Restaurant Review: Laurel
Being a devoted fan and loyal follower of Top Chef since it premiered, I was excited when Philadelphia’s own Nicholas Elmi took the honor as season 11 winner.
My husband and I recalled the time we met him on our first anniversary at Le Bec Fin, where he was the executive chef at the time. Since Le Bec’s closing, Elmi moved on to working at the short-lived Rittenhouse Tavern, and in late 2013 opened up his own BYOB, Laurel, in South Philly.
Initial reviews of Laurel were great, and once Elmi won Top Chef, it became nearly impossible to get a reservation. My friend Joann called in February and got a reservation for a Wednesday night in late April. I wasn’t even in on the initial plan, but thanks to a last minute cancellation, I got to go.
The evening started with a call from the hostess asking if we would like to sit at the Chef’s Table. “Sure!” we replied. It was a somewhat chilly night, but the table out back was cozy with the addition of heat lamps. We had to walk through the kitchen and saw Chef Nick and his staff in action.
Here’s a rundown of what I enjoyed, and all of it was exceptional. I especially loved the gnocchi, which Elmi made in episode 10 because it was his daughter’s favorite dish. The highlight of our evening was a few minutes before and after dinner, when the personable Elmi sat with us to chat and answer questions. If you can get a reservation, Laurel is a must-visit restaurant.
1st Course: Torn sea scallop with green apple, sea lettuce, and yuzu
2nd Course: Ricotta gnocchi with pancetta and sourdough garlic crouton
3rd Course: Seared wild striped bass with ramp yogurt, kohlrabi, and lemongrass
4th Course: Caramelized white chocolate pudding with plum, malt and puffed grains