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What's shakin' at Salt & Pepper on East Passyunk

The restaurant boom on East Passyunk shows no sign of letting up.

The restaurant boom on East Passyunk shows no sign of letting up.

Back in September, Christopher Lee - who won four LaBan bells at Striped Bass, when Stephen Starr owned it - let on that he was returning to Philly. His destination: 1623 E. Passyunk Ave. - a double storefront on the block below Tasker Street that's home of the bistro Salt & Pepper.

Lee and Salt & Pepper owner Joe Massara closed the restaurant shortly before Thanksgiving to renovate the kitchen.

That was phase one. Between Dec. 22 and Dec. 27 - according to plan - they will reopen the bar and dining rooms. This will get them through New Year's.

Their project's phase two - which will require a four-week closure - is a larger-scale renovation that will include a new facade with fling-out windows and a new bar. That won't happen for a while, as they await city approvals.

In the meantime, Lee will experiment with the menu, which will be new American. The bar area will be casual and neighborhood-friendly, the upstairs dining room a bit more ambitious.

The name will be Sophia. It's not after anyone; between the sexy, '40s and '50s color palette and the choice of sexy art, they're going for a feminine feel because, as Lee says, "we want to make a woman feel happy."

Plans also include a rooftop chef's table and a deck on a rear patio adjacent to Capogiro.

Lee, the 2005 James Beard Foundation's "Rising Star Chef of the Year," also has Michelin Stars for Gilt and Aureole in NYC on his resume. More recently, he opened Huntington Social in Huntington, L.I.

Lee and Massara met at Striped Bass.

Lee will cook several days a week at Sofia. He has installed Striped Bass and Aureole alum Oris Jeffers as chef de cuisine.