Where to Go Next in Philadelphia | November 2002
Best New Restaurants
Alma de Cuba This is Cuba as it might look in a prosperous, post-Fidel era. The glowing red bar and wall- projected photos of la vida in Havana set the tone. The Nuevo Latino food—sugarcane-skewered tuna, rum-cured smoked marlin served in small taco shells made of malanga, a root vegetable—comes courtesy of New York superchef Douglas Rodriguez, who teams up with Stephen Starr, one of the city's most prolific restaurateurs (1623 Walnut St.; 215-988-1799).
Morimoto The pyrotechnic cuisine of Masaharu Morimoto gets the theatrical setting it deserves from hotshot designer Karim Rashid. With his first restaurant project, Rashid goes for a dazzling effect: wavy walls, an undulating ceiling. In partnership with, yes, Stephen Starr, Morimoto lives up to his pedigree as an ex—Iron Chef and Nobu acolyte, with such New Japanese combinations as 10-hour-braised pork belly with hot rice porridge, an addictive rock-shrimp tempura with a red chile—miso aioli, and Nobu-inspired oil-seared sashimi (723 Chestnut St.; 215-413-9070).
Pif The menu really is market-driven at this cozy BYO in South Philly, just steps from the open-air Italian Market, where fast-talking greengrocers and fishmongers warm their hands over trash-can fires. The small menu changes daily, and the perfectly executed bistro classics—frog's legs, duck breast with frisée—have made a cult destination of chef-owner David Ansill's spare but charming spot (1009 S. 8th St.; 215-625-2923).
Pigalle For years, the homesteading artists and adventurous young professionals in edgy, industrial Northern Liberties have been waiting for it to fulfill its destiny as the Next Big Neighborhood. The area moves another step closer with Pigalle, its first fine-dining restaurant. Chef Stuart Pellegrino, whose stellar pedigree includes cooking stints at top Philadelphia restaurants Opus 251, Rouge and Susanna Foo, presents a menu of contemporary, seasonally inspired bistro creations (702—704 N. 2nd St.; 215-627-7772).
Jones A comfort-food menu may sound a bit humdrum for a Stephen Starr venue, but skilled chef Adam Delosso elevates stalwarts like fried chicken with waffles and brisket with root vegetables. Set in a campy, '50s-modern dining room that could have been designed for the Brady Bunch, Jones marks a retro turn for the normally futuristic Starr (700 Chestnut St.; 215-223-5663).
Liveliest Bar Scene
Lounge 20 In keeping with the sleek, ebonized look of Twenty Manning, her Rittenhouse Square New American restaurant, owner Audrey Claire Taichman has just retooled a back corner of the space into a sophisticated lounge with upholstered cubes and canoodle-friendly banquettes (261 S. 20th St.; 215-731-0900).
Trust At this funky new downtown restaurant, cofounded by Guillermo Pernot (an F&W Best New Chef 1998), the convivial round bar is the star attraction. Pass around chef Matthew Spector's flavorful tapas, like gambas ajillo and bacalao croquettes, and choose from among the 18 beers on tap (121—127 S. 13th St.; 215-629-1300).
Too Soon To Review
Salt A few months spent in Le Bec-Fin's kitchen, taking pictures for Georges Perrier's cookbook, inspired photographer David Fields to open a restaurant. With its refined French menu, Salt is off to a promising start. Scallops with salsify in lobster—sea urchin sauce and striped bass with pig's-trotter ravioli are among chef Vernon Morales's offerings (253 S. 20th St.; 215-545-1990).
Lacroix at The Rittenhouse Less than a year after Jean-Marie Lacroix retired as chef at The Fountain in the Four Seasons Hotel, he's back in the kitchen, energized by the chance to create his own restaurant. This time it's at rival hotel The Rittenhouse, where Lacroix's haute menu includes a chilled picholine-olive soup and a skate-wing "T-bone" (210 W. Rittenhouse Sq.; 215-790-2533).