Christopher Kearse's Will among Eateries at East Passyunk Restaurant Week

Parisian gnocchi by Chef Christopher Kearse at Will in Philadelphia
Parisian gnocchi by Chef Christopher Kearse at Will

When East Passyunk Restaurant Week returns to South Philly, February 23 through March 1, twenty-four of the avenue's eateries will offer menus at value prices: three-course meals from $15 to $35. East Passyunk Avenue is known for culinary diversity – everything from Scandinavian (Noord) to Italian (Le Virtu) to Japanese (Izumi). It is also known for being the home of Chef Christopher Kearse and his BYOB restaurant Will, where he presents French-inspired dishes rooted in tradition, but modern in execution.

Chef Christopher Kearse, who was recently nominated as Rising Star Chef for the 2014 James Beard Awards, works with seasonal, fresh ingredients, and every item on his menu reflects his unique vision and exceptional technique. A.D. (my husband) and I are both enthusiastic eaters who've been covering food for years, but every time we visit Will there are foods on the menu we’ve either never had before, or never had prepared in the combinations Kearse composes. Last week, we had the opportunity to preview Will's East Passyunk Restaurant Week menu for 2014.

Chestnut and Parsnip Soup at Will in Philadelphia, PA
Chestnut and Parsnip Soup at Will
Chestnut and Parsnip Soup with Rye Crumble, Onion Confiture and Cider Emulsion
When Will opened in August of 2012, the first thing I tasted was the corn velouté. It was at that point I determined that no-one makes better soup than Christopher Kearse, and the Chestnut and Parsnip soup on Will's Restaurant Week menu re-confirms that. The velvety chestnut and parsnip broth is poured over the onion and rye bread, then topped with a foamy cider emulsion and smear of black garlic paste on the bowl's rim. The combined elements are a marvel of creamy, tangy texture.

Whole Roasted Hen of the Woods Mushroom at Will
Hen of the Woods Mushroom at Will
Whole Roasted Hen of the Woods Mushroom with Ricotta, Madeira and Petite Herbs
Hen of the Woods are large, woodland mushrooms, and we enjoy them on regular basis when they're available in our area, so I was curious to see how they would be served at Will. They arrived artfully arranged (Kearse makes the prettiest food I've ever seen), with the generous portion of mushroom partnered with apple smoked ricotta (done in house) and herbs with a hint of Madeira wine.

Parisian Gnocchi at Will in Philadelphia PA
Parisian Gnocchi at Will
Parisian Gnocchi with Shiitake Mushroom, Broccoli, Curds and Whey
Parisian gnocchi is similar in shape to Italian gnocchi, but very different in flavor and texture. Instead of being made with potato dough like its Italian counterpart, Parisian gnocchi is made with pâte à choux, the same dough used for making profiteroles and éclairs. The result is a pillow of gnocchi that actually does melt in your mouth, and when combined with broccoli puree and crunchy vegetables, it's fascinating array of textures.

Cobia with Black Trumpet Mushroom and Chickpea Panisse at Will
Cobia at Will
Cobia with Black Trumpet Mushroom, Chickpea Panisse, Meyer Lemon Hash and Lobster Bouillon
This was my first time eating cobia (a marine fish that looks like a shark), and it was a real treat. The fish was firm, flaky, tender, and buttery, the Meyer lemon was citrusy but not sour, and the playful poof of chickpea panisse made me laugh out loud. That's one of the things I love about Kearse's food; it often elicits an emotional response, and watching people react as they experience the different textures and flavors is part of the fun.

72 Hour Beef Rib Steak at Will in Philadelphia, PA
72 Hour Beef Rib Steak at Will
72 Hour Beef Rib Steak with Parsnip Crème, Glazed Salsify and Pumpkin
Will's 72-Hour Beef Rib Steak is perfectly cooked, sumptuously seasoned, and absolutely tender with just a sliver of fat on the edge. The pickled pumpkin balls were crisp and tart, and gave the dish snap. If you like root vegetables, you'll be happy to see the salsify served with this dish.

Almond Financier at Will in Philadelphia, PA
Almond Financier at Will
Almond Financier with Roasted Banana Ice Cream, Black Sesame Buttercream, Pineapple
I am big fan of the Financier, a traditional French cake made with almond flour and brown butter, so this was a perfect ending for a perfect meal. Will's Financier was moist, rich, and not overly sweet. I ate it as slow as I could to savor every last bite. For those who prefer chocolate desserts, Will's East Passyunk Restaurant Week menu also offers a delectable Soft Chocolate Ganache with Hazelnut, Vietnamese Coffee and Blood Orange.

In addition to the East Passyunk Restaurant menu, Will BYOB (1911 East Passyunk Avenue, Phila PA, 215.271.7683) offers several special menus per month, including Sunday Prix Fixe dinners, and on the third Tuesday of every month, Tuesday Tasting menus. Will BYOB is an intimate room (around 30 seats) so be sure to make your reservations early. For hours and more info, visit

Along with its acclaimed restaurants, East Passyunk Avenue is popular for its trendy shops, festivals and community activities. For more information about upcoming events and a full list of eateries participating in East Passyunk Restaurant Week, stop by

Food photos ©Glamorosi 2014, all rights reserved

Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2014