Even though Lacroix was officially the executive chef at The
Rittenhouse, his eponymous restaurant was still a year off.
Anticipation built while the space formerly housing the hotel's
Treetops restaurant was refurbished to its new tenant's exacting
specifications. Lacroix at The Rittenhouse finally opened its doors
in September 2002, and that month, travel agents probably noticed a
major blip in round-trip bookings to Philadelphia as well-traveled
foodies and high-profile critics swarmed to the new mecca like
locusts descending on a fresh crop of alfalfa.
The sleek, comfortable room is outfitted in luxury materials, used
with modernist restraint by veteran restaurant designer Marguerite
Rodgers. Each table provides a view of the Square, but your
attention will most likely be riveted on the plate in front of you
as soon as the food starts to arrive. The flexible menu is
partitioned into several sections from which diners can build their
own three-, four-, or five-course meals. "I want people to be able
to have whatever they want, in any order," the chef says. "If they
want five lobster courses, they can get five lobster courses; if
they want five desserts, they can get five desserts."
Lacroix's current repertoire, developed exclusively for his
new restaurant, includes dazzlingly refined and complex creations
such as a fricassee of cold-water lobster and escargot with a sauté
of Chinese broccoli and black bean and XO (extra old) cognac sauce,
or hot smoked-veal sweetbreads with seasonal mushrooms and cocoa
and coffee cream. Menu changes are frequent and reflect the season,
the market, and the chef's mood.
"My cuisine is French-based," admits Lacroix, "but I can't define
my cooking. When something works, it works."
e. guigal saint-joseph blanc 2000 ($20)