The Other Critics

Birra Is ‘Well Worth Your Time’; Sbraga Exudes the Top Chef Champion’s ‘Brilliant Touch’

• Brian Freedman checks out East Passyunk Ave.’s Birra, and deems the pizza and beer joint “well worth your time.” From the gluttonous “cheesy, oozy joy” of the mac and cheese pizza ‘Birra bowl,’ — “a heaping helping of macaroni, all stringy and rich with fontina, pecorino and mozzarella, tossed with herbs and breadcrumbs, is baked in the pizza oven covered by a protective cap of dough” — to the “baseball-sized fists of veal and beef” of the meatball al forno, the dishes win over diners “by virtue of ebullience, flavor and audacity.” [PW]

• At Ela the Little Shemogues arrived at room temperature, but Adam Erace blames “execution” for putting the “brakes on the culinary thrills” rather than chef-owner Jason Cichonksi’s ideas. And although both the pork belly and the Love Stout-braised short ribs both “needed longer braises,” the flavor combinations, he says, were so “captivating” that said “execution issues fell into the background.” [Citypaper]

• Following her first visit to Top Chef champ Kevin Sbraga’s still new-ish debut, Phyllis Stein-Novack urges you “to book a table right away.” The “velvety marvel of flavors and textures” in the much hyped foie gras soup, she writes, demonstrates “Sbraga’s brilliant touch.” Sister Sandy, the picky eater, found the black cod “perfect,” but the kim chee served alongside it was “too spicy.” Lamb chops and lamb belly prepared sous vide — a first for her — “hit the mark.” And finally, a dessert of apple strudel was “about as fine as [her] grandmother’s.” [South Philly Review]

Birra Is ‘Well Worth Your Time’; Sbraga Exudes the Top Chef