There was never any doubting the talent that fueled Christopher Kearse's artful modern French cooking at Will BYOB.
But like many young chefs in the throes of avant-garde techniques, his early enthusiasm often translated into overwrought plates with a few too many flourishes that hindered, rather than helped. That was no longer the case, however, at a fantastic recent meal.
After two years of honing, Kearse's presentations are no less gorgeous.
But every intricate touch amplified the central themes, rather than distracting. Foie gras mousse enriched a bar of rabbit rillettes accented by wine-poached figs. Citrus-caramelized Belgian endive and licorice called out Sichuan spice on the duck. An entire hen of the woods, meanwhile, was cooked to two striking textures - buttery-crisp across a pan-roasted face of flattened fronds scented with sumac and rose hips, lusciously fleshy and moist at its heart, beneath which a Madeira caramel and smoked ricotta smear amplified its earthy savor.
It just so happens a cluster of that mushroom is shaped like a bell.
Will BYOB can now count three of its own.
Whole Hen of the Woods, $14
1911 E. Passyunk Ave.