The service and selection are so good, there’s only nitpicking to be done.
Does that mean Madame Calmels served lush quail terrine with juniper berry and Port-pickled cabbage (course No. 2) or pan-seared foie gras kissed by jewel-cut, lime-and-clove-infused pink plum chutney and house-baked spiced pumpkin pain perdu (course No. 5)? If so, Pierre, let’s trade childhoods.
To eat Calmels’ food is to, at least momentarily, depart the bistro parameters that have lately defined (or constrained, maybe) French in Philly. Sure, Bibou is a bistro at heart—in addition to ivory scallops ringed by couscous, summer squash ribbons and frothy gold curry (course No. 4), they also serve pigs feet and escargots—but the clean presentation, precise execution and sheer élan with which Calmels cooks puts it on another level.
I still can’t quite figure out if Bibou’s plates are complicated while appearing simple, or simple while appearing complicated—and the resulting mystery is delicious. The veal medallion (course No. 6) looked familiar enough: a plump, pan-seared loin cut (Calmels does his own butchering) posed over a tangle of Tallutto’s tagliatelle. But—surprise!—chopped tomatillos nestled in the pasta, turning the dish into a minefield of tangy explosions, making each juicy bite of veal pop.
The final course followed the fireworks with cloudlike, caramel-streaked chocolate cake (Charlotte’s grandmother’s recipe) and summer peach pie. The latter is actually more of a cobbler, all succulent slices beneath a loose, crumbly crust, so that may be another valid complaint to add to the pile.
Nitpicking. After dinner at Bibou, what else can I do? ■