Michael Klein: French Laundry alum is Le Bec's new chef

Seventeen beers are on draft and 75 in bottles at Keg & Kitchen in Westmont, a revamp of the former Cork. APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer

The answer to the hottest question in town: Walter Abrams. The former French Laundry sous chef (six years) is winging his way east to Le Bec-Fin, where he will become executive chef for new owner (and his former Laundry-mate) Nicolas Fanucci.

This is a package deal, as Abrams' girlfriend, former French Laundry pastry chef Jennifer Smith, will become LBF's exec pastry chef. The South Florida-born, Colombia-reared Abrams left San Francisco hot spot Spruce as chef de cuisine this week. Le Bec is due to reopen in May.



Kevin Meeker revamped his seven-year-old pub Cork into the more rough-hewn Keg & Kitchen (90 Haddon Ave., Westmont, 856-833-9800).

It's a recycler's dream. Craftsman David Dowling went heavy on the wood and fashioned light fixtures out of old plumbing parts. Chef Eán Flannigan executes a reasonably priced menu of sandwiches, pizzas, cured meats, and the fish chowder from Meeker's former Philadelphia Fish & Co.

Beers: 17 on draft, 75 in bottles; plus cocktails. It's open for lunch and dinner. Brunch starts Sunday.


Back in the kitchen

Jim Coleman is the new executive chef at the Sofitel at 17th and Sansom Streets, replacing Kevin Levett, who is bound for England. This is a return to Center City for the Texan, who made his mark at the Rittenhouse Hotel, where he was executive chef from 1992 to 2001. He quit to open Coleman at Normandy Farm in Blue Bell. He left there in 2010 and has since been helping to care for relatives. He says to expect changes at Liberte, the hotel restaurant.



Sunday is the debut of Chinatown destination Nan Zhou Hand-Drawn Noodle House in new quarters a block west, at 1022 Race St.

Tuesday is the tentative debut of Nom Nom Ramen (20 S. 18th St.). Alan Su, the son of Chinese restaurateurs, previously worked for Santouka Ramen, a Japanese noodler with eight locations in the United States.

Wednesday should see the first dinners served at Square Peg at 10th and Walnut Streets, a former Marathon Grill. Owners Barry Gutin and Larry Cohen (Cuba Libre, 32 Degrees, GuestCounts catering) have the cooking services of chef Matt Levin (ex-Lacroix, Adsum). It's in soft-launch mode; lunch will roll out April 5.


What's coming

The Latham Hotel, under renovation at 17th and Walnut Streets, has attached the name Urban Enoteca to its wine bar, to open in June. 



SJ Restaurant Week

Eateries in the South Jersey Independent Restaurant Association will host spring restaurant week from March 18 through 23. The list is at www.sjhotchefs.com.


Contact Michael Klein at mklein@philly.com or @phillyinsider on Twitter. Read much more on his blog, www.philly.com/insider, and follow him at www.philly.com/food.