Philadelphia has more notoriety for a certain sandwich than fame for fine dining, but in fact, its restaurants exhibit impressive creativity and sophistication. In the past, we've enjoyed marvelous meals at the likes of Vetri and Amada, and our recent stay included a veritable parade of delicious cuisine.
Le Bec Fin — Reopened in June with French Laundry alumnus Walter Abrams in the kitchen, Philadelphia's most palatial restaurant offers an unapologetically formal dining experience almost extinct elsewhere. Jackets are required. A delicious five-course lunch tasting menu included Hudson Valley foie gras with a rich onion brioche, pickled pearl onions and tart currants; and delicate halibut with crunchy olive crumbs and delectable summer squash. Only the vol-au-vent's surprisingly tough pastry shell was a disappointment. Tel. (215) 567-1000. lebecfin.com
Talula's Garden — After garnering acclaim for tiny Talula's Table, chef Aimee Olexy opened this much larger farm-to-table restaurant on Washington Square in late 2011. Early reviews complained of fussy presentations, but we found no fault with the tender sweetbreads accompanied by sweet corn, savory tomato jam and pickled peppers, nor with the Berkshire pork chop topped with al dente runner beans and charred ripe peaches. The mouthwatering cheese menu proved impossible to resist. Tel. (215) 592-7787. talulasgarden.com
Lacroix — The Rittenhouse's gourmet restaurant has run through a number of chefs in recent years, but now that Jon Cichon has settled in, it has regained its footing. The nine-course tasting menu ranged from the amusing (a disk of tuna topped with an identically colored disk of watermelon and haricots verts) to the decadent (seared foie gras with strawberries, hearts of palm, dulce de leche and aged sherry vinegar) to the sublime (exquisite wagyu beef with sumptuous lobster raviolis, chanterelle mushrooms and a baby turnip). Tel. (215) 546-9000. lacroixrestaurant.com
Morimoto — "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto's first American restaurant continues to serve top-quality Japanese cuisine in a brightly surreal space with futuristic table lamps and color-changing booths. A light but richly flavored whitefish carpaccio paired perfectly with a glass of Morimoto's dry and fruity daiginjo sake, and a bowl of pork belly ramen in pork broth made for a comforting and substantial lunch. Tel. (215) 413-9070. morimotorestaurant.com