A pair of glowing reviews has given a big boost to Townsend, the newest fine-dining addition to the Passyunk restaurant boom.
The Inquirer’s Craig Laban gave chef Townsend Wentz’s unapologetically French reboot of the former Sophia’s and Salt and Pepper a stellar three-bell review. And Trey Popp of Philadelphia magazine lauded it with three of four stars.
Laban particularly was as pleased with the restaurant’s embrace of fine-dining touches — actual table cloths! — as he was the refined cuisine coming from the kitchen. He says:
Escargot? Rabbit pot-au-feu? Foie gras mousse? They’re served here with such understated and confident elegance that the cooking feels only vaguely retro, though refreshingly so against the context of Philly’s hottest dining strip. . . . The focus at Townsend is on crisp techniques and clear flavors that pay homage to prime ingredients with finesse rather than high-concept tricks: “I’ve seen the wheel reinvented, and it wasn’t that good,” Wentz says. “We’re doing the old wheel.”
And Popp was as tickled by the booze as the food:
But there’s nothing stodgy about this warm place. Classic jazz veers toward Wilco and War on Drugs as the evening progresses. Behind that refinished bar, Keith Raimondi’s cocktails and Lauren Harris’s kegged wines attract a copacetic drinking crowd. Some come for the old-time comfort of a Pimm’s Cup zinged with real ginger, others for the Le Demon Rouge—in which tequila and Thai bitters energize Byrrh, a French aperitif back on American liquor shelves after a 50-year absence.
For the full reviews, find Laban’s here and Popp’s here. And for a bit of context, you can read their divergent opinions on their $600 meals at Volver, the new Kimmel Center showpiece of celebrity chef Jose Garces. Popp found much more to love than Laban did.
That both reviewers agreed on so much at Townsend is quite a good sign.
If you still haven’t been inside, check out our First Pics of the place from back in May.