So it turns out that Sophia's*, the restaurant that New York chef Christopher Lee is bringing to the Salt + Pepper space on East Passyunk Ave. is the first of several projects he has planned for Philadelphia. He told Grub this morning that he had previously expected to be working on a follow up early in 2013, a sophisticated seafood concept similar to Striped Bass back when he was in charge of the dearly departed restaurant’s kitchen. But the location fell through. Further complicating things for his aggressive expansion here is the matter of permits for renovations and work at what will inevitably become Sophia's, and the City of Brotherly Love’s notorious red-tape-wrapped processes for securing them. “My ultimate goal is to build something similar to Striped Bass in Philly,” Lee told us. “I think the city loved it, and I think it wants and needs something like it again. That’s what we’re working on next.”
That is after the launch of Sophia's in the Spring. In the meantime, Lee and partner Joe Massara will do an extended pop-up, simply titled Chef Christopher Lee at 1623. Kitchen and back-of-the-house renovations are just about complete at the former Salt + Pepper, and he expects to be open and turning tables by the end of next week. Serving a sort of work in progress menu, he hopes to gain input from neighbors, and early adopters before going in whole hog.
“We were faced with two options: Either close for eight months while we make everything right, and get the whole place up and going the way we want it, or close for about four weeks, get the kitchen together, and reopen for six to eight weeks,” Lee explained. “And then we’ll close again and do all the demo and facade work, and reopen as Sophia's.”
Chef Christopher Lee at 1623 will run from next week through at least mid-February. Then, demolition permits permitting, shut down again for heavy construction, and open up when Sophia's is ready for her closeup. He added that he has a third concept in mind for the Philly market following his Striped Bass-ish restaurant, but didn't elaborate much. After that, he said he wants to focus on bringing several more restaurants to Washington D.C.
*This post has been corrected to show that the restaurant will be called Sophia's.