Nicholas Elmi, who dropped off the radar several months ago when he left Rittenhouse Tavern at the Art Alliance, has made two huge moves.

One is his appearance on next season's Top Chef, which premieres Oct. 2 on Bravo.

Two is the deal he just inked: He's opening a BYOB on the burgeoning East Passyunk strip, home of such hot spots as Fond, Will (about to mark its first anniversary), Le Virtu, Noord, Stateside, Izumi, and Paradiso.

Elmi is taking over the spot at 1617 E. Passyunk Ave., which was Fond before it moved around the corner into a larger space.

He's calling it Laurel, after the state flower - "and it's one of my favorite ingredients," Nick told me.

Menu will be classic and contemporary French, with entrees under $30.

"We certainly don't want to call it fine dining," said Elmi, who did a ton of that when he was chef at Le Bec-Fin. "A bunch of chefs today are redefining what fine dining is now. What it boils down to is who's going to put the best food out there and connect with our customers the best?"

The space, which Fond is still leasing, is pretty much turnkey. Elmi said he would change the furniture, paint and lighting, keeping it minimalist. He said he would remove about 10 seats from the 36-seat dining room.

Still, because of his heavy traveling schedule, he plans to hold off the opening till Nov. 5.