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Restaurant notes: Lobster rolls in Rittenhouse; new Chinatown choices

Luke Holder of Luke's Lobster, visiting his new location in Philadelphia.
Luke Holder of Luke's Lobster, visiting his new location in Philadelphia.Read moreMICHAEL KLEIN /

 Luke's Lobster, a quick-growing quick-serve founded by 28-year-old Maine lobsterman Luke Holden, has opened its first Philadelphia shop in the subterranean space that was Bonte waffles at 130 S. 17th St. (215-564-1415).

The look is Down East: wood-clad walls, wooden picnic tables, corrugated steel ceiling, sailor's knots.

It's counter service, with an almost ridiculously simple menu of lobster roll ($15), crab roll ($12) and shrimp roll ($8) - each built upon a butter-grilled split-top Country Kitchen roll, plus a chips, a couple of chowders and bisques, craw claws, a dessert called The Blue Monster (Gifford's of Maine's Blueberry ice cream sandwiched between two large, homemade chocolate chip cookies); and Maine Root soda.

There are six Luke's in New York, two in Washington, D.C., one in Bethesda, Md., and one on the way in Brooklyn.

Timing is everything. The impending closing of Le Bec Fin is going to work out beautifully for Steven Eckerd, the Walnut Street restaurant's current chef de cuisine.

Eckerd will join the team reviving the Mainland Inn, off the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Lansdale exit in Harleysville, and he would have been leaving LBF anyway. He was sous chef under Walter Abrams when Abrams and Nicolas Fanucci reopened LBF last summer and was promoted after Abrams bowed out.

The Mainland closed in 2010 and was purchased at sheriff's sale by Sloane Six and Scott Clemens, who own the nearby Quarry Hill Farm, where Eckerd has been its agricultural architect for the last year.

So with this tie, the Mainland will completely redefine "farm to table" when it reopens in September. Eckerd's farm work also has given him unique access to many other nearby farmers and purveyors.

"It'll still be fine dining, but it'll be in a setting that will have a little more of a purpose than just the fine-dining experience itself," said Eckerd, an Etters, Pa.-born Culinary Institute of America graduate who trained under Francois Bruel and Eddy Leroux at Daniel in New York. He also worked at Osteria and Vetri.

New owner Nabin Chhantyal, former chef/owner of Aman's Indian Cuisine in East Norriton, has a new chef, Jagmeet "Happy" Singh, formerly of Spice Kitchen in Trooper.

The men have maintained the breakfast and lunch diner menus. In addition, the Indian lunch will be a daily $9.95 prix-fixe menu with a choice of appetizer or soup and a main course, lentils, rice and Naan (a vegetarian option also offered).

Chinatown newcomers. Cuisine unique to the western Chinese city of Xi'an is the specialty at Xi'an Famous Food (902 Arch St., 215-925-1988. No relation to the plural Xi'an Famous Foods in New York City. ... Kenny Poon, whose holdings include the casual Tea-Do bubble tea bar/dim summery in Chinatown, is behind a slick-looking, bilevel noodle bar/karaoke lounge called Tango (1021 Arch St., 215-519-8888).

Vedge chef on Chopped. Rich Landau of the Locust Street destination Vedge, arguably the city's best-known vegan chef, turns up June 18 at 10 p.m. on the Food Network competition show Chopped. He faces three omnivoricious chefs, but note that tempeh was one of the myster ingredients.

Start-up on the way. Rittenhouse will be getting a fast-casual start-up called Wokworks, which its founders describe as a modern Asian food shop: "natural, tasty, and fun." The idea: Start with a base (noodles, rice, quinoa), choose your "favorites" (pork belly, rock shrimp, asparagus, etc.), add a sauce (wild mushroom umami, coconut curry, etc.), and watch the wok chefs go to it. Likely location is 1925 Chestnut St., last Pure Tacos.

Closings. Tria Wine Room, which opened as Biba in October 2010 at University City's Left Bank at 3131 Walnut St., has closed as owner Jon Myerow is shifting its liquor license to 2005 Walnut St., where he and partners expect to open Tria Taproom this summer. ... District 611 - the lively, city-cool bistro in Riverton, N.J. - has closed after less than six months. Partners are looking to relocate to a town that allows liquor sales.