'Top Chef' Elmi on winning 3 bells

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Chef/owner Nicholas Elmi at Laurel, 1617 E. Passyunk Ave.

Moments after the televised announcement that Nicholas Elmi had won Season 11 of Bravo's Top Chef, I asked him about his goals.

His reply: A four-bell review from Inquirer critic Craig LaBan, his top score. (The Bravo publicist monitoring the call did not know what Elmi was talking about. Four bells?)

At the time, Elmi knew that LaBan's review of his three-month-old restaurant, Laurel, would be appearing in a few days.

Now that the review is out - and LaBan rang three bells for Laurel, a 22-seat BYOB on East Passyunk Avenue - what does Elmi have to say?

Is he disappointed?

"I'm happy with three," Elmi said. "We all know he doesn't give four out of the gate. We're happy to be reviewed so early in the year, take the criticisms in stride, make the necessary adjustments and put our heads down for the next 10 months and see if we can do better. Laurel is in a good place right now."

Not only does LaBan not award four bells to many brand-new restaurants, he also does not give out four bells to many BYOBs. You have the late Django in Queen Village, the limited-seating Talula's Table in Kennett Square, and the homey Bibou in South Philadelphia.

By the way: Laurel wasn't an easy res before the Top Chef win. Open five nights a week to essentially 55 to 60 people a night (that's 2½ "turns" of the dining room), it's pretty much booked through April.

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