Adsum Shuffle: Meet the New Boss

That delicious looking plate there? That’s poutine, as envisioned by Matt Levin at Adsum–the Canadian drunk-ass comfort food of french fries, gravy and cheese curds jacked up with duck fat, a massive slab of seared foie gras and bacon lardons.

Levin was also the man behind the (brief) madness for sliders mounted on Tastykakes–a bit of high-tone gourmet junk food that had slashfood and the Huffington Post calling. He got a nice bit of national ink for that little trick, but his menu at Adsum has always been full of crap/haute juxtapositions and strange diversions. Really, that’s how he made his name–offering food that was so over-the-top, so addictively weird, so bad-for-your-body-but-good-for-your-spirit that it couldn’t help but bore its way into the Philly food consciousness.

And a few days ago, chef Matt Levin announced that he was going to be leaving Adsum.

Kinda.

“Matt Levin is still very much involved. He’ll still be here to give us inspiration.”

That was the word from former Adsum sous and newly-minted chef de cuisine Rah Shabazz–the man that Levin chose to move into his space on the line when the news broke that he was going to be stepping back (but not away) from the kitchen at Adsum. Shabazz has been at Adsum since day one, has been Levin’s sous and right-hand man since July of last year–leaving his former post at Alma de Cuba (and a multi-year run as a Starr devotee, doing time at Washington Square and Continental Midtown as well) on July 4 and walking straight into Levin’s kitchen the next morning. And now he is The Man–bossing the line, running the crew and overseeing the menu.

“He [Levin] has given me free reign to try things at my leisure,” Shabazz told me when I got him on the phone this morning. But he also insisted that, at least for the time being, he’s not going to be changing much at all. “A little simpler,” he told me. “A little lighter.” But really, that’s it.

Shabazz explained that even though Levin has split with his Adsum partner, Kar Vivekananthan, he still has a stake in Adsum. And he still plans on being there–maybe not cooking (he used to work the line every night, according to Shabazz), but acting as a sort of animating spirit, making sure that things don’t get too straight or too normal in his absence (which, rumors say, Levin will be using to develop a new restaurant).

“We’ve been a team since day one,” Shabazz said. “And I make no promises except that [Adsum] will be as it’s always been.”

Adsum [Official Website]

Trey Popp’s review of Adsum [Philadelphia magazine]

  • jack in the box

    How many times do we have to see this chef leave a restaurant (probably soon to close), to understand he is a walking disaster/hack of a chef.
    He again glides out unscathed, by public scrutiny. We as a public have to be a little more discerning about hoping on his band wagaon-cruise-line. A little tip, his “inspirations” are boldly cribbed from some-elses work. Only he gets accoloades on opening a proffesional cookbook, and poorly mimicking another chefs dish. -ps Martin Picard called, he wants his fries back.

  • cleevus

    thank you, jack. that place sucks and its hard to listen to people talk highly of it after eating there. he was an absolute insult to lacroix, he has taken jobs and no showed on them and this is another example of him pulling out before it gets too bad. maybe he’ll convince another athlete, kind of, to back him, or maybe not. God knows we’ll read about it in every publication around, though. I give him credit for wringing his PR company dry.

  • lilpit

    How many times do we need to see shit like this realise that although Philly has some great chefs, we also tend to overinflate a lot of chefs? Because we really want to have the great, envelope pushing chefs like other cities not to be named… but Levin sucks. Stern sucks. Etc. There are some really talented people here but a lot of times we hang our star on the absolutely wrong guys.

  • lilpit

    And Cleevus, you are always right on. You tell it like it is, whether people like it or not you speak the truth.

  • Jami

    It’s amazing to me how obnoxious people get when hiding behind the security of a computer. I like Levin’s food. Who cares if he’s moving on. You act like it’s a personal attack on you. If you don’t like him- don’t go to his restaurant. But don’t be an a*#hole!

  • Jami

    It’s amazing to me how obnoxious people get when hiding behind the security of a computer. I like Levin’s food. Who cares if he’s moving on. You act like it’s a personal attack on you. If you don’t like him- don’t go to his restaurant. But don’t be a blowhole!

  • Jami

    It’s amazing to me how obnoxious people get when hiding behind the security of a computer. I like Levin’s food. Who cares if he’s moving on. You act like it’s a personal attack on you. If you don’t like him- don’t go to his restaurant. That’s the glory of the country.

  • Snake

    Jami, I agree that the discourse on anonymous message boards and blogs can get a little uncivil. It’s kind of the nature of the internet though and unfortunately it’s not going to change.

    I wasn’t crazy about the food there at Adsum, but I did respect that he came on here a few times in response to criticism and I felt handled it very well.

    I don’t know anything about the greater health in general of the restaurant, but I will say that it’s one of the cursed restaurant locations in the city.

  • http://www.adsumrestaurant.com Kar

    You guys should follow us on Twitter @adsumrestaurant to stay aware of what we are doing. I think it’s exciting.

    There are many new things happening that you might like. We are all working VERY hard everyday to bring hospitality and good food to our friends, families and neighbors. I’m not looking to do anything but that.

    Stay tuned. Or better yet, come in!

    Thanks.

    Kar

  • cleevus

    if the food tasted good, i would go. doesn’t change the fact that he’s a pompous douche. i would love for it to be better. but it’s not. and knowing he’s going to “be there, making things don’t get too straight or too normal” kind of ensures that. if he’s telling the truth. which he probably isn’t.

  • Jill

    I wish Adsum well with its new personnel. It isn’t easy running a business of any sort, and it is never nice to see one fail. Good Luck!

  • Puh-leaze

    “he used to work the line every night, according to Shabazz” ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. NEVER.

  • Pat

    He was there during the blizzard special with free Snap cider. Hardly evidence that he “works the line every night”, but showing up on a dead Wednesday night when there’s 20 inches of snow on the ground is a pretty good sign.

  • http://www.sipsbitesandsites.com Maria Valetta

    I think they should rename the restaurant and call it SHABAZZ!!! Sounds better then Adsum. I think the name is the worst part about this restaurant. I have had many excellent dishes there, but have always wished it was called something more upbeat.

  • lonna don

    lilpit your coments are harsh. I also think its funny how you kiss cleevus(another angry person’s) wood. I encourage you both to seek help with your anger issues. Stern is an awsome chef, a great human being and a great business man. I think you and your buddy cleevus need a hug.

  • Sam

    HAHAHAHAHA! So, I guess he wasn’t the “NEW BOSS?” I heard from some close friends who work there he was actually going to be fired but instead then he quit. and he walked out? poor form, new boss.

    I do like the name “SHABAZZ” though. Im with Maria – vote that the place be renamed also! I like “Sam’s Place” I’ll cook!

  • lilpit

    Lonna Don, bite me. You don’t like it, just scroll past my name. It’s not all sweetness & light out there.