First peek at Michael Schulson's Sampan

Michael Schulson in the space.

Busy guy, that Michael Schulson.

He's on TV as host of the TLC show Ultimate Cake Off. Last Saturday, I caught him running the kitchen at his stylish Japanese pub Izakaya at the Borgata in Atlantic City. And effective Wednesday (8/19), he's in the demo phase of his restaurant Sampan, just off 13th and Sansom at 122 S. 13th St. It's targeted for November. (Here's what else is brewing in the neighborhood.)

The telegenic Schulson, who was chef at Pod and New York's Buddakan and previously hosted the Style Network's Pantry Raid, says he's going for an open look, Momofuku-esque aesthetic, referring to David Chang's minimalist New York operation. One wall will have a lighting setup that will enable it to change color every few days.

Menu will be all over Asia, with a target toward comfort. Samples: edamame dumplings, with black truffles, onion sprouts and sake; tuna tataki summer roll with ponzu gelee, somen noodles and chiles; skate wing sandwich with oshinko, arugula and tartar sauce; "steak and eggs," braised short rib with egg and Asian pear; veal tonkatsu burger with panko, kimchee and katsu sauce; young fried rice with shrimp, golden chives and congee; and crispy frog legs with Chinese celery and blue cheese. Prices: $7 to $29.

During a walk-through of the space, being designed by Sparks Design, he explained that like many new projects nowadays, Sampan is not being overdone. It will be a modest 95 seats. 

"I don't think people are looking to spend $2 million, $3 million [on developing a restaurant] nowadays," he said, choosing to say that he and partners would spend $250 a square foot for the build-out. Multiply that by 3,300 square feet, and that's $825,000. Not cheap, but consider that $300 to $350 is the "norm" in Center City.

Checks will be $35 to $40 a person, he says.

Click to the final photo for one of the building's secrets.

 (Post updated with menu selections.)