We dropped by Stephen Starr's newish French Bistro, Parc, on Rittenhouse Square one late afternoon before the dinner crowd filled the sidewalk tables, and easily snagged a seat front and center under the awnings and heat lamps.
I'm no Francophile, and have never been to Paris, so I can't comment on the oh-my-god-the-French-bistro-details-are-dead-on interior design of the establishment that has impressed so many. It's nice inside, if not a little too large so that the details are lost on non-Francophiles, or those with blurred vision.
Parc's menu is limited in terms of vegetarian options, and even those that seem vegetarian are not (mac and cheese is out). I really wanted a cup of cheesy onion soup, but was told it was not vegetarian. I asked for a run down of what was vegetarian, or could be made vegetarian. Our server pointed out the spinach ravioli, the onion tart, a couple of the salads (but not all salads), and a few vegetable sides (but not all sides) from the lunch and dinner menus that are or could be made vegetarian. Slim pickin's.Complimentary bread and butter.The beet salad comes with a mound of frissee dressed with a blue cheese and walnut vinaigrette corralled by beets. Simple and tasty.The tart was made vegetarian in the kitchen with the omission of anchovies that normally top this onion, goat cheese, and olive puff pastry appetizer. The sweet onions spread across the flaky pastry were caramelized to the point of jam, and was very good, but the olives seemed a bit out of place without their anchovies. Dishes often fall a little short, or have you scratching your head as to why that ingredient was included when altered to accommodate vegetarians. Not Parc's fault, but mine for altering the classic combination.The boy had the bronzino with fingerling potatoes and fennel salad. He enjoyed.For dessert, I had the profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. Mmm!The boy had the chocolate pot de creme instead of the chocolate mousse in an attempt to fill up, but later decided that the pot de creme was too rich and heavy to finish. Should have gotten the lighter mousse. He loved the bitter, chocolate wafer that accompanied the pot de creme.
Like all of Stephen Starr's restaurants, the food is good (at least what I can eat), but nothing earth shattering. Everything I ordered -- beet salad, onion tart, and profiteroles -- are foods that I really enjoy.
Food at Parc is on the small and expensive side, but nothing beyond similar high end restaurants in Philly. And the people watching is exceptional, if you can snag a street side or window table.
Seeing as how there are not a lot of veggie options at Parc for lunch and dinner, if I return it will probably be for dessert and a little peep peepin'. But, really, grabbing a pastry from a bakery and sitting in the park across the street is more my style. Cheaper, too.
Parc also serves breakfast during the week.
227 S. 18th St., Philadelphia, PA, 19103