10.07.2009

Fond Thoughts

So it's come to our attention we've become one of those lazy bloggers we talk about. It's been almost a month since our last entry! A torrid Twitter affair we thought we'd be over by now is partly to blame, while Green Aisle is the other woman in our life, gobbling up our free time like a Hungry Hippo. Truth is we're psyched about our nifty Passyunk grocery, even if it comes with one big downside: We're bidding arrividerci to reviewing restos on the EP corridor, which means we'll never get to critique Fond, in print at least. The new American bistro, slim and elegant as Betty Draper's cigarette case, landed on the Ave on August with the kind of buzz that only former Lacroix and Le Bec staffers can garner.

We checked it out last week, for pleasure, not business. They're our new neighbors, sure, but if Fond sucked you know we'd shoot straight as a poison dart. Fortunately it did not suck at all, even if our 8:30 rez was delayed till 9:15. (Drinks down the street at Paradiso helped. Fond came and got us when the table was ready.) We squeezed in between tables tight as paperbacks on a library shelf, candles firefly-flickering across the chic cork menus. It was an industry crowd, a young one at that, chefs and waiters and bartenders that presumably live around here, out to give their boy Lee Styer a play for his new venture. Styer and partner/pastry sorceress Jessie Prawlucki popped out of the kitchen here and there to meet and greet, while third partner and front-of-the-house man Tory Keomanivong ran the floor. Fond felt like one big living room, and everyone seemed acquainted. I saw no less that four people I knew. But that’s South Philly for you.

Mostly, the food was sharp and smart, clean flavors and exacting execution. In this way Styer’s food reminded us of Jim Burke’s, a high compliment coming from this camp. The amuse, a Thai-inspired watermelon soup shooter, brought us back to Bangkok. We loved how the fuchsia folds of big-eye tuna crudo in cool gazpacho consommĂ© poured tableside (pictured) literally melted on the tongue like Holy Communion of the sea, and the way the crispy veal sweetbreads clearly intoned fall with Asian pear, arugula and a surprising cinnamon gastrique. On special, a roasted leg of lamb delivered. The cut is a bitch to cook, which made Styer’s, with its tender texture and glowing red center, nearly as impressive as its awesomely aromatic allspice jus. The pairing was shades of Michael Solomonov’s lamb tartare with allspice at Zahav—one of our favorite dishes in town.

Roasted pecans brought serious crunch to pretty postage stamp-sized ravioli plumped with silky butternut squash. Autumn squash pasta in sage-infused brown butter is nothing novel, so why did it beguile us so? Maybe because of the presentation, elegant but not fussy. Maybe because of the refreshingly trim portion that would get Styer the maloiks from many members of the Passyunk old guard. Maybe because, unlike so many other iterations of this recipe, this one didn’t taste like dessert. For all these reasons, we’re happy it’s on the menu.

The actual desserts, Prawlucki’s domain, included a moist chocolate brownie with a cinnamon cream and more pecans, as well as delicate crepes filled with passion fruit puree, topped with sliced bananas and drizzled with glossy dark chocolate. The combo of the tart, tangy, tropical passion fruit and the bittersweet chocolate was insane. We also dug the French press for two, a mere three bucks, and the airy poppy seed meringues that accompanied the check.

Wish we would show you pictures, but while there’s an app for just about everything, there’s none for an iPhone camera flash. Guess you’ll just have to go see Fond in person, maybe during we-got-your-“Center-City-District”-right-here Philly Neighborhood Food Week. Four courses, $30, but Fond is so affordable anyway you should go for the full experience. Two can get out for less than $100 with tip. And when you’re finished pop over to Green Aisle. We’ll be open sometime this century.

Photo: Fond

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