Laurel nabs three bells in glowing Laban review

Fresh off his $125,000 triumph on “Top Chef,” Nicholas Elmi won another tough award this weekend – three bells from the Inky’s Craig Laban for his restaurant Laurel, 1617 E. Passyunk Ave.

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Laban gushed over Laurel’s torn New Jersey scallop, ricotta gnocchi and albacore starter, which “may be the best raw tuna dish in town.” He also praised the roomy accommodations – for a matchbox BYOB, anyway – as being comfortable as the space as ever been.

There’s also a bit of an explanation for why Elmi so far has passed on cashing in with the inevitable investors that would have followed his TV glory:

Is it possible the show also gave him something more unlikely, a sort of culinary inner peace? There’s no other way to explain Elmi’s decision to take his star turn in America’s biggest chef showcase – surely a potential investor windfall – and leap into one of the least profitable situations known to restaurant-kind: a South Philly BYOB with 22 seats.

“The others [Top Chef contestants] told me I was insane. And I know it looks like I’m going in reverse. But I’m focused on what I actually want to do now,” says Elmi. “I can touch every plate, every table. The money will come later.”

With just a few minor critiques of the food, Laban seemed a breath away from giving the restaurant a fourth bell. The whole thing is worth a read, even if just to experience the food in words since it will be months before another table is available.

Elsewhere, Phoodie caught up with Elmi for a Q&A, and that’s worth a gander too. Check it out here.

And if you missed our look inside the restaurant when it opened, you can find that here.