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]

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