Parc- Philadelphia, PA- 5-Stars
For the first time in this journey, I guess I can tell you amis "bonjour, je m'appelle Big Boy!" You would think that a park in the center of Philly within the Rittenhouse hotel would be associated with the humble land of pierogi or the Pennsylvania Dutch, rather than aspire to being worthy of ascending to the culinary nirvana of France. But clearly when you change ze word "park" to its French equivalent "parc," zis must be a good sign because zere is more possibility zat it will be as French. As you walk up to a red overhang printed with "BRASSERIE" and a phone number that will charge you exorbitant long-distance fees just to be greeted by someone telling you how you can receive "une télévision gratuite," and the door making a seductive "ouverture" à la Française with its French-language analog-clock hours of operation card, you'd think you accidentally boarded the wrong plane and became the star of "Home Alone 5: Return to Paris!"
You sit down at snooty tables with rustic red leather and black varnish and are happy that the lighting is profuse enough that your waiter can realize you've arrived. Angel lives up to his name by being a simply delightful person, so angelic that he can make you feel like a masochist as you take pleasure in a simple basket of "PAIN," all freshly baked. Rustic baguette to cranberry walnut to sturdy black seedy bread, all topped with deliciously decadent artisan butter. Remember when I said you never rave on Instagram about bread and butter baskets at chains? It's because hidden far away from the Ryan's buttered rolls of the oblivious populace, is some diamond in the rough like this.
When Angel brings out a charcuterie-board with chicken liver parfait and gelée, the bread (again), pale yellow and dotted like a traffic light with cherry and pistachio, ripples with texture as rough as a stone-carved doorway out of the Outlander series, the liver stepping forward with a pop that's then smoothly decanted by the crimson-red wine-stained gelée like a Romanée-Conti by your favorite crystal swan. You glance over the extensive wine list, helpfully to Francophiles labeled by region of France and - as seemingly an afterthought - "Le Monde," but then realize after the double-boozed-out sidecar cocktail that just came out to the table, you'll have had by far enough to drink - or is it eat, so smoothly was the wine integrated into the gelatin? So you work hard to maximize the worth of every bit of liver strain you'll be subjected to by the sidecar cocktail, redolent with citrus and the signature French stamps of Cointreau and Calvados, à la Normandie bien sûr ! Which of course makes all ze difference, I have never been able to replicate it back in humble Florida!
And then you decide you didn't come to a French restaurant to just drink - with however much decision-making capacity you still have left - and order more food.
When Angel brings out a plate simply adorned with a white doily and says "Look at that escargot!", you don't look out the window for a car shaped like an S that looks like it's an outtake from "Speed" - you know full well you should look at the tiny potful of snails swimming in a sauce that, as it should be, is so full of cow butter. You don't even care if some of the brown floating things are actually mushrooms (it is not like the texture is much different), or that the French decided to surrender to a country they'd never surrendered to before by adding some crostini on the side instead of baguette. I guess in this case, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em?
The extra mile is comfortably walked by the steak tartare, aiming to shoot the moon by using only filet mignon and accenting it with only capers and the slightly more exotic selection of quail egg to top, a "small but powerful" touch that packs an unctuous rather than bold punch when it invades every little crack of the tartare so precisely that it seems at any moment ready to jump upon the steak and yell "COUP D'ÊTAT!" But yet it doesn't, rather melding the smoothness of the tenderest cut of beef with the runny egg yolk for something that just melts into your mouth.
Too often French cuisine in America is just trying to swill customers in search of the Holy Grail of world cuisine with prices to match, but who actually get French Taunted and pelted with a barrage of animal flesh not fit for human consumption. But you and your stomach will be very relieved and satisfied with Parc
The Big Boy says,
"In a sea of dark
The bright light is Parc
Not just in a trance
You really are in France"