The Sky's The Limit at Lacroix
That headline is misleading. Despite the impressively high ceilings, lighted columns and tall walls of wine, Lacroix is not limited by the sky. It's actual limits are far lower. Like, second floor lower. Floor-to-ceiling windows don't do much to trick you into thinking you're sitting above the fray of the common man, and its advertised “beautiful view of the park” puts you just barely out of reach of the methed-out vagrants sleeping in Rittenhouse because, hello, second floor. 40 feet is the limit at Lacroix.
Lacroix, pronounced “La Qua” as though with a mouthful of tapenade and Bell's Palsy, is the first restaurant opened by Adsum dreamboat Matt Levin, and represents an about-face from the latter. Crisp white tablecloths, modern French pop and dim mood lighting combine in what can only be described as swanky. While Parc offers the cartoon version of French atmosphere, Laquaix feels like the real deal, successfully balancing effortless cool with palpable disdain for your existence. You aren't good enough to eat at Laahcroix, and it looks down on you from a slight elevation.
The Burger: Lakwa's Double Smoked Bacon Burger has bacon, a maitake mushroom and horseradish spread, a brioche roll and the best name ever. It may have come with some other stuff too, but honestly I stopped writing notes and thinking in sentences after the words “double smoked bacon.”
Kyle: Well, it certainly is vertical. After an inordinately long wait, this Eiffel-inspired meat tower arrived. I paused for more than a moment to take in the structure, not really sure what to make of it. Between its oddly spherical beef to the sombrero of a bun, it's proportions are so bizarre as to be almost comical. Not in an actual humorous way, but in more of a French, Jerry Lewis-appreciating way: the joke is that you think they think its funny. Marcel Marceau was the first troll.
Beyond the modern art shape, I was immediately struck by two strong, competing smells: the first was the distinct odor of rich pork, and the second was something ephemeral that immediately made me recall our meal at Amada. This scent I quickly traced to the crunchy french fries, golden brown and heavily seasoned. Salt was a major factor, with hints of rosemary and possibly tarragon, but the most prominent flavor was cheddar. I'm not sure if there was a cheese powder sprinkled on the fries or if it was a coincidence of other converging flavors, but Larquar's fries taste almost exactly like the potato equivalent of Smart Food popcorn. They didn't last long on my plate.
Next, I needed to tackle that beautiful bacon. Black-bordered with a dark pink running through the center, it's distinct from bacon offerings at almost any other restaurant. Rather than offering glorified jerky by curing it in a salt bath, Lahwah's bacon is cured through a double-smoking process. But even in that, it stands out from most other smoked meats; it doesn't taste of hickory, mesquite or any other smoking agent. This bacon tastes like pork, strongly and exclusively. There's minimal smoke, minimal salt and no other addatives in the bite, and if you've ever had high-quality uncured ham, you know the taste. It's a rich, mouth-filling flavor that makes me want to laugh at kosher people. Bacon like this makes you realize how awful and artificial most other pork offerings are. It's not the best I've ever had (that would be Amada's), but if they offered this as an appetizer I'd order it twice: one order to eat and another order to shove down my pants.
The burger's beef is less meat patty and more meatball. It's decidedly round, more egg-shaped than anything, and sits on the sandwich like stone-balancing sculpture. After a few bites consisting of nothing but sweet brioche and tomato, I finally got to the burger which was... fine. It was overcooked, a likely side-effect of being as thick as it is wide, and a little dry. The meat is very finely ground, crumbling readily from the body, and had a comparatively mild taste next to the bacon and spread. Which makes me realize I forgot to mention the dressing, so: the mushroom-horseradish dressing contrasted with everything else on the plate, but not offensively. Predictably, the horseradish offered a sinus-clearing bite, while the maitake had a taste similar to truffle but far, far less pronounced. There was a slightly sweeter taste, and something made me write "lime" in my notebook. That something may have been bourbon.
Most of the meal at Lrqrxs was exemplary, and it's a shame that the beef was so bland. The meat wasn't in any way bad, and was definitely on the higher end of average, but that means it's still in the average realm. I'd be willing to give it another shot, ordering it rare so as to avoid overcooking, because everything else about the meal was top-notch. If nothing else, I'd be willing to pay $16 to shove bacon down my pants again.
I mean for the first time.
It wouldn't be the first time. Rating: 7/10.
Laurence: When I called Lacroix and asked about the burger I was greeted with a pronunciation correction. "Yes, you pathetic imbecile, 'La Qua' will indeed serve you a burger," the voice on the end of the line seemed to say. "Very well you snide bitch, we'll see you at 9 tonight."
I was particularly fond of the high bar for entry at "Lecroy." You must enter through the hotel and venture into the elevator just to get a seat at the bar. It keeps the riff-raff out. For example, I spent a half hour spinning in circles in Rittenhouse park screaming "me want burger!" This apparently is a familiar cry in the park and the Rouge clientele insisted I should sit with them as I seemed exceptionally educated and interesting. I declined in standard fashion by screaming, "Your face is the mad ugly face!" before Kyle found me and escorted me into Lacroix by my hair.
Things were looking up.
I have recurring dream that my apartment is Lacroix. The high ceilings, elevated bar area, and ambiance of smooth sophistication would do well to be redecorated with my collection of vintage Harry Potter posters and pictures of hot titties I found and cut out of the clothing ads in the sunday newspaper.
Then we ordered booze. You know what's bad about a blood orange old fashioned? Nothing, except the bottom of the glass which, might I add, at Lacroix is a ways down.
Sitting in the low wide chairs, half reclined and sipping a finely mixed drink, I fell into a sort of love with the restaurant. It's the kind of place that lends itself to a quiet and deep conversation. Deep in contemplation, I looked to Kyle and asked a serious question.
"Dude, what's your favorite color?"
We ordered our meals and waited for the drinks to take hold, and just chilled the fuck out.
"Chilling the fuck out" is a technical term and not to be confused with regular chillin' out. You've really got to chillin' and have some reason to chill to reach this next higher level of relaxation.
We smelled the burgers before we saw them. A subtle but flavorful aroma we were later to determine was a small bit of strong cheese grated over the fries.
The burger was exceptional in appearance. It was small in diameter but fat and, when the bun was placed on top, it resembled a man wearing a rice patty hat. This had the strange effect of making me now want to eat human heads. Ignoring that fact, the meat was superb. I examined a bite of the patty with my mouth. My mouth said "Hell yeah!" The meat was dense, packed tightly before it was cooked, but still sublimely tender. It was spiced and seared exterior flawlessly. If this burger was a chick, it would be the one who sleazy middle aged wankers loosely associated with the entertainment industry try to chat up. I told the burger that she should be a model, and that I might be able to make a few calls on her behalf if she gave me her contact info.
The bacon at Lacroix is also notable in that it is awesome. Mostly I think bacon is gross. But I do love good bacon. Unfortuanley we've all come across grease-soggy pork chewy with undercooked fat that flirts with trichinosis more than your mom flirts with the mailman. But this bacon is the kind you want to bring out to meet you friends. It's bacon of the marrying type. Thick and smokey and salty, it is almost dry, yet is not brittle. It has a tender crispness to it, and a salivation-inducing savoriness that makes you hate all those kid's movies with cute talking pigs because you have just discovered god's real plan for pigs as a species and you know that walking around alive isn't part of it.
The roll had an excellent, dark golden-brown crust and a yellow fluffy interior, with a slight sweet flavor. It almost reminded me of the good parts of a Philadelphia soft pretzel. The tomato was boldly orange, and fresh as can be. Finally, each french fry was crisp. Really and perfectly crisp. Usually I'm not a fan of this but it turns out I just don't like overdone fries. When they're crisp and good, they're great. Lightly seasoned with grated cheese, as mentioned earlier, and some vaguely green spice, they were phenomenal.
After the orgasm that this meal caused I felt another drink was in order. The waiter kindly brought us a round of Manhattans, and made them plenty strong.
Readers, please note my change of address to 210 West Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103 where I will be living on a bar stool filling my destiny. Rating: 8/10.
Lacroix is an excellent spot to stop for a drink or a burger or bacon. Especially bacon. And if you're from out of town and happen to be staying at The Rittenhouse, you can eat here and never leave the building, allowing yourself to pretend that Philadelphia actually has culture.