Table Talk: Schulson's pan-Asian Sampan sets sail

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Chef/owner Michael Schulson, former host of "Pantry Raid," at Sampan in Center City.

Chef Michael Schulson is behind Sampan (124 S. 13th St., 215-732-3501), a mod pan-Asian incorporating elements from his time as chef at Pod and at New York's Buddakan, before he launched his own place, Izakaya, in Atlantic City's Borgata.

Schulson, who hosted the Style Network's Pantry Raid and TLC's Ultimate Cake-Off, has an open, Momofuku-esque aesthetic from Sparks Design, simple yet comfy, with distressed metals and reclaimed wood. Side walls glow behind what appear to be barren trees. A black walnut bar (sake, Asian beers, cocktails) sits in the middle, in front of an open kitchen. In warmer weather, there'll be a bar/lounge out back. Randal Mrazik, also a Starr alum, will run the place.

The small-plate menu (see it at sampanphilly.com), will be executed by right-hand man Leo Forneas and features Schulson's signature edamame dumplings, rolls, noodle dishes, appetizers (such as a Maine lobster roll dressed up with yuzu, crispy shallots and Chinese celery); top price is $19 for a petit filet with Japanese mustard, soy butter, and fries.

It's daily dinner only for now.

Comeback for Gino's

Gino's Hamburgers, once a huge presence from New Jersey to northern Virginia ("Everybody Goes to Gino's"),will make a comeback in 2010, led by Tom Romano, C.O.O. in 1982 when the chain was sold to Marriott Corp., which converted the eateries into Roy Rogers'. "It's apparent there's a need for better burgers out there," said Romano, citing the success of such chains as Five Guys. He said Gino's would make its burgers to order from fresh beef and would offer chicken. (Gino's was the mid-Atlantic outlet for Kentucky Fried Chicken.) Romano plans to start offering franchises next week, and to have the first location (possibly in Northeast Philly or Montgomery County) this summer. Nostalgists can visit www.ginosgiant.com.

What's coming

George Tsiouris, whose extended family has been in the local restaurant business for half a century, plans a modern Greek-Mediterranean concept at 1311 Sansom St. that he and his sister, Vasiliki, are (for now) calling Opa. Also nearby will be Ulysses Voyage, in the former Deux Cheminees at 1221-23 Locust St., being readied for February. Owner Panayiotis "Peter" Carabatsos' original location is in L.A.'s Farmers Market. At Ulysses Voyage expect reasonably priced Greek meze (tapas), not "small small plates," Carabatsos' explains, with vegan appeal.

Briefly noted

In January, the Four Seasons Hotel will trim its Sunday brunches (except for certain holidays) and Monday dinner service in its Fountain Restaurant. Expect Sunday brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. only in the Swann Lounge and an a la carte Sunday breakfast in the Fountain (7 a.m. to noon). The Fountain will serve breakfast and lunch on Mondays, and maintain its hours the rest of the week. Monday dinner will be only at the Swann.

Shang Skipper, who's run Center City's Del Frisco's steak house this first year, got a corporate promotion within Sullivan's. He leaves in late January to become a regional manager for Sullivan's properties in King of Prussia, Wilmington, and Baltimore. His replacement, to be announced at a Jan. 27 party will be Rich Furino, an 11-year Sullivan's vet who runs the place in King of Prussia.

And a follow from last week: the crew from the Water Works is running Franco's Trattoria in East Falls now.


Contact columnist Michael Klein at 215-854-5514 or mklein@phillynews.com. Read restaurant news on his blog at http://go.philly.com/insider.