Critics weigh in on the Top Chef winner's new restaurant Laurel.

on Feb 13 - The Dish

It’s one thing to rise as the victor of a nail-bitingly close season of Top Chef. It’s another to score one of the most glowing restaurant reviews from the de facto foodie authority in your respective city, and that’s exactly what happened to Nicholas Elmi.

Craig LeBan, the respected critic at the Philadelphia Inquirer, dished heartily on Laurel, Nick’s small, South Philly venture. The culinary authority salivated over everything from the gnocchi ("ethereal") to the caramelized white chocolate pudding, which he called "an undeniably delicious bowl of complementing textures." (It's the dish Nick served in the season finale.)

LeBan is a tough critic—"I'm as cynical as it gets when it comes to TV cooking competitions, which rarely guarantee a great real-world restaurant experience," he writes in his review, published last week—but that didn’t stop him from paying Nick considerable compliments. Laurel’s a bit of a bear as far as restaurants are concerned given its location and the fact that it only seats 22 people, yet LeBan was so delighted by the food and the personal vibe that Nick’s cuisine won him over one dish at a time.

"Elmi, repeatedly humbled on the show with criticism that he overthinks and under-seasons his food, actually seems to have matured on the plate," he notes. "And his food is still intricate. But he's shed the previous clutter of a few unnecessary garnishes per dish, and his compositions now resonate with a focus on good ingredients rendered with distinctive pairings and pristine modern technique." 

Between the "panna cotta" (that we’d totally have seconds of ourselves), the cozy accommodations and the care Nick’s putting into his food, it’s no wonder that LeBan fell in love with Laurel.

Have you stopped by Nick’s restaurant in South Philly yet? Which items on the menu are you dying to try? Let us know in the comments. 

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