So . . . what would happen if five four-bell kitchens cooked their recent masterpieces for one spectacular menu? A hungry critic's fantasy feast.
Note: For highly seasoned eating professionals only. Do not try to eat this in its entirety without extensive training.
1. Libations: Warm up this party with a refreshing pitcher of Lemonnana, the minty-boozy-lemony bourbon punch from Zahav. For the other courses, let Vetri's sommeliers pair and pour away.
2. Hors d'Oeuvres: No one does elegant small bites like Talula's Table: truffle-dusted lobster-mushroom terrine over warm potato cakes (pictured); shaved raw turnip ravioli stuffed with apple butter; salt cod fritters with horseradish-creamed kale.
3. Appetizer: Only a great chef such as Bibou's Pierre Calmels could elevate pig ears into sublime noodles, tucked inside a warm deck of flaky pastry, with classic sauce gribiche.
4. Pasta: Black as night, this squid-ink linguine from Vetri topped with Dungeness crab and creamy sea urchin snaps with the intensity of pure oceanic luxury.
5. Fish: Old-school haute finesse is required for Bibou's poached black bass, a roulade filled with delicate mousse then ringed by a lobster-buttered froth of truffled sauce Joinville.
6. Meat Intermezzo: Meltingly soft veal brisket and ricotta stuff the Fountain's intricate raviolo, which hovers beneath a briny caper foam over vivid herb oil.
7. Main Course: Brined, smoked, and braised for hours in sweet-tart pomegranate juice, there's no meat dish in Philly I'd rather share with friends than this profoundly soulful whole lamb shoulder with chickpeas from Zahav.
8. Cheese: Every meal should end with a visit from the Fountain's shiny cheese cart: The ripe aroma could be a course unto itself.
9. Dessert: Molten chocolate cake is so last century now that Vetri has invented a way to make pistachio flan ooze vividly green Sicilian nut cream.