All Eyes On: SuGa

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I did not like SuGa when I reviewed it almost a year ago. I gave the place a single star and described it as, in part, “dated Asian fusion cuisine that harks back to the glory days of Susanna Foo mixed with an incomplete vision of an International/Italian/Asian fusion cuisine mars the return of one of Philly’s most celebrated chefs.”

It was rough. And I debated that single star for a long time. But what ultimately made up my mind was that while Foo is a pro and the restaurant itself was highly polished and completely on its game, the food coming out of the kitchen felt (and tasted) like an as-yet unfinished experiment in modern fusion or a culinary journey for which there was no real map. In the moment, I walked away disappointed, confused and a little bit depressed.

And yet.

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All Eyes On: Whetstone Tavern

Beef cheek pierogis - Facebook

Beef cheek pierogis – Facebook

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A while ago (like all the way back in 2015), there were two big concepts driving new restaurant openings in Philly: the upscale neighborhood tavern and retro-American cuisine. Places like Bud & Marilyn’s, La Peg and Kevin Sbraga’s Juniper Commons were all inspired by this one-two punch of edible nostalgia, and while not everyone who chased this style was successful in the big, loud way that we expect restaurants to be (Juniper Commons closed after six months, La Peg went through some massive concept and menu changes), Jeremy Nolen’s Whetstone Tavern made its mark in a different way. It succeeded quietly.
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All Eyes On: Perla

Perla1

Photo via Facebook

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The inspirations for chef Lou Boquila‘s cooking at Perla are written in his history. Born in the Philippines, Boquila grew up on his mother’s traditional cooking. His first kitchen was her kitchen, and though it wouldn’t be until years later that he got one of his own, he learned his first lessons from her.

Fast forward. Boquila is in Philly. He gets a job as a dishwasher at Knave Of Hearts, goes on to study at the Art Institute, gets an internship with chef Kiong Banh at Twenty Manning, moves up. Starts working the line. Gets the sous chef job, then a chef de cuisine’s gig at Audrey Claire. He learns French technique, modern cuisine, but still… He remembers his mother’s kitchen, the foods he grew up with. And then, when he gets the chance to open a restaurant of his own, he makes it traditional and modern at the same time, Filipino, but inflected with French technique. And he calls it Perla, after his mother.

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