Michael Klein: Peppercorn opens in former Perrier location

The bar area of Peppercorn at 503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne. It offers a menu of American favorites.
The bar area of Peppercorn at 503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne. It offers a menu of American favorites. (MICHAEL KLEIN / Philly.com)
Posted: September 06, 2013

After a frenzied six-week renovation, Peppercorn (503 W. Lancaster Ave., Wayne, 610-964-2588) has opened at Eagle Village Shops in the spot that for 12 years was a Georges Perrier restaurant known as Le Mas Perrier, Le Mas, and georges'.

The Main Line building's bones are the same. It's a series of rooms, including a rustic, high-ceilinged bar, a sunny rear garden room, a hushed main dining room, and assorted nooks.

Where Le Mas Perrier aspired to the look of a farmhouse in the south of France, Peppercorn has opted for an overall feeling of warmth and luxury. Each room looks different, yet flows into the next.

Designer Chris Mullen, working with co-owner Karen Lotman, used textured and printed fabrics and original artwork.

Lotman and her husband, Herb, also owned georges'. When asked what happened to their affiliation with Perrier - who also ceded Center City's Le Bec-Fin last year - she said simply: "It's up. We're here. That's it."

Chef David Murray, a georges' alumnus, assembled a menu of American favorites. Although he offers wet-aged, center-cut USDA prime New York strip steak and filet mignon ($48, including sides), the menu is built for assorted budgets (e.g. eight pizzas, three burgers, sandwiches, roasted chicken wings, crab cakes, lamb loin, salmon, house-made pasta). Murray has been given carte blanche to source quality ingredients, Karen Lotman said.

Aaron Kavulich, a fine-dining veteran, is managing. It's open Tuesday to Sunday for dinner, Tuesday to Saturday for lunch, and Sunday brunch.

The name was inspired by the Lotman grandchildren. "We were having dinner and saying, 'What can we call it?' " she said. "They said, 'Pepper! You use it on everything!' "

New BYOB in Bryn Mawr

Contemporary, European fine dining in a casual setting is the line on Restaurant Cerise, a BYO now open in the former Main Line Grill/Brgr Joint space at 1011 W. Lancaster Ave. in Bryn Mawr (610-527- 4400).

Chef Ben Thomas, who got to Philly six years ago through a job at Le Bec-Fin, owns it with his wife, Elena, who grew up in Villanova. Dishes are rooted from France, through Spain and into the Mediterranean. The two-tiered dining room, with dramatic ceiling and wood-topped tables, seats 25 on the lower level and about 20 upstairs by the open kitchen.

It's prix-fixe Wednesday to Sunday: four courses with five or six options each for $47. There's a three-course option available Wednesday and Sunday for $39. A European-style weekend brunch - a self-service salad (pates, terrines, cheese), followed by two set courses (one breakfast-y) - will start in about a month.

Thomas was born in Alabama but lived in Germany as a lad. At 13, he and his family moved south of Washington. After the College of William & Mary, he went to L'Academie de Cuisine and turned up in D.C. working for the Michelin-starred Gerard Pangaud. After a move to Philly, he landed at Le Bec-Fin, then at Callahan Catering, and later at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse. When his wife got a job in Paris, he joined her and worked at a bistro for nine months. Back Stateside, he joined his old Callahan mate Sam Jacobson at Sycamore and later NoBL, in Lansdowne. Jacobson is helping Thomas in his kitchen.

First-time owner at 53

For 30-plus years, Phuoc "Po" Le has cooked at such destinations as Susanna Foo, Il Gallo Nero, La Veranda, and most recently at the Ambler destination Ristorante San Marco. But with a daughter in nursing school and a son in his teens, he wants to be his own boss. This week, he opened Po Le Cucina (821 N. Bethlehem Pike, Spring House, 267- 663-7204), up the road from San Marco.

Le, 53, did not change much of the decor of the last BYOB incarnation, Mina Cucina Rustica. His menu's top price is $30, and that is for his signature osso buco. He was 20 when he fled his native Vietnam by boat, winding up first in Hong Kong and then in New York. His career prospects were uncertain. One night in 1982, a pot washer did not show up at La Grenouille, the celebrated French restaurant. A friend called him in. By 1990, Le was La Grenouille's pastry chef. A clip from Gourmet magazine praises his "unwaveringly toasty, buttery, and lightly crisp" fruit tarts.

Po Le is open nightly except Monday. Lunch days are Tuesday to Friday.

New in University City

Marty Spellman, whose bar career includes the Ugly Moose, the old Red Bell Brewery, and Bridgewater Pub, and Aidan Travers, last at the New Deck Tavern, have unveiled Saint Declan's Well, a bar-restaurant in the Left Bank (3131 Walnut St., 215-883-0965). There's a 17-seat bar, 20 taps, open seating area, and only light kitsch. Easy-on-the-wallet menu has the usual Irish-bar staples: Texas nachos, chicken quesadillas, wings, and crab dip - plus a toastee, fish and chips, and shepherd's pie. It's open for lunch and dinner. Breakfast on weekends will start shortly.

A night of art and food

Feastival, the annual benefit for FringeArts (formerly known as the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe), will gather 76 restaurants and 10 bars/beverage companies at Pier 9 on the Delaware on Sept. 12. Attendees will get an early taste of Pizzeria Vetri (opening this week at 1939 Callowhill St.), which will serve its Roman-style Pizza al Taglio. Also, Nick Elmi, who will open a BYOB called Laurel at 1617 E. Passyunk Ave. in November, will be there, serving duck tacos. Info: www.phillyfeastival.com.

Contact Michael Klein at mklein@philly.com.

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