Lots of last-minute hammering going on in Northern Liberties.
Kong -- the Hong Kong-style street-food bistro from Michael O'Halloran and wife Sophia Lee (partnered with Old City's Luca Sena) -- is bracing for a Saturday (8/15) opening at 702 N. Second St., formerly Sovalo. There's a Chinese lion dance scheduled for 5:30.
Here's how Michael O'Halloran, who owns Bistro 7 in Old City, got to "Hong Kong street food." His mother-in-law, Ping Suet Chiu, was born there, and they return to visit family.
O'Halloran was intrigued by the grub available in stalls. Duck houses and noodle houses are well-represented in Philadelphia -- and in his words, Chinatown's Tai Lake is better than most restaurants in Hong Kong -- but no one is doing that homespun style here. When he cooks "street food" with his mother-in-law, "we're doing clean, light flavors and paying attention to details, like poaching chicken twice."
The aim is to present those buns and bowls in a refined but not stuffy atmosphere. When explaining the prices and beer-friendly approach, he uses the G-word (gastropub) - but cautions that it would be wrong to describe Kong as a gastropub.
Dominic Episcopo added some spiffy touches in the 65-seat dining room, adding reclaimed pine on surfaces including the 15-seat bar. Light fixtures are wrapped in chicken wire and surrounded with bird cages. One wall was stripped, as they hoped to find brick. It was mostly concrete. A Chinese mural of graffiti was added.
A 14-seat communal table sits in an alcove besides a mural of the Forbidden City. Panda drawings are the highlight in the restrooms. There's outdoor seating. It'll be open daily for dinner; lunch will start eventually.