adapting to the situation, serving up a couple of complimentary dishes and providing us with an incredibly cute dessert that we honestly just wanted to bring home with us instead of eating and just in general, were genuinely happy for us, which felt phenomenal.

As for the food, well, let's just say that Lacroix was an excellent choice on my part.  To be able to execute and have such command of the wide-ranging flavors and textures in our dishes was just mind-blowing and afterwards, it just felt like other restaurants were just pursuing the latest superfluous trends, instead of full mastery of the flavors.

Carrot soup kaffir lime - Nice. The soup tasting like the somewhat darker flavor of cooked carrots, but none of the unpleasantness of what you might expectat of a soup made of carrots. The marshmallows with the kaffir lime coated sugar granules were a surprising contrast to the carrot soup, providing a granular texture and an unexpected sweetness. I'm not sure I was such a fan of the sweetness, but to be confronted with such a combination was intriguing.

Our two complimentary dishes.

Octopus w/ honey sauce, fried garlic - Lovely, lovely stuff.  The octopus with a char grilled exterior and tender on the inside - really wonderfully cooked.  The flavor was mostly that of the honey sauce and the fried garlic chips, as opposed to the octopus, but really quite tasty.

Miso-cured Foie Gras - You had me at foie gras.  Like eating a sac of fatty goodness.  It just bursts in your mouth.  Accompanies by slight cooked pear pieces, beet, and little squares reminding us of chex mix. Nice variation in textures, flavors all on one plate. All wonderfully executed.

Our accompanying wine, as recommended by our waiter, that paired well with our entrées and matched my fiancé's preferences for sweeter white wines.

Axis Venison, Cider, Caraway - Nice char on the outside and lovely tender, juicy insides. Not much gaminess. If all steaks and red meat pieces were like this, I might understand people's obsession with steaks. Apple chunks with caraway - making me realize how caraway can be effectively used. All accompanied with a semi-sweet sauce (I guess the cider), the only comparison I could think of was a sophisticated hoisin sauce.

Maitake mushrooms, bonito, black sesame - Black sesame seeds giving a neutral base to the natural maitake mushroom flavors, nicely complemented by mayo based bonita sauce.

Duck - The pièce de résistance. Holy smokes. Mouth. Exploding. With. Flavor. of. duck. Impeccably cooked. Perhaps some special duck source? Accompanied with grilled pineapple (!) with a kick. Collared greens - only so much you can do with collared greens, but nicely paired with cured ham.

We had to order dessert and these were some of the best desserts we've had. While I wasn't as much of a fan of the presentation, each was a voyage of tastes and textures.

?? - white puffs are macaroons.  The thing that looks like a giant olive is a scoop of coffee ice cream.  The roll is a rolled cake w/ cream.  The red dots up front are cranberries.  And there also a pistachio paste.  Wild to taste the different permutations of flavor/texture combinations.

Blueberry and Pomegranate - Citrus Creme Fraiche, Blueberry Lemon Jam, Rose Petal Foam, Walnut Honey oats, pomegranate sorbet

"Tiffany's Ring box" - Ganache around chocolate cake.  As tasty as it was cute. the gooey ganache, reminding me of cotton candy in taste and lingering sugar graininess.  The chocolate cake almost had a fudge consistency, without any lingering sweetness.  Fantastic

Pear cotlet, chocolate with crisps and cookies w/ a touch of jam.

We obviously had a brilliant experience here.  The atmosphere was lovely, the service was excellent and the food was exquisite.  I'm hoping that we'll get to come here for some more of our special occasions in the future.

Lacroix at the Rittenhouse
210 West Rittenhouse Square Philadelphia, PA 19103-5726 (Map)
(215) 790-2533


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  2. Congratulations! Philly is going to miss your excellent coverage of off-the-beaten path places to eat once you leave.

  3. Thanks anon! I certainly miss Philly and the friendly foodie community.