Table Talk: Elena Wu returns, this time to Voorhees Town Center

The new Elena Wu Restaurant at Voorhees Town Center is a white-tablecloth spot with a 10-seat sushi bar. Sidewalk seating is planned once warmer weather arrives.
The new Elena Wu Restaurant at Voorhees Town Center is a white-tablecloth spot with a 10-seat sushi bar. Sidewalk seating is planned once warmer weather arrives. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 05, 2013

Every so often, Elena Wu retires and sells her eponymous restaurants: First Marlton, then Voorhees, then Mount Laurel.

Wu - a onetime culinary instructor who entered the restaurant business in 1986 - has returned with Elena Wu Restaurant, which recently joined the restaurant row at Voorhees Town Center (12106 Town Center Blvd., 856-375-2289, elenawurestaurant.com).

Just to make things interesting for your GPS: Chez Elena Wu - which she sold in 2008 - is five minutes away in Voorhees' Ritz Center.

Elena Wu Restaurant is a calm, white-tablecloth French-Chinese affair with a 10-seat sushi bar - its warm colors reminiscent of her Tres Elena Wu in Mount Laurel (now Tres Yan & Wu). Sixty people can be seated in a private dining room, and it will pick up a couple of dozen seats on the sidewalk when warmer weather arrives.

Philadelphia has the first of a double shot of Joe Coffee Bar, the New York City-based roaster/retailer, which opened this week at 1845 Walnut St., on the ground floor of an office building across from Rittenhouse Square. A second shop is expected to open in late summer at the food-heavy Chestnut Square at 3200 Chestnut St.

Joe is the work of siblings Jonathan and Gabrielle Rubinstein, both career changers - he was a talent agent and she was an opera singer - who got into the coffee game a decade ago.

A year ago, they were thinking of expanding to other cities when the owners of 1845 Walnut reached out. Jon Rubinstein said that after checking out the space and the neighborhood for 15 minutes, they signed on.

The Acela takes about an hour and 10 minutes to get to 30th Street from Penn Station. It can take him that long to get from his apartment in Brooklyn to the Joe location at Columbia University.

If "Joe Coffee" sounds familiar, that's because there was an unrelated Philly-grown shop called Joe at 11th and Walnut Streets run by Joe Cesa. The business is now devoted to roasting and is known as Philly Fair Trade Roasters.

The landmark Blue Bell Inn is closed for renovations until late August or early September. In September, developer Bruce Goodman bought the property at Skippack and Penllyn Blue Bell Pikes. County records peg the sale price at a shade under $1.2 million. His partners had intended to keep it open during the work, but contractors urged a shutdown.

One by one, the city's dive bars are going by the wayside. Thank, in part, consultant Suzanne O'Brien. She brought the Trestle Inn in the Loft District from seedy to its current brown-liquor glory. Now she is working on Jerry's Bar, a onetime shot-and-a-beer by I-95 at Laurel and New Market Streets in Northern Liberties. The whole place was disassembled brick by brick and put back together - a project best tackled by someone who knows construction and masonry: contractor and longtime Jerry's customer Bill Proud, whose scaffolding crowns many local repairs and restorations. As owner, he is keeping a low profile, preferring to offer the spotlight to his daughter Christie Proud Bernstein and her husband, Ryan Bernstein. They're going for what they call a "refined neighborhood bar" approach when they open in about four weeks. Chef is Marshall Green, formerly chef-owner of the erstwhile nearby Cafe Estelle. General manager John McNamee formerly owned El Fuego.

After months of deliberation, the operators of the AKA Rittenhouse Square - who already have a.kitchen on the 18th Street side of the posh hotel - have settled on a name for the tiny bar under construction in the former Kiehl's store at 18th and Walnut Streets. It will be a.bar when it opens in mid-May. Both spots will need a chef, as Bryan Sikora was let go. He is about two months from opening La Fia, a bakery, market, and bistro, in new space at 421 N. Market St. in Wilmington.

Nicole Marquis, owner of the quick-service HipCityVeg, has her name on an orange liquor-transfer sign at the long-shuttered Full Moon Saloon at 131 S. 13th St. She won't disclose plans or timeline.

Joining the rush of out-of-town chains to Rittenhouse is Luke's Lobster, a casual specialist in lobster, crab, and shrimp rolls from New York City by way of Maine. Luke's will take over the former Bonte waffle shop in the subterranean space at 130 S. 17th St., next to Underdogs. An opening date has not been announced.


Photos, menus, and additional details about these restaurants, plus dining news, can be found at www.philly.com/mike. Contact Michael Klein at mklein@philly.com.

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