Restaurateurs, chefs and their public relations people aren’t known for their subtlety. Sure, it’s hard to get ahead in this crowded market if you’re not humble-bragging or constantly selling, but sometimes quiet, nose-to-the-grindstone work rises above the din.
Fine Palate falls into the second category. The haute cuisine Philly catering company just opened its first restaurant, at the Aria Building at 231 S. 15th Street, in a space that housed the abruptly closed Treemont. The showrunners of Fine Palate are quietly and slowly building credibility within the local dining community — but owner Courtney Dow and chef Vince Joseph aren’t very talkative. They let the sculptured global fare of the restaurant and the catering company (which translates in French to “Le Bec Fin”) do the heavy lifting.
“The focus of our restaurant is our guests,” says Dow. “It’s not about the owner or the chef. It’s about our collective ensemble of talented passionate people — our cooks, our bartenders, our attendants — as well as our food and drinks.”
Stopping into Fine Palate late at night and seeing the crew close out the evening was just as much like watching a family pulling tablecloths and candles off a Thanksgiving table as it was a newly bustling restaurant. Fine Palate’s bosses and their additional chefs are used to the flow: Dow has been in the hospitality business for 10 years, Joseph for 15.
Better still, the year-old company only recently finished their run at Le Bok Fin, the pop-up hot spot terrace atop the closed Edward W. Bok Technical High School in South Philadelphia. From Aug. 7 to Sept. 13, Fine Palate was the caterer for developer Scout’s vision of the (literally) high life, with Dow and Vince serving casual French fare of croque monsieur, steak tartare, Nicoise salad and such. “Le Bok Fin was fun,” notes Dow. “It provided a great medium and an expression of art.”
The tall, narrow space of Fine Palate doesn’t have the dreamy open-air ambience of Le Bok Fin, but its modern woody look is darkly romantic and subtly gilded and its mix of Japanese, Chinese and European cuisine is quietly adventurous.
The menu includes very shareable small plates: simple items such as matzo and chicken dumplings, smoked roasted eggplant, and Swordfish skewers. Then there are larger dishes even better for sharing, such as the Creekstone Farm ribeye steak with charred garlic and potato puree.