Laurel, the first book from Top Chef winner Nick Elmi, promises to be as engrossing and delicious as its restaurant namesake. Elmi is one of many who are devoted to making South Philly, particularly the East Passyunk area, even more of a destination than it has already become. Restaurant Laurel earned four bells from Philadelphia restaurant critic Craig Laban, one of only four restaurants in the city to earn that ranking.
Elmi started out working for the highly mercurial George Perrier at Le Bec-Fin and at Brasserie Perrier, honing top-notch skills and familiarizing himself with the very highest quality French-inspired food before later opening Restaurant Laurel (securing the lease with $5000 and a lot of tequila). While many believe that it is essentially French, Laurel is a true American restaurant with a modern feel. Elmi writes in headnotes about his suppliers, whose work colors every dish they serve, and his growing up in New Jersey. The acclaimed nine-course tasting menu that they serve at Laurel are unmatched in Philadelphia. Elmi does seasonality just right: fall brings Apple-Yuzu Consommé, Marinated Trout Roe, and Bitter Greens; winter serves up Bourbon-Glazed Grilled Lobster, Crunchy Grains, and Apple Blossom; spring is evidenced by Black Sea Bass, Peas, and Rhubarb; and summer is distilled in Marigold-Compressed Kohlrabi, Buckwheat, and Cured Egg. Each chapter is a full nine-course tasting menu with accompanying cocktail.