Happy Wednesday. A sushi chef who’s plied his trade around the region has opened his own spot in Ambler, and it’s a hit. Also this week, I check the Vietnamese scene in Narberth and find a sleeper of a pizzeria in Wissahickon, up the hill from Manayunk. Critic Craig LaBan is here to recommend bagels 'round here.
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Not to sell the sushi short. The chirashi, for example, starts with toro. In addition to dumplings, and skewers, he and crew turn out modest-priced Japanese-inspired kitchen dishes such as duck confit shumai, Patagonian toothfish (as in, Chilean sea bass), Snake River kobe beef tataki with foie gras and black truffle, PEI miso mussels, and short-rib empanada. Figure on $35 a head.
“Hatsu” means “new beginning,” which this restaurant is for Kim, 43, whose resume includes Morimoto, Nobu in San Diego, and most recently Yanako in Manayunk and Osaka in Chestnut Hill. He’s partnered with Frank Lott, whose restaurant-construction company did the build-out. Kim calls the look “modern farmhouse meets industrial chic.”
Sushi bar gives you great access to peeks at the cooks hustling in the open kitchen. Tip: Snag a reservation on Resy.com, or opt for takeout (starts next week). Lunch will start in a few weeks.
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
Butcher’s Smokehouse | Washington Square West
Fast-casual BBQ at 1221 Walnut St. opens July 1.
Inchin’s Bamboo Garden | Rittenhouse
Indo-Chinese fusion spot at 1726 Chestnut St. sets opening for July 1.
Jet Wine Garden | South Street West
July 4 is the debut of a wine garden next door to Jet Wine Bar, at 1525 South St. Hours are 4-10 p.m. Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday, noon-11 p.m. Saturday, and noon-9 p.m. Sunday.
Amis Trattoria | Washington Square West
Marc Vetri-founded Italian, owned by Urban Outfitters, has ended its nine-year run.
Russet | Center City
Andrew and Kristin Wood’s American BYOB wraps up June 30.
Fountain Porter, 10th and Tasker Streets, 5-7 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
At Fountain Porter, a block off the Passyunk Avenue strip, the happy-hour deal is simply $1.50 off drafts from the already-well-priced list that includes such gems as Oude Tart and Half Acre Volo. Sounds ho-hum, right?
But paired with a burger (the only thing on the menu besides the superb fries), it’s a real value. The $5 cheeseburger is a 5-ounce patty, sizzled to a thin crust and topped simply with American cheese and a slice of tomato, and served on a potato roll with two pickle chips on the side. Also worth a trip past your bicuspids is its vegan counterpart, the tempeh beet burger ($6), served on a crispy baguette from the nearby Artisan Boulanger Patissier.
Pholosophy, 226 Haverford Ave., Narberth
Pho-ever Yours, 106 N. Essex Ave., Narberth
Notice the boom in Vietnamese restaurants in the Lower Merion area — or is that now Pho-er Merion? Next door in Narberth, two fine BYOBs compete less than a block apart, dipping into the book of pho puns for their names.
The homespun Pho-ever Yours, owned by two career-changing scientists, replaced a catering kitchen on Essex Avenue in 2017, while the sleek Pholosophy, whose owners have a piece of the Pho Ha Saigon restaurants in Northeast Philadelphia and South Philadelphia, opened on Haverford Avenue three months ago.
Pho-ever Yours’ hits include bun bo hue (the spicy beef noodle soup — especially on a hot day); bun dac biet (spring roll, rice vermicelli and grilled shrimp, beef, or pork atop shredded lettuce, bean sprouts, cucumbers, and cilantro), and summer rolls, whose grilled shrimp was a surprise.
At Pholosophy, groove on the banh mi, the tart-sweet lotus root salad (goi ngo sen), and tamarind chicken wings.
Pick a favorite? Nope. That’s pho you to decide.
Pholosophy’s hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Monday. Closed Tuesday.
Pho-ever Yours’ hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
A Tutti, 5154 Ridge Ave.
Paul Marrone, who grew up in the family that’s owned Marrone’s Pizzeria in Ardmore since 1946, did a little bit of this and a little bit of that over the years, mainly managing nightclubs in Las Vegas and L.A. Last year, after crossing 50, he came home and went the solo route, rehabbing a pizzeria in Wissahickon into a homey trattoria with hanging lights, photos from Italy, and (though it is a BYOB) a bar with TVs tuned to sports.
Marrone keeps A Tutti’s menu uncomplicated: Pizza, his own pasta (served with focaccia), salads and a few antipasti, and panini on house-baked bread, plus coffee. He bills his puffy-edged pizza, which comes out of a gas oven retrofitted to bake at high temps, as Neapolitan. Not quite. While he keeps the pies’ edges airy, the bottom crust is sturdier than the norm. But that crust needs all the heft it can get to support the generous toppings. Try the tre carne, which for $16 for a “16-inch-ish” pie was full of pepperoni, prosciutto, and sausage, plus mushrooms and black olives, maybe with an order of the fettuccine with meatballs from his mother’s recipe ($12), or maybe just simple cacia e pepe ($12), chased with an espresso.
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, noon-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday (pizzas and salads only before 4 p.m.). Closed Tuesday.
Who you calling ugly? Misshapen fruits and veggies are becoming big business.
Trick out your garden and learn how to grow ginger, papaya and pineapple from food scraps.