With a soft ambiance, and jewel blue walls all around, June BYOB is the latest French restaurant to join East Passyunk, South Philly’s restaurant row. Chef Richard Cusack opened the 28–seat establishment in late August, replacing a previous French BYOB in the same location. Cusack, named as “a chef with sterling credentials” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, has worked at classic Philly restaurants such as the Dandelion and Parc, and even spent some time working as Sixers star Joel Embiid’s private chef.
June BYOB serves an à la carte menu on Wednesday through Saturday nights, and a $50 tasting menu with four courses and an amuse–bouche on Sunday nights. However, it’s not the items on the menu that should bring you to June BYOB, but the skill and care of its chef, as well as an interest in what new fare he has cooked up since you were last there.
According to Cusack, the specials at June BYOB can change weekly or daily, depending on what’s good at the market that day or what unique supplies he has ordered. The desserts change, too—creme brûlées one day, and crêpes suzette on another. In fact, even though a regular menu is posted on their website, its items can change or rotate every month based on popularity, seasonal supplies, or simply the chef’s desire to make something new.
In order to get a taste of what you can expect from June BYOB, we recommend the tasting menu on Sundays, which includes both regular menu items and unexpected specials. While the same dishes may not be offered every time, certain themes run through the restaurant’s offerings.
The dinner began with a classic baguette and butter, but resist the temptation to gorge yourself on these. Then, an amuse–bouche of arctic char tartare, apple, cucumber, and radish certainly amused my mouth with its mix of refreshing ingredients and excited my eyes with its inviting, green look. It also aptly presented the chef’s style for the upcoming courses—unique combinations that work well together in delightful presentation.
The appetizer, pasta, and entrée courses for the tasting menu always consist of two choices—fish and poultry. For our Sunday visit, the appetizer course included a hamachi wrapped in Japanese cedar paper, fired and prepared tableside—causing a delicious, smokey scent to waft over the table.
The two pastas—a crab cavatelli with corn supreme sauce, and rabbit ragu with chanterelle mushrooms—appealed to different tastes. While the slightly more traditional rabbit melted in my mouth with the mushroom, the crab—working with the sweet corn—felt a bit unexpected. The entrées also vary between traditional and experimental. The scallops made for a solid combo with the lobster sauce, while the chicken ballotine included some pumpkin for a touch of sweetness.
The highlight of the night, though, came from one of the specials: spaghetti alla chitarra with Osetra caviar, clam broth, bread crumbs, and a bit of Japanese lemon. It was the perfect representation of how June BYOB mixes classic and contemporary French cuisine. The lemon’s minute zestiness cut through the mineral taste of the caviar, making for a fresh and exciting dish.
Lastly, it would not be a complete French meal without cheese. In addition to the dessert course in the tasting menu, an additional $10 cheese course offers a choice between two of June BYOB’s evolving cheese selections, or the champagne special. The latter of the two, because of its popularity, may be staying on the menu for a while. Champagne is poured tableside into a soft Langres cheese that’s been cut open, which you can then apply on bread, or sample with jams or grapes. The taste and texture of the bubbly came on at the beginning, but soon faded away, leaving a complementary fragrance. If you are a fan of champagne, cheese, or just fun and unique dishes, the additional charge may be worth it.
As a French eatery, June BYOB is always evolving. A good batch of brussels sprouts may prompt a tweak in the menu, or the chef himself may be struck by inspiration. However, if the range and quality of the tasting menu is any proof, June BYOB and Cusack will continuously offer up well–curated, well–displayed foods. So our advice: try out the tasting menu. Bring a date to marvel together at the tableside preparations, or bring your family for an upscale, but comfortable, meal. And if you like what you eat, you can return and trust the chef.
TL;DR: Unique mixes within French cuisine, and always updating its offerings.
Location: 1911 E. Passyunk Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19148
Hours: Wed–Sat: 5–10 p.m., Sun: 5–9 p.m.