Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Where to find the best sushi | Let’s Eat

Also: Where to enjoy Oktoberfest, a new location for Kalaya, and major gluten-free news.

Sam Lin, owner and chef of Sakana, torching fish at his counter in Queen Village.
Sam Lin, owner and chef of Sakana, torching fish at his counter in Queen Village.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

This is how we roll: Today’s report rounds up our area’s best sushi and Oktoberfest activities, and we offer a slate of food news, including a new soul food-er at Reading Terminal Market, a new Chinese bar-restaurant on the Main Line, a gluten-free bakery of note, and word of a new location for the James Beard-nominated Thai restaurant Kalaya.

If you need food news, click here and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. Email tips, suggestions, and questions here. If someone forwarded you this newsletter and you like what you’re reading, sign up here to get it free every week.

Michael Klein

Sushi to please any Philly a-fish-ianado

Whether you’re looking for a splurgy omakase or a quick roll with a beer, contributor Maddy Sweitzer-Lamme presents our favorite spots for sushi across the city and suburbs.

Hey, sushi fans. Two bits of intel: I hear that Jesse Ito will be resuming his celebrated omakase experiences shortly in a newly decorated setting at Royal Sushi and Izakaya. And the team from Nom Nom Ramen is opening an underground izayaka this fall just off Washington Square at 727 Walnut St. (formerly Six Feet Under). Coming off last week’s opening of Kevin Yanaga’s izakaya, this town is on a roll.

Where to celebrate Oktoberfest

September means fall, pumpkin season, and beer-fueled Oktoberfest celebrations throughout the Philly region. Colleagues Jillian Wilson and Nick Vadala have tapped into the plans of local breweries, neighborhoods, and beer bars celebrating the German tradition of Oktoberfest, and they put together a comprehensive Oktoberfest round-up.

A warm Philly welcome to Afghan families

Colleague Jenn Ladd tells the heartwarming story of how a crew of Philly restaurants and volunteers came together in a flash to feed Afghan evacuees at Philadelphia International Airport. An 8 p.m. message set the project in motion, Jenn writes. “It’s the only group text I’ve ever been in that I haven’t hated,” said one of the organizers of the frenzied effort.

Fishtown shop agrees to pay back wages and damages

The operators of Fishtown’s Bottle Bar East have agreed to pay 73 workers back wages totaling $246,458, plus an equal amount in damages, after federal investigators found that the bar-retailer had violated multiple requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, as Jenn explains.

This restaurant owner is $2 million in the hole

“I have done everything I can to keep my business afloat during the past year and a half,” writes Jon Myerow, an owner of the Tria Cafe, in an Inquirer op-ed about the plight of restaurants right now. “The situation for our industry is far more dire now than it was at the beginning of the pandemic. We cannot endure another revenue downturn. I have borrowed nearly $2 million to get us through the pandemic, to keep our staff employed and our doors open. Some of this debt is being forgiven, but most is not. I cannot saddle this business with any additional debt, and the threat of a slow winter is terrifying.” The government needs to step up with more relief, he says. Real talk.

Kalaya is opening a second location

In the week’s big restaurant news: Kalaya Thai Kitchen, the James Beard-nominated Thai BYOB in South Philadelphia, plans to open a second location in summer 2022 in Fishtown. Owner Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon will be working with Greg Root, chef Nick Kennedy, and Al Lucas, the partners from Defined Hospitality (Suraya, Pizzeria Beddia, R&D Cocktail Bar, and Condesa/El Techo). It will have outdoor seating and a bar, so you can Thai one on.

Meanwhile, Kalaya has temporarily shut its market, a block from the Ninth Street restaurant, citing staffing issues.

Restaurant report

Eight months after the death of soul-food giant KeVen Parker, the homey, Southern-style cuisine returns to Reading Terminal Market on Thursday, Sept. 9 with the soft opening of Ma Lessie’s Chicken & Waffles. Perry Ison, a longtime Parker manager, teamed up with cousin Stacy McCarthy. Expect fried and baked chicken wings, collard greens, smoked turkey, and peach cobbler, as well as classic, fruit-infused, and savory waffles. Can’t decide? You’re waffling.

Ardmore’s Suburban Square now has a location of DanDan, the polished Sichuan-Taiwanese bar-restaurant that launched near Rittenhouse Square in 2015 and expanded two years later to Wayne. Cat and Kevin Huang are set up next door to Lola’s Garden (the Parlor and St. James space) in Parking Plaza with an indoor-outdoor bar and contemporary dining room. It’s in soft-opening phase (open for walk-ins for lunch and dinner daily; as such, some features (such as lunch specials) will be limited until the Sept. 18 grand opening.

Big news for the region’s gluten-free community as A&A Soft Pretzels has opened a dedicated gf bakery in at 511 White Horse Pike in Oaklyn. (Anthony Panara and family are bringing in non-gluten-free baked goods from the Camden shop to supplement the offerings.) “The pretzels are actually amazing.” said Michael Savett, who runs the invaluable Gluten Free Philly site. Hours: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday.

Briefly noted

Chef Reuben Harley, now cooking out of Pitchers Pub in Manayunk, starts a brunch collab with the neighboring Pizza Jawn (4330 Main St.). Offered only on Sunday Eagles away-game days (because Jawn’s David Lee has tickets at the Linc), they’re baking a 16-inch square grandma pizza with everything-bagel crust, topped with whipped ricotta scrambled eggs and turkey sage sausage, and drizzled with Rube’s “baby mama” sauce. Thirty bucks a throw. Preorders only via web form.

Joe Cicala at Cicala at the Divine Lorraine is celebrating his second-place finishes in both the Northeast Division and the Neapolitan Division at the recent International Pizza Challenge in Las Vegas with a pizza pop-up Sunday, Sept. 12. It runs 11 a.m.-3 p.m., with lunch reservations available through OpenTable or the website; to-go pies will be available. As for his Vegas story: He made the dough in Philadelphia and put it in an insulated backpack for the flight. (TSA unwrapped it for testing.) He also brought out fresh mozzarella from Claudio’s, San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil from Sicily, and 00 flour.

Evil Genius Beer Co. and Sheetz (the convenience chain second to Wawa) have done a beer collab. It’s a vanilla cappuccino beer dubbed Project Vanilla Shteam Machine, and it’s sold at Sheetz stores as well as Evil Genius’ Lab in Fishtown.

Hop Sing Laundromat, the speakeasy-style bar in Chinatown, reopens Thursday, Sept. 9 for the first time since March 14, 2020. Among the changes at Hop Sing: Parties are limited to four people and not only is proof of vaccination required, management needs to see actual cards. If you’re one of 4,857 people on HSL’s banned list, you won’t get in. The owner Lê puts the bar in bars, all right.