Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lacroix loses luster

Signage greets guests to Lacroix. (David M Warren / Staff Photographer)
Gallery Image Gallery: Lacroix
About the restaurant
210 W Rittenhouse Sq
Rittenhouse Hotel
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Neighborhood: Rittenhouse Square Parking: Valet parking costs $15 for up to 2 hours with discount from restaurant, or $21, for 2-10 hours.
Hours: Lunch Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; Dinner Sunday through Thursday, 5:30-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, until 10:30 p.m. Sunday brunch, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Breakfast Monday through Saturday, 6:30-11 a.m.
Prices: $$$$
Payment methods:
American Express
Diners Club
Cuisine type: American
Meals Served: Brunch Lunch Dinner Late Night
Style: The Rittenhouse Hotel's green velvet perch over the park remains one of the most lovely seats in the city to spend the afternoon feasting on an epic, cutting-edge brunch. The Sunday extravaganza, which wends through the dining room and kitchen, remains a worthy indulgence, but several chef changes in recent years have dulled the attention to details needed to maintain this unique experience humming at the next level. The more sedate dinner service, especially, also showed signs of carelessness in service and timing that took away from the pleasure of some otherwise exciting, inventive and luxurious plates.
Specialties: Brunch - raw bar; black garlic shoofly pie; lentil-ham salad; Wagyu brisket; Negroni-glazed salmon; scallop sausage; duck with grapefruit mojo; lamb rack; duck confit with macadamia polenta; white bean and lamb bacon cassoulet; short ribs and soba; gnocchi with escargot puttanesca; fleur de sel potatoes; Dinner - hamachi; bay scallop; sunchoke agnolotti with truffled chicken mousse; Elysian Fields lamb (when served properly); lobster "cassoulet"; chocolate tart; frozen malted chocolate mousse. Dinner entrees, $32-$52; 10-course tasting, $75; 3-course tasting,$39. Sunday brunch, $59.

Downgraded 1 bell

There's no better seat in the city than one of the velvet green chairs beside the window at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse. With a perch overlooking the park, and an epic brunch buffet of inventive little bites stretching from the entrance right into Lacroix's gleaming kitchen, this has always been my family's place for a special Sunday meal.

Too many kitchen changes, though, have finally taken a toll. From founder Jean-Marie Lacroix to Matt Levin to Jason Cichonski and now chef Jon Cichon, the brilliant concept of this gastro-brunch remains intact. From the raw bar to the creative hors d'oeuvres (Black garlic shoofly pie!) and twists on carving-station classics (Negroni-glazed salmon; Wagyu brisket), there are still many delights. But there were also startling misfires: soggy "chicken-and-waffle" panzanella; a gray blob of rye bread-lobster pudding that shouldn't have seen the light of a $59 brunch.

Of even more concern was Lacroix's performance at dinner, when my duo was wedged between loud tables of 10, and the meal went downhill from there. I did love two dishes: sunchoke agnolotti bobbing in clear broth beside truffled cubes of chicken mousse; and a superb hamachi with beets. But the distracted server forgot to clear our appetizers before the entrees arrived.

By the time they circled back, my $42 lamb was cold, its peanut sauce congealed. The redo was hot, but shriveled and gray. The third try, well . . . The formerly four-bell Lacroix never needed a three-peat.

Inquirer Restaurant Critic
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