Tabachoy Filipino Food Truck Is Going Brick and Mortar in East Passyunk
Plus, Kalaya announces a second location, an Ayurvedic restaurant and bar opens on Chestnut Street, and everything you should know about the drinking sitch at the new W Hotel.
Howdy, buckaroos! Welcome back to another thrilling round-up of everything that’s happening in Philly’s restaurant scene. We’ve got some huge news out of Fishtown last week, some additional details from the brand-new W Hotel in Center City, and a big opening on Chestnut Street.
So let’s get to it, huh?
Kalaya, Mk. 2
Kalaya was a revelation the first time I ate there. And the second. And the third. It is a restaurant that never stops surprising, that somehow manages the trick of always being comfortable but never feeling like the same restaurant twice. “[T]his is the Thai restaurant Philly has been waiting for,” I wrote back in June of 2019, in the days when the world was just the world and a new restaurant’s survival wasn’t predicated upon its ability to gracefully manage pandemic and plague, “the one that will define the top end of this cuisine in this city going forward. Neither too fancy nor too casual, neither storefront-cheap nor prohibitively expensive, not hyper-traditional but not dismissive, either. Kalaya walks a middle ground that feels fantastically modern while still nodding to the generations that have come before, and does it all with a knowing, confident smile.”
And I still feel the same way.
Which is why it’s so cool to be able to announce that chef Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon is expanding her operations in a really big way. Next summer, she’ll be partnering with Defined Hospitality (the folks behind a bunch of other truly groundbreaking restaurants like Suraya, Pizzeria Beddia and Condesa) to open a massive, 160-seat version of Kalaya at 4 West Palmer Street in Fishtown.
There’ll be outdoor seating and a full bar (neither of which existed at the original Kalaya), services will run seven days a week, and Suntaranon will be in the kitchen and on the floor trying to make the same kind of magic that made Kalaya a nationally recognized restaurant — only this time in a much bigger space.
Seriously, for so many different reasons, next summer can’t come soon enough.
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Taking a Big Swing on Chestnut Street
Normally, when you’ve got a big tech CEO and a restaurateur with a wild idea for a restaurant, they go straight to NYC for their big, splashy debut before taking the concept on the road and opening satellite locations.
But when partners and best buds Syam Namballa (the businessman, CEO at Synergy financial solutions group) and Mahi Reddy (the restaurant guy, managing partner at the SSV Group, with 10 years in the industry) got together and decided to open a giant, three-story Ayurvedic concept restaurant, they chose the 1700 block of Chestnut Street for their flagship location, with plans to move into other, lesser markets (like NYC) if things go well here.
Ancient Spirits and Grille is a 150-seat, multi-level restaurant that’s having its grand opening on Friday, September 17th at 1726 Chestnut Street. This massive project has been underway for quite a while now, with build-out and renovations happening during the pandemic, a soft-open, and additional detail work on the 2nd and 3rd floors, staffing and menu development happening right up until this week. But now that things in the industry look a little more stable (or at least more stable than they did a few months ago), Reddy and Namballa have decided it’s time for a party.
And so, on Friday, they’ll be having an open-to-the-public opening bash with organic cocktails, passed apps, food stations and desserts from 5 to 10 p.m. Tickets to the soiree are $50, and the entire party will operate as a fundraiser for Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center.
After that, though? Business as usual. Which, for Ancient Spirits, means dinner service seven days a week, lunch and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays, a contemporary European menu inspired by Ayurvedic and herbal elements and a bar program consisting of more than 50 organic, biodynamic wines, a dozen handcrafted organic cocktails, seasonal mocktails, 10 beers on tap and a dozen more by the can or bottle.
In the kitchen, though? That’s where things get … interesting. So hang with me here, okay?
The restaurant’s concept is rooted in Ayurveda — an ancient practice meant to maintain or restore balance in the body and mind. When you show up, you’ll be given a QR code to pull up on your phone which will take you to a private, confidential survey that collects information about your body and lifestyle in order to determine each guests predominant dosha (air, fire or earth) and which, if any, might be out of balance.
And okay, sure. Maybe I believe that my predominant dosha is cheeseburgers with gin and tonic rising, and that I’m best kept in a properly balanced state of mind by the consistent and repeated consumption of said burgers and liquor, but who knows? Is it possible that there’s a better, kinder, gentler, and more balanced me just waiting to be activated by the correct application of kale, mushrooms, lamb, and Jell-O shots? There might be. And I want to meet that guy. I bet he has better credit than me, and probably knows stuff about ascots and crypto. I bet he has opinions about Wes Anderson films and the IMF and doesn’t just spend his days trolling fascists online or fighting with strangers about tacos.
Anyway, Ancient Spirits and Grille has this whole system for determining what’s best for you to eat. And you can listen to this advice or ignore it completely and just order whatever you want off the heavily vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free menu. Chris Tavares (ex of Davio’s) is running the kitchen, and he’s been spending the run-up to opening sourcing herbs and ingredients from local organic farms. He’s running with a European-style menu enhanced by the herbs and sauces dictated by the Ayurvedic systems underlying the operation, and is a dab hand with meats and seafood as well. Plus, Davio’s wasn’t exactly a small place, so he’s accustomed to running big shows. Tavares’s menu combines everything from rack of lamb with Turkish dates to braised rabbit with turmeric risotto with wild mushrooms and sage; from lobster tails with Triphala mushroom duxelle to coulibiac salmon with cumin, sour cherry, spinach and tulasi oil.
It looks absolutely worth checking out. As far as I know, there isn’t anything else out there in Restaurant World quite like Ancient Spirits. It’s unique, it’s ours alone (at least for now), and y’all can see for yourselves come Friday night.
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Some Updates from the W
Last week, I told you guys all about Dolce — the Italian restaurant at the brand-new W Hotel. The W is at 1439 Chestnut Street, something like three blocks away from the site where Ancient Spirits is having its grand opening, making this stretch of Chestnut one of the hottest areas in the city for big openings right now.
Anyway, while Dolce was certainly the biggest piece of restaurant news coming out of the W’s opening, I’ve now got details on a couple of the other concepts operating under the same roof.
First, there’s the Living Room — by day, a coffee bar serving java from Rival Bros., by night, a craft cocktail bar with local fave Resa Mueller behind the stick. The design of the space was inspired by the sunken gardens at Fairmount Park, but the most striking feature? A wall of hand-painted ceramic skulls paying homage to the Hyrtl Skull Collection at the Mutter Museum.
Oh, wait. Did I say that was the most striking feature? Because I almost forgot about “Stevens’ Prophecy” — the salon hidden behind the skulls (and a two-way mirror) which is decorated with art celebrating Philly’s own royal, Grace Kelly, and named for her high school yearbook superlative which predicted that she would become “a famous star of stage and screen.” The salon will have its own menu featuring small-batch and limited-run spirits.
Also open at the W: the WET Deck, a heated, year-round pool on the 7th floor and attached WET Deck bar. Around the corner from that, there’s the Secret Garden, a lush green space which the W will be using to host pop-ups and live music.
Which is nice and all, but it’s nothing compared to a secret Grace Kelly theme bar hidden behind a wall of skulls. That’s just metal as hell. And, weirdly, very, very Philly.
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Oh, and One Last Thing …
Y’all know the Filipino food truck Tabachoy? It’s a regular fixture at LOVE and Clark Parks, has made our list of best places to eat Filipino food in Philly, and has been making the rounds since 2019.
But now, it looks like owner Chance Anies will be bringing his bistek chistek (his take on a Philly cheesesteak with a Filipino address) and all the rest of his grub to an actual brick-and-mortar location. Yesterday, he announced on Insta that he’d just signed the papers for a space at 1300 Federal Street in South Philly, not far from East Passyunk. He says there’s still a lot of work to do to bring this non-mobile Tabachoy to life, but he’ll be keeping everyone updated as things move forward.
As always, you’ll know more when I know more. So watch this space.