503 W. Lancaster Avenue
Wayne, PA 19087
(610) 964-8744

Helen Sigel Wilson declined to continue to clutter her life with the restaurant business at L'Auberge decades ago. She transferred her property to those who developed it into a gorgeous French farmhouse fairyland, for the benefit of Chef Marcel Brossette who’d just closed his La Camargue in center city.

I was the attorney privileged to obtain the new liquor license for the establishment. After a series of retiring or firing chefs, revolving themes, and the passage of a few more decades, Georges Perrier decided to make his mark at this location on the Main Line. He renovated even more spectacularly and has brilliantly combined the ingredients of meticulous attention to service details, upscale seasonal platter items, and a suburban ambiance of elegant fun.

One enters upon a hallway with walls colored of acorn- squash-orange, tippled by tapestries and grounded in ancient tiles.

To your left is a huge continental bar sporting half a dozen two-foot high taps at its middle. Beer is served in pompous Pilsner glasses that are perfectly proportioned for the longest draughts. Casually and smartly dressed diners sit at unadorned tables, semi-plush couches, or at the bar sipping magna-martinis with appropriate olives and hubris. A plasma television adds to the lack of ceremony.

To one’s right are a bevy of more formal eating areas, my favorite being the Western Wall Room. Its jagged white stones emulate the look and feel of Jerusalem’s most pious place, so much so that you believe it possible to fit bits-of-napkin prayers into its surface. The dining area is topped by a huge white yarmulke overhead. White window shutters, brown wicker chairs, and recessed lighting fixtures add simplicity and warmth. Glassware and vases are cobalt blue; fresh flowers abound.

Waitperson #1 (dressed in cobalt blue shirt and tie) comes to place a lemon slice into an empty water glass. Waitperson #2 pours water into said glass ten seconds later. In a moment, a third waitperson dressed all in black adds breadsticks, bread and creamy butter to the table, and checks to see that what #1 and #2 had done is still perfect.

#4 takes your order after having named the specials of the day.

#2 returns to remove the "show plates" (with "P" for "Perrier" emblazoned thereon, but of little other than ornamental use); and in synchronization worthy of a French Foreign Legion marching brigade, your appetizers, entrées and deserts are leisurely served. Meanwhile, managers in full suits observe all participants, intending to take seamless care of you.

The food is the fun. Inspired by Georges Perrier’s recent reflections that Main Liners aren’t as stuffy as all of their horse-and-fox-chasing prints, he’s devised, with his Executive Chef Jason Shillinglaw, a seasonally cyclical menu of delights. Superimpose Georges’ insistence on classical deeply scented Lyon sauces with Jason’s Charleston charm at grilling fish and vegetables with a South Carolina twang. A diner’s taste buds travel in circles of opulence and hospitality.

I arrive on Sunday at 6 P.M. On this day only, the restaurant is BYOB. So bring your finest champagne, French Bordeaux and/or California Chardonnay (corkage fee assessed). The restaurant is already bustling and beginning to fill.

Never miss the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake ($12) appetizer, served upon a tower of chunky avocado salad, crispy prosciutto and Micro cilantro. The latter herbs tickle your tonsils upon a festinate swallow of the avocado and crab portions, spiked by shamelessly large chunks of crustacean meat. You have to sit still until the hungry hypnagogic look on your face disappears.

Or try "Poulet Pizza" ($9) made with the thinnest see-through pie dough upon which rest smokey grilled chicken, smoked bacon, herb pesto and melted fontina cheese. The foot-round pie is enough for three, so share the joy. The heartiness, texture and taste of this "pizza" to "other pizzas" is like comparing Grace Kelly to Anna Nicole.

For entrées, the Miso-yaki Glazed Halibut ($21) has me hooked. A huge chunk of pearly white filet, seared with a crucial crust, lies motionless atop a bed of fragrant basmati rice. Gleaming snow peas bathe in ginger-scented froth. Your fork taps to break the outer layer of the fish, revealing a sweltering steaminess. A slight miso marinade is alluded to as you breathe in the aromas of ginger and buttery basmati. The halibut enters your mouth. It’s skin crackles, and surrenders folds of fresh flesh.

I will not mention Georges' Famous Cheesesteak ($10) except to say that if you're at Georges' just to have fun, request it without objection. A marvel of a thickly sliced French Bagette is smothered in silken steak, without an ounce of grizzle, fat or grease. In lieu thereof are caramelized onions, molten gruyere, Dijon mustard and an eight inch high mound of the best long French Fries you’ve ever allowed to slip between your lips. There is a Dieu!

In honor of Monsieur Perrier’s rethinking about Georges', all prices have been slashed, service upgraded, and the interior surroundings glorified and maintained. Georges' has become what L’Anberge had been: a "destination restaurant" for lunch and dinner.

Angelo Ferreira, the General Manager, a Brazilian who’d last worked at Jake’s in Manayunk, does everything, including without limitation, bringing deserts and chatting with patrons. He remembers my name from a previous visit, and remembers my portended choice of regular black coffee. I take one spoonful of the hot chocolate centered layered cake and realize what Marie Antoinette must have been hoping for.


Copyright 2004 Richard Max Bockol, Esq. Back