This is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat of May 21, 2013:
Craig LaBan: I was tied up last week with the aftermath of The Inquirer's Fourth Annual Brew-vitational Competition for local beers - tasting 49 beers from 26 breweries with eight judges - you'll learn our winners next week in the May 30 Food section. Here's a photo before the competition of a bucket of local pilsners - a new category this year - chilling before they hit the judges' table.
In terms of chat topics, this is likely at the top: the Le Bec Fin era really is finally about to end. This Philly institution has had more comeback sequels than Rocky. But for those of us who've watched it struggle to keep up with the trends and remain relevant, trying to rebrand itself, including a change of owners, chefs, and management, this finale seemed inevitable.
Reader: Wouldn't it be awesome to see all the chefs that once worked at Le Bec come back for a dinner service. Think of the star-studded line up.
C.L.: That's a great idea - and who knows if that's in the works. Like I said, there were so many "farewell to Georges' Le Bec" ceremonies the last time around, it might be hard to get them all together again. But just think - Greg Gables, Peter Gilmore, Bobby Bennett, Frederic Cote, Dan Stern, Nicholas Elmi, Pierre Calmels, Matt Levin, Chip Roman, Ann Coll, Kevin Sbraga . . . the list of great cooks goes on and on . . . that would be an amazing feast, indeed.
Reader: Do you think that the closing of Le Bec Fin takes down Philly a notch as an international (heck, regional) dining destination?
C.L.: Not at all. I don't think the national conversation about quality gastronomy has been dominated by French cuisine for a long time. Just as it has faded here with the rise of Vetri, Garces, Starr, and many other talents, like Michael Solomonov cooking modern Israeli over at Zahav. That said, Le Bec is a nationally known icon, one of the few Philly names that could spark coverage from the New York Times.
Reader: Had some excellent Pakistani food in London recently. The lamb chops were just fantastic. Any Philly recommendations for Pakistani food?
C.L.: If you haven't been to Wah-Gi-Wah yet, I'd suggest you visit for the chicken Chargha alone. One of the best birds in town. Not much for ambience, but there may be no better flavor-for-dollar value in town. Many people also like Kabobeesh, and I think they maybe do lamb specialties better than W-G-W. When at Wah, stick with the chicken. Then get baklava for dessert a block away on Walnut and 45th at Manakeesh.
Reader: Going to Brauhaus tonight . . . are there any particular sausages you recommend?
C.L.: Assuming you're talking about Brauhaus Schmitz (not the Hop Angel Brauhaus). I'd say go for their signature Nurnberg brats - love the coarse grind and aromatic spice. Their smoky bauernwurst is not to be missed.
Le Bec Finis
After 43 years, the fine-dining landmark Le Bec Fin is closing its doors next month. Send your memories of the restaurant to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll print the best on June 13.