Ben Thomas, who got to Philly six years ago through a job at Le Bec-Fin, is about two months from opening Restaurant Cerise in the former Main Line Grill/Brgr Joint space at 1011 W. Lancaster Ave. in Bryn Mawr.
Thomas, 32, working with his Villanova-raised wife, Elena, envisions Cerise as a contemporary European BYOB with dishes from France on down to Spain and the Mediterranean. But true to their roots - "not that fusion confusion."
They are going the prix-fixe route Wednesday to Sunday: four courses with five or six options for each for $35 on weeknights and $45 on weekends. The weekend brunch will be European-style brunch - a self-service salad (pates, terrines, cheese), followed by two set courses (one breakfast-y, like shirred eggs, and the next more on the lines of lunch/dinner).
Thomas was born in Alabama but lived in Germany as a lad. At 13, he and his family moved south of Washington. After William & Mary, he went to L'Academie de Cuisine and turned up in D.C. working for the Michelin-starred Gerard Pangaud. After a move to Philly, he landed at Le Bec-Fin and then at Callahan Catering and later at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse.
When his wife - a business executive - got a posting in Paris, he joined her and worked at a bistro for nine months. When she was transferred to Mexico City, he couldn't get kitchen work so he roamed the farmer's markets. Back stateside, he joined his old Callahan mate Sam Jacobson at Sycamore and later NoBL, in Lansdowne.
Thomas says the planned interior will have soft colors, charcoal gray accents, and a few dark red touches (cerise is cherry in French) - "not full of salvage chic and not quite farmhouse. I'd call it new bistro, sophisticated but not formal."
The two-tiered dining room will seat 25 seats on the bottom and about 20 seats upstairs by the open kitchen.
Soft opening is planned for Aug. 20.