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Saturday, 20 February 2010

Quail Could've Been Crispier

Our Critic Raves About Bibou

By Liliane L. Clever
Junto Staff Writer Bio
I made it to Bibou!  Ever since Craig LaBan in the Inky gave this French resto three resounding bells back in August, it's been on my get-to list.  But it was one thing after another.  From scheduling conflicts to bouts of the seasonal flu, it looked like Mission Impossible. Finally did it, and in style!

My dining partner and I a big bash at Bibou for a friend's surprise birthday party last week.  Her husband organized a private affair so we had the whole place to ourselves. Well, the whole place is actually rather small. You can almost picture your own dining room. Warm and cozy, a venue that was perfect for an intimate dinner with good friends on a very snowy evening.

Bibou is owned and managed by a young French couple Pierre and Charlotte Calmels.  Pierre is the executive chef, and Charlotte 'runs the front,' as they say.  Charlotte is engaging and friendly, but also quite efficient. Dinner was promptly served as soon as we were all seated.

What we encountered was one of Chef Pierre's eight-course tasting menus.  We started with:

Hot mushroom and barley soup, veal boudin blanc fricassee
Guinea Hen ballotine, golden beet salad
Sauteed scallop, Brussel sprouts and dried cranberries in a Bergamot emulsion
Seared grouper, cauliflower puree, Cippolini onions, shaved baby carrots in a  tomato emulsion

At this point we took a break.  My friend's husband made a toast and gave a little speech. The speech had a good friends/good fare theme which could not have been more appropriate.  We were all in a super mood.

The staff waited politely and patiently before serving us the remaining courses:
Roasted stuffed quail with Basmati rice, sautéed arugula, quail jus
L.I. duck breast, braised fennels with almonds, black trumpet fricassee, duck sauce

A plate of cheese (assiette de fromages), and a made-for-the-occasion birthday cake completed the meal.  The cake was light and fluffy and just sweet enough.

Coffee and tea were served with homemade vanilla meringues.

The meal was absolutely delicious, with each course well executed and a great presentation.

My only criticism is that the quail was not hot and crispy enough. This may have been due to the mid-dinner speech, rather than due to kitchen timing.

The service was excellent and very discreet. Even though the evening seemed to go on, and it was snowing outside, at no point did we feel any pressure to rush and be on our way.

Bibou is a BYOB, which for us is always a huge plus. My friend's husband is a wine aficionado, and he had carefully picked a different wine to pair with each course.

Chef Pierre came out of the kitchen so we had a chance to thank and congratulate him. The whole affair was a complete success and an absolute feast.

We walked home in the snow back to Old City. The walk felt great and did us good after all the food and wine.

It was almost midnight when we reached home. I hadn't realized it was that late. 

I remembered to power on my phone. There was a message from my office manager telling me that the office was closed the next day, and that I should work from home. A comforting idea, and the perfect end to a perfect evening.

I am not sure how Bibou would rate on the Michelin scale.  For one, it doesn't have a liquor license, and, two, the décor is too modest. But this is Philadelphia, and in that context, Craig LaBan's three bells are well deserved.

We have plans to go back to Bibou in the near future for a less extravagant meal. We want to try one of the Sunday dinners. 

Bibou is located at 1009 South 8th Street, between Carpenter Street and Washington Avenue.  Sunday four-course dinners are $45 per person. Otherwise dinners run betwee $24 and $33. Starters come in between $9 and $15. Bibou is cash only.