The blowout brunch has become the calling-card meal for posh Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, which also offers bargain-worthy prix-fixe menus at lunch and dinner to keep its dining room humming the luxe life. This parkside aerie is also worth an occasional a la carte visit, though, simply to be reminded of the formidable talents of wünderkind chef Jason Cichonski, who just turned 26 on Sunday. The most stunning dish at a recent lunch was a gorgeous slice of pan-roasted halibut over a cauliflower raviolo. Just when I was thinking "ho-hum," that billowing pasta skin burst beneath my knife with a gush of ivory cream that basted the fish in decadent cauliflower bisque like some exotic, Italianized soup dumpling. Freezing the portions of cauliflower cream before filling the raviolo is the trick here, but the effect - like all great gastronomy - is a taste of magic.
Halibut with cauliflower raviolo, $21 at lunch at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, 210 West Rittenhouse Square, 215-790-2533; www.lacroixrestaurant.com
- Craig LaBan