A few months ago, GHo area restaurant Astral Plane was shut down by its longtime owner, the flamboyant Reed Apaghian. After 34 years in the business, it was time to move on.
But the Astral Plane was purchased by new owners: Namely ChriStevens Catering owner Christine Fischer and partner Clara Gomez. They reopened the restaurant as the Astral Plane Millenium. Then Craig LaBan stopped by to cover it for the Inquirer. He didn’t like it. We mean he really, really didn’t like it:
After a couple of dreary and overpriced meals, I really wish this kitchen would focus more on the food.
What was that viscous greenish ooze slicked across the raw scallop carpaccio? It’s just parsley and oil, it turns out. But it accentuated the fishiness of the raw shellfish, which should typically be sweet. A steaming pile of sauteed scallops in the middle of the raw ones made it even worse.
The cooked seafood wasn’t much better. A $25 entree of red snapper and shellfish served in a wax-paper bag was so overdone (in fact, the ingredients were pre-cooked before being baked together in the bag) it was like sawing through a bad banquet chicken breast. The dish was kindly removed from our bill in a proper gesture of contrition, since it was nearly inedible. But it was only the tip of Astral Plane Millenium’s cooking troubles. The menu designed by Fischer and executed by chef Gildardo Zavala is all over the place, from an Italianesque section of carpaccios and homemade pastas to Greek salad, curry and numerous Latin flavors. The Mexican-born Zavala, who worked several years in the Italian kitchens of Girasole, has the background to pull it off. But Astral Plane fails so consistently I have to wonder if the owners are paying close enough attention. There were a few highlights. The raw beef carpaccio was classically good, the rose-colored rounds of filet mignon laid on the plate like a paper flower beneath a tuft of arugula. The tuna carpaccio was also tasty and fresh, with piquant capers, olives, and sweet sun-dried tomato bits lighting it up.
It goes on like that. Mostly on the negative.