Tyson Wong Ophaso is the man behind the wok at Chew Man Chu, the modern noodle/dumpling house opening this week in the ground-floor space in the Symphony House at Broad and Pine Streets (215-735-8107).
Ophaso, 37, puts the pan in pan-Asian. He identifies himself as a Laotian-born Thai whose mother, a retired college professor, is Thai and Chinese and father is of Chinese, Japanese, and Indonesian ancestry. His father, a French-educated engineer for Shell Oil, uprooted the family frequently. When Ophaso was 14, he says, he stayed in France while resisting the family's planned return to Asia. That's where he learned kitchen work from the bottom up with such masters as Pierre Troisgros and Paul Bocuse before he wound up in New York under Daniel Boulud, then with Andre Soltner, and then with Claude Troisgros, followed by seven years with Jean-Jacques Rachou.
Ophaso grew to dislike his next job as an L.A.-based executive corporate chef, though it cinched him a challenge last year on Iron Chef America, where he competed against Masaharu Morimoto (secret ingredient: curry). Ophaso lost.
Chew Man Chu fills the space formerly occupied by Du Jour Market. Their owner, Marty Grims, said he reconfigured to offer a destination with "good, honest, fresh, light food at a great price point" - $25 check averages. Top menu price is $19.
There's a stylish atmosphere with a drinking bar and an eating bar.
Grims has taken on some out-of-town talent - former Starwood Hotels executive Paul Fiala, David Madison from Tom Colicchio's empire, Andrew Welch from the Inn at Little Washington, and chef Mark Andelbradt, formerly of Morimoto and Tao - to help him expand his restaurant empire. Grims has interest in the Moshulu, Du Jours in Commerce Square and Haverford Square, Daddy-O's, the Inlet in Somers Point, the Plantation on Long Beach Island, and the White Dog Cafe in West Philly. Construction just started on a second White Dog, in Wayne, and will start next year on another pan-Asian restaurant, in Commerce Square, next to another Du Jour.
What's new"Romper Room for adults" is how Jolly Weldon describes Jolly's Dueling Piano Bar, which he expects to open tomorrow at 2006 Chestnut St. (267-687-1161). Weldon has retained the ivory-tickling services of Anthony "Tony T" DeCarolis and "Wildman Joe" Marchetti, who will play requests from their 2,000-plus song collection Tuesdays through Saturdays starting at 8 p.m. Weldon is promising a happy hour (6 to 8 p.m.), a small-plates menu under $10, and no cover charge at his 125-seat venue. Tomorrow, doors will open at 3 p.m., with the show starting at 6 p.m.
Presto, whose owners Lori and David Salvo left the Plymouth/Conshohocken area three years ago to focus on a new spot in Ventnor, has returned to the area, at 410 W. Ridge Pike in Conshohocken (610-825-3663). This BYOB, which has a dining room and takeout counter, offers pizza in addition to pasta, signature gnocchi, and the familiar chicken and veal entrees (most entrees $15 to $19). It's open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Saturdays, and Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m. Ventnor is a seasonal operation.
Since the Wrap Shack off Rittenhouse Square (120 S. 18th St., 215-569-1666) has added a liquor license, its name has morphed into Wrap Shack Kitchen & Bar and its sandwich counter has been converted into a bar, featuring 10 new bar stools and three flat-screen TVs. Owner Scott Hockfield is pairing wraps with beers and cocktails.
More than just a tasteJoe McAtee, chef/owner of Honey in Doylestown (42 Shewell Ave., 215-489-4200), has fashioned a $65-a-head dinner tasting menu, offered Mondays through Wednesday, called Surrender. The evenings start with his wife/partner, Amy, chatting up the guests to learn preferences. Few of the dishes are on Honey's menu, and the courses, served mostly family style, keep coming until the guests literally surrender.
Contact Michael Klein at 215-854-5514 or email@example.com. For real-time restaurant news, read his blog at http://go.philly.com/insider.