Two high-profile, chef-driven restaurants are in their opening weeks:
, the Georges Perrier-Chris Scarduzio steakhouse bistro in the Comcast Center (enter on 17th Street between JFK Boulevard and Arch Street, 215-567-7111), started dinner last week and moves into lunch shortly.
Three-story layout: two-story-tall bar, dining rooms on two levels, and banquet space on the third. Dinner menu focuses on assorted meats in various sizes; range is $29 for a queen-cut prime rib to $75 for a 24-ounce porterhouse. Table 31 is named after the top table at the partners' Brasserie Perrier.
I think the niftiest part of T31 is outside on the JFK plaza side of the Comcast Center: The Plaza Cafe, built around a fully contained kitchen. By summer, there will be patio seating for lunch, dinner and drinks beneath a trellis and beside a fountain.
is the Philly outpost of Le Bernardin's Eric Ripert, who has his former righthand woman, Northeast Philadelphia-bred Jennifer Carroll, overseeing a French-influenced new American menu in sumptuous quarters in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton (10 S. Broad St., 215-523-8273). Dinner menu starts at $19 for a burger and heads to $34 for the filet or whole striped bass. There's major lounge potential as well as breakfast and lunch too, as this is the hotel's restaurant as The Grill will close shortly.
, a Mexican bar-lounge, is the second newcomer on the corner of 10th and Spruce in recent weeks, following
, the Greek-Cypriot BYOB from former Meze chef-owner Konstantinos Pitsillides. Azul (941 Spruce St., 215-627-5200) is owned by George Markakis, who recently sold GiGi in Old City and still owns Little John's Pizza at 21st and Cherry. He's brought in as chef Jesse R. Vega, a 22-year-old, whose heritage is Spanish, Puerto Rican and English. His resume includes Alma de Cuba, Happy Rooster and GiGi, and he says he's a graduate of the school of hard knocks.
Bright, blue-accented interior looks nothing like the space's short-lived predecessor, Sauce. There's a long, marble bar with more than 50 tequilas; a microscopic lounge space and about 40 seats for Vega's extensive menu; he recommends his habanero guacamole ($9), seared-tuna starter ($10), shrimp taco ($12), sweet potato enchilada ($8), roast salmon (with avocado-leaf-scented rice and horchata-poached lobster salad, $22) and mezcal-brined pork ($20). It's open seven days for dinner, late-night menu till 1 a.m., plus Saturdays and Sundays for brunch.
, one of the earlier entries in the Northern Liberties boom, closed just shy of five years. Owner Bob Bitros has retired and has a tenant, supposedly the crew from Royal Tavern/Cantina Los Caballitos/Khyber, expected to do a Mexican themer.
Dominique Filoni, the St. Tropez-born chef who leaped into the local food radar from his stint at Tierra (later known as Savona) in Gulph Mills and his ownership of the now-closed Bianca in Bryn Mawr, is chef at the Stephen Starr-owned
. The French bistro is due to open in the Parc Rittenhouse, 18th and Locust, on June 28.
Chef Edgar Alvarez has returned to his longtime gig at Center City's
Black Sheep Tavern
and bumped up the menu. He left a few years ago to open Delaware Market House, a specialty-foods shop in Gladwyne, but apparently missed the hustle and bustle of a busy kitchen. He's shuttling between both places.
With summer wind on the way,
Blue Eyes, A Steak and Seafood Joint
in Washington Township has opened an outside patio bar.
Apothecary Bar + Lounge
, the Center City newcomer, has opened its roof deck. It's also settled on operating hours: Tuesdays through Sundays, from 5 p.m.
, a wine-tasting room, has opened in Philadelphia International's B/C Connector, beyond security. Operator is Taste Inc. out of San Francisco, which also has locations at JFK, EWR, BWI, SEA, SMF, IAD and DTW.
in Commerce Square will close at the end of June to reconceptualize. Owner Sue Mahoney won't say what the new idea is, but hopes to reopen around Labor Day. On the other side of Commerce Square's plaza (Market Street between 20th and 21st), where a Marathon Grill was, construction of the casual Pagano's Market continues. Opening seems a few weeks off.
Some South Jersey restaurants are turning their attention to New Jersey seafood and fisheries for a two-night promotion called "Off the Hook," which means four-course, $30 prix-fixes on June 24-25. Details/participants are at
» READ MORE: www.sjoffthehook.com