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PARC Bistro.


Vadouvan
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OK, what is all this hoopla about Parc's fries?  "Frites:  Excellent."  "The fries, A+."  These are mere shoestring, fast food fries - fresh cut, twice fried - but not all that much better than modern day McDonald's fries, fresh out of the fryer, and not as good as McDonald's fries, back when they were starting with whole potatoes. 

Friggin' fast food generation.  Get over shoestring fries.  Thicker cut fries, as in the 1 cm cut Belgium pommes frites, when properly fried, are far superior.

Well, I think part of it was that we were trying to find something to be positive about, food-wise, and that we were so enthusiastic about the fries indicates just how mediocre most of the rest of the food was.

But the consensus when we had the fries was that they're pretty darn close to McDonald's fries, and McDononald's fries fresh from the fryer can be pretty darn good. (Though I think it was more the frying in beef tallow than the starting with whole potatoes that made McDonald's fries so much better back in the day.)

Belgian pommes frites are just a different animal, in my mind. I embrace a kind of fry pluaralism.

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Holly, don't be diameterist!

Fries of all shapes and sizes can be good when well-made. I might agree that a Belgian-style frite is the ultimate expression of the fried potato, but there are plenty of other geometries that are quite tasty too.

The Parc frites were crispy, but still tender, and I think they went well with the steak. I liked them.

And yes, they taste a little like McDonalds' fries, if you get them fresh out of the frier. I'm not reluctant to say that I like those too.

Edited by philadining (log)

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Made it back to Parc on Thursday for another late lunch. With my lunch hours and Parc's inflexibility - their bare-boned 6 item plus raw bar menu between three and five, I will never have access to the bulk of their menu. Explain to me again why a Bistro like Parc, with most of the lunch menu carried through to the dinner menu, must take a two hour siesta in mid afternoon? Bunch of prima donna wusses back in the kitchen.

To be fair Holly, they simply could be closed between 3 and 5 and not serve ANY food like virtually every other restaurants.

The fact is restaurants of that size need time between lunch and dinner service to do a variety of things like

Clean the kitchen

Changeover the staff

Restock and reprep food

Therefore for that time period, hot line items cant be served.

Lots of bistros in France do "Apres-midi" so it isnt unheard of.

Parc also intends to start serving breakfast very soon which puts it under more pressure and so it makes no sense to do an all day lunch service.

Kitchens do need time to recover.

Any entity doing 800 covers a day can hardly be considered "prima donna wussies"

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To be fair, all those things could happen while service continues. Many restaurants are able to do so. Unless Parc has a really small kitchen, it is a question of staffing and organization.

Les Halles in New York serves a full menu, similar to Parc's, from 7:30 AM to Midnight, daily. I'm guessing 800 covers isn't that impressive to Les Halles. Balthazar takes 45 minutes off between 5:00 PM and 5:45 PM.

Rouge, who pre-Parc probably had similar turns, at least in nice weather, takes off specials but serves their regular lunch menu through til dinner.

I was kidding about the prima donna wuss part. But if Parc wanted to, they could serve through to dinner. And for a brasserie/bistro, they should.

Edited to add: I probably wouldn't take so strong an exception if Parc at least tried during the three to five period. But just 6 items plus raw bar out of their entire menu? That's worse than after hours hotel room service choices.

Edited again to add: From Les Halles website:

Les Halles evokes the atmosphere of the brasseries in the old market district of Paris, where the cream of society, stopping for a bite after a night on the town, would sit next to workmen having their breakfasts, and truckers finishing their shifts, and artists drafting creatively. In this spirit, Brasserie Les Halles serves continuously from noon to midnight, seven days a week
Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

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My problem with shoestring fries, besides being so cliché and so fast-foody, is that they are an inferior product compared to a thicker cut french fry. When a good restaurant goes to all the trouble to do fresh cut fries properly, why not present them in their best possible form?

I blame the fast food generation. When Monk's first opened I convinced Tom to switch to a 1/4" cut fry. He did. For less than a week, until he tired of his customers whining for shoestring fries.

I can't blame Tom for switching back. I do actually, but in all fairness I shouldn't. I think that if he hung in their he could have converted customers to pommes frites. After all the fast food generation does rave about boardwalk fries when they are lucky enough to get classic and truly fresh cut boardwalk style fries.

Holly Moore

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My problem with shoestring fries, besides being so cliché and so fast-foody, is that they are an inferior product compared to a thicker cut french fry.  When a good restaurant goes to all the trouble to do fresh cut fries properly, why not present them in their best possible form?

I don't think everyone agrees that thicker fries are better. They're just different. Especially in the context of a steak frites, shoestring fries aren't out-of-place; L'Ami Louis' steak frites, for example, which may be the ultimate expression of this dish, comes with a giant stack of shoestring fries (which, at their best, are probably the best fries in the world).

As far as Les Halles, it's probably best not to take that as a model, what with its severely sucking and all.

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Cheap shot at Les Halles. And undeserved.

As for shoestring fries, perhaps it is vive le difference.

But it is impossible to get the interplay of mealy inside with crisp outside in a shoestring fry. The mealy to crisp ratio just isn't there.

I speak for myself, but I can not imagine anyone who has had properly prepared 1 cm cut pommes frites not preferring them to shoestring fries, just as I can not understand anyone ordering a good steak well done.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

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Back on the decor topic: I too give the designers props for the look of the place; it's beautiful. Somebody over on Citypaper called Parc Pastis-Lite, or Pastis II -- which is actually OK by me. All French bistros could look like this (leather booths, tile floors, distressed mirrors, golden lighting) and I would be happy.

Too bad the food doesn't (yet) live up to the space. We tried: oysters, escargot, pate, steak tartare, french onion soup, tuna tartare, skate, duck confit, strip steak, calf liver, lamb, chocolate mousse, pot de creme, tarte tatin, peach tart, and creme brulee. (We were excited... as you can probably tell.)

Things that were tasty: Bread, oysters, French onion soup (FINALLY! Delicious concentrated beefy broth without being overly salty), calf liver, creme brulee, and chocolate mousse (dark, intense). Duck confit was decent, with some nice crispy skin-melty tender shredded meat action.

Things I was disappointed by: I've had better escargot at Pif and LBF -- I get that the main point of escargot, in the butter-and-garlic preparation, is the butter-and-garlic part, but our snails were so small, they were almost pointless. Steak tartare -- also OK, but lacking the flavor intensity of Ansill's (more purple mustard perhaps? Caper berries?). Tarte tatin -- mushy apples on puff pastry. No caramelized butter-sugar-and-apple magic going on.

Overall, this experience gets a solid B -- acceptable food in a city sorely lacking in French bistros but nothing to get excited about. I'm hoping it's because the place is new and the kitchen is still figuring things out. Keep your fingers crossed. And in the meantime, I need to get back to Cochon.

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Didn't get away for lunch until 4:30 today. Aha, an ideal opportunity to broaden my menu choices at Parc. Got there at 4:40 and seated at 4:45.

By now I know the rules. No full menu between 3 PM and 5 PM. "I understand I can not order dinner until 5 PM, but might I look at the dinner menu now and plan my 5 PM order?"

Of course I can't. There are rules and they must be obeyed. Not only does dinner service not begin until 5 PM. Pre-5 PM dinner menu perusing is forbidden. I feared telling them that I was ordering lunch at dinner time. Parc might have refused to bring a menu until noon the next day.

Nor would a server bring me a dinner menu at 4:50 PM. Or 4:56. "The computer is locked in until 5 PM." I promised to not attempt to order until 5 PM, but still no menu. At precisely 5 PM a lit candle was placed on my table. At 5:01, a smile and a dinner menu.

I had the calves liver. It was very good.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

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Met my hubby tonight at Parc (I was at a special event at Fork, where I ate) and he had a good-tasting burger with soggy, cold fries. Big disappointment. Ordered still water, got sparkling - after a long wait, so didn't send it back. Had a truly good pots de creme - smooth, creamy, chocolaty. But the espresso didn't come until we finished dessert. Place was mobbed.

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Oh, Parc. Why must we fight so. Another lunch, another spat.

This time I was seated at 2:50 PM - 10 minutes ahead of the dreaded "Apres-midi" menu. Tick tock - 8 minutes passed and no server. Suspecting what was about to happen, a time stamp.

gallery_14_105_9238.jpg

About a minute later, a server took my order. At about 3:05 he returned. "I am sorry sir. Between three and five we only serve Apres-midi."

Like I didn't know that. "But I was seated at 2:50."

"I will have to ask the chef."

The server retreated to the kitchen and a bus person brought me some bread. There was no way I was going to settle for "Apres-midi." I would have been quite satisfied with a free lunch of bread and water.

gallery_14_105_7051.jpg

About five minutes later the server returned. "The chef will prepare your order." The tide is turning. For the first time in our series of tiffs, I won. The server moved on to a table that had arrived a couple of minutes after me - well before 3 PM. They too ordered from the luncheon menu. Kinder, gentler folks, they settled for "Apres-midi."

During my lunch, a person, armed with a clipboard walked up and down past the row of outside tables where I was sitting. Twice. She would pause, jot down a note, and then move on a table or two. Like a judge at a county fair. I was hoping for at least an honorable mention.

gallery_14_105_5767.jpg

I had the baguette provencal.

gallery_14_105_7373.jpg

It was very good.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

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Brutal One Touque review from Phyllis Stein-Novack in the South Philly Review today. Seems everything she ordered was overdressed and/or oversalted. Pretty much jibes with what others have said so far, both here and in private, but I remain surprised since Ms. Stein-Novack is notoriously the easiest reviewer in the city. Usually if you get her husband a cold martini the rest of the review is in the bag... :rolleyes:

Edited by KatieLoeb (log)

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At a certain point one feels silly complaining about the quality of the food at a Starr establishment. I'm not sure why I even posted my comments initially. The place is going to make a fortune, and the overwhelming majority of people who go there will like the food well enough, but will be going primarily for non-food-related reasons in the first place.

That is to say, it seems like the restaurant is going to perform exactly as it was expected to, if not better. The purpose of a Starr restaurant isn't to wow the sort of people who read this or other food boards, or even food critics, but to make money. Of course most restaurants have making money as their primary purpose, but some try to accomplish this precisely by catering to the tastes of foodies, critics or the sort of people who read this or other food boards. The Starr organization has a model for making money that doesn't involve this.) Perhaps this will change some time soon... There's no reason why a Starr place couldn't have fantastic food, even if having fantastic food isn't its raison d'etre.

Edited by dagordon (log)
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agreed with all your sentiments, including being kinda disappointed that the food isn't better.

however, as one of the people who will probably frequent parc because:

-even an average bistro meal is better than none

-i have a kid and therefore early noisy dinner is appreciated

-i live a couple blocks away

it's a little more expensive than it should be considering the quality, and really it's a shame to accept mediocrity, but i've had some priority shifts in my life, and basically it serves the purpose.

(that said, everything we had there -- beef stew, lamb, oysters, pate -- was all totally fine in every way)

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Interesting discovery at Parc today. I can enjoy a meal there even when Parc's bureaucracy offers no opportunity to complain. Perhaps we are approaching deténte. I hope not. I survive on tilt-worthy windmills as much as nourishment.

Got to Park at about 2:50 today. The hostess, while showing me to my seat, advised, "Our Apres-Midi" menu goes on at 3 PM. We agreed that a server should be dispatched immediately as I was wanting lunch.

I ordered and received without further discussion Parc's Croque Madame. Thick slices of ham and turkey on a slab of their bread, blanketed with a cheesey mornay sauce and topped with a fried egg.

gallery_14_105_3972.jpg

Very good.

One curiosity. Pity the tourist who heeds the sign hovering over the outside tables along 18th Street. Someone - I suspect the awning installer - pivoted the sign 90 degrees, making east north, north, west and so on.

gallery_14_105_12137.jpg

Someone not familiar with the area would be heading north on 18th Street in search of the Avenue of the Arts.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

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  • 1 month later...

I suspect a pre-midi menu offering a choice of bread and jam.

So I tried the new place that opened in the new condo at Broad and Pine - One of those market like places that opens on the first floor of a city condo but also seemingly focused at the pre-theater crowd. Mostly sandwiches and salads and such. I could have probably opened a restaurant for the money they spent on chairs and chandeliers.

Of course, they too find it necessary to offer an apres-midi menu.

Holly Moore

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So I tried the new place that opened in the new condo at Broad and Pine -  One of those market like places that opens on the first floor of a city condo but also seemingly focused at the pre-theater crowd.  Mostly sandwiches and salads and such.  I could have probably opened a restaurant for the money they spent on chairs and chandeliers.

Du Jour, right? If it's the same as the branch in Haverford, you could open a restaurant for the amount they charge for a sandwich. Tasty, but very expensive.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nice place for a group, 8ish, Sunday night. Really no complaints, though I pitied the vegetarian in our party: almost no options for her besides beet salad and omelette du jour. Luckily, she enjoyed both.

As for me: skate grenobloise... ahhhhh.

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we went to parc tonight, and had the beet salad, among other things. and really, you know, i think it's relatively appropriately priced considering the location and the expensive renovation and blah blah blah.

but the beet salad was $12.

twelve bucks? for .. um, basically one beet, and some frisee, and a few tiny crumbles of blue cheese and some candied nuts?

it just seems kinda out of line with everything else. like, this one weird crazily overpriced thing.

i left a comment card; we'll see if they follow up.

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Edited again to add:  From Les Halles website:
Les Halles evokes the atmosphere of the brasseries in the old market district of Paris, where the cream of society, stopping for a bite after a night on the town, would sit next to workmen having their breakfasts, and truckers finishing their shifts, and artists drafting creatively. In this spirit, Brasserie Les Halles serves continuously from noon to midnight, seven days a week

(emphasis added)

Pardon me for picking up on this, but:

Are you really going to find that at Parc? Or at Les Halles (NYC), for that matter?

IMO about as close as you're going to get to that sort of cross-class mixing in Philadelphia is -- sorry, Holly -- the Reading Terminal Market's eateries, and even they are light on the upper crust. (Edited to add: And maybe some of the coffee houses. And perhaps Good Dog at certain times of the day, but again, I'm not so sure I'd call lawyers upper crust. :wink: )

I do worry every now and then that our society is splitting itself up into little (or not-so-little) insular enclaves that don't have (or care to have) much interaction with those not of their circle, and this snippet triggered one of my panic attacks.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

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