At Adsum, Chef Matt Levin Aspires to Serve Chicken as Good as Popeye’s

Plus: a look at the menu and what he's planning for his next restaurant

Adsum, the new Queen Village restaurant from former Lacroix chef Matt Levin, will open to the public on Wednesday, July 14. It’s a full-service (as in, liquor-licensed) bistro at the corner of 5th and Bainbridge Streets,  mostly recently home to another bistro, Coquette. While Levin and his partner Kar Vivekananthan, are keeping the menu of “progressive cuisine” quiet until they open the doors (Update: we now have the full menu), but they did let slip a few items (fried chicken, and we may or may not spied the words “foie gras” and “poutine” perilously close to each other on the menu). The heavily tatted and tongue-pierced Levin also took some time out of his pre-opening frenzy to fill us in on what he’s been up to, what he has planned for Adsum (Latin for “I am here”) and what he has in store for his next project. Click through to find out more and to see select menu items.

What he’s been up to since he left Lacroix in December 2008: “I had a barbecue truck (Rubb BBQ). I was consulting and catering and I had a restaurant deal in Manayunk that fell through at the last minute. But there’s definitely a barbecue concept in my future. I just looked at a space in West Philly last week.”

Why he’s going from fine dining to bistro: “I’ve always worked in highbrow places and I’m not a highbrow guy. I never fit in, but it was a great experience and gave me a great opportunity. But I always felt uncomfortable walking into the Rittenhouse Hotel. Also, people aren’t paying $150 for dinner any more.”

On his inspiration for the menu: “I’m serving foods I want to eat after work. Sweetbreads, awesome burgers, and fried chicken — if I could make mine as good as Popeye’s, I’m good. But I’m cerebral on the long-lead side. It keeps me occupied and not bored. Like the fried chicken. I sous-vide it in buttermilk for 24 hours before it’s fried. And tater tots. We’re doing them with “whiskey pearls,” —raw whiskey made with gelatin. And powdered bacon fat. Delicious things done with “Matt Levin” fun. We’re serving to 1 a.m. every night. I want cooks to be able to go somewhere and have a good time.”

On whether there will also be more mainstream items: “The burger is mainstream. And we’ll be doing pancakes, stuffed French toast and stuff like that at brunch. But the focus isn’t on esoteric foods. My food is classically rooted, and it’s always been eclectic and continental.”

On if he’s concerned about the neighborhood, with its high-profile restaurant closings (Gayle, Ansill): “I don’t want to be a guy from uptown who’s invading Queen Village. I want to get to know everyone in the neighborhood and for everyone to know who I am and to come in and say hi. It’s absolutely a neighborhood restaurant. It’s a place where you can be yourself, as a guest or even a cook or server. I mean, here I don’t have to shave every day! This makes me happy. ”

On his mentor and former employer, Jean-Marie Lacroix: “I just saw Jean-Marie the other day. He’ll be at our friends and family on Tuesday. He’s a great guy.”

View the Adsum menu [PDF]

    Cocktail Preview

    • A View of Vieux Carre: rye, cognac, spiced red wine reduction, angostura and Peychauds bitters
    • Logical Consequence: gin, green tea, dill, fresh lime, honey and splash absinthe
    • Elixir Classique: house made apricot liqueur, blonde aperitif, orange liqueur and rhubarb bitters
    • Unholy Water: blanco tequila, smoked blackberry balsamic syrup, fresh lemon and house made ginger beer
    • Poppy Doble: rum, maraschino, poppy seed, fresh lime, almond and fresh grapefruit

    You can follow the restaurant on Facebook or Twitter.

    Adsum, 700 South 5th Street, 267-888-7002

    *Photo by Michael Persico