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Nov 18, 2011 08:10 AM


Finally got to visit Sbraga, the restaurant from Top Chef winner, and Stephen Starr alum Kevin Sbraga. Its located on the far end of Broad Street in Symphony House in what was the former space for Chew Man Chu. Its on the ground floor, with lots of glass. They have added reclaimed wood to the walls from an old building in Fishtown. It is an open kitchen with seating at a counter, as wel as about twenty or so tables. The space is nice though it gets very noisy when the restaurant is full.

They serve a la carte or a four course tasting menu. We chose the latter, and I had in order a sweetbread dish with a tonnato sauce, clams and orecchiette with clams and fennel, and a duck dish with corn bread. Dessert was a "hot chocolate" with grand marnier ice cream. Bitter dark chocolate and orange is one of my favorite flavor combinations.

They also offer a wine pairing with the meal, which is a great deal for 30 dollars, and greatly enhances the experience.

My biggest concern about the restaurant is the location. I hope they are able to survive so far down Broad Street, and draw in enough people other than people attending the Kimmel .

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  1. thank you for the review! kinda forgot about this restaurant - the location isnt bad at all- im not too worried about that although i havent seen the space so maybe it's not all that inviting for non-kimmel folks just walking by that area. might stop in for a cocktail and get some snacks- if that's an option.

    im a huge tc fan and was excited that sbraga won his season!

    1. So they offer a la carte in the seated section now? When they first opened, they said it would be prix fixe only, with a la carte available at the bar.

      Was the food good? You didn't really say.

      1 Reply
      1. re: barryg

        As best as I could tell, you are able to order both a la carte at the bar, and prix fixe seated at the tables with a minimum of 4 courses, and a chef's tasting of 8 or 10 courses.. Personally if I were they, I would create a pre theatre deal similar to Estia, three courses if served before 6:30.

        Meal began with a delicious cheese popover. Its nice to find a popover some where else besides the Nieman Marcus restaurant. The sweetbreads were coated in crumbs, and the flavor of them was lost. The clam dish was good with lots of flavor. I could have done with a bit more fennel and a piece of bread to soak up the juices. The duck was good, but unremarkable. I thought the dessert was excellent. Good food overall, but a bit unremarkable. Coffee was well made in a french press, though they are using Illy coffee so nothing remarkable.

        Interesting question is whether the restaurant will drive repeat business. There are dishes on the menu I was intrigued with but didn't order (black cod with kimchi, and foie gras soup were two that come to mind) . I still felt as if I were eating in a storefront and I found the space to be very loud. I think I would more inclined to go to the bar for a quick bite and a cocktail. Or after the theatre for dessert.

      2. We had a very good dinner at Sbaga this past Friday. J and I along with another couple were more than satisfied with everything served. Not an OMG experience, but a very enjoyable evening.

        We began at the bar for a round of cocktails prior to our 8:15 reservation. The bar area is just large enough to support the cycling exchange of those waiting for their table. We didn't see anyone dining at the bar, but I expect one could. The seating at the bar is backless wooden stools to minimize space. Not sure if spending a dinner on these would be all that comfortable.

        We were seated on time at the banquette along the far wall. We had a great view of the adjacent open kitchen with Chef Sbraga front and center, expediting orders and directing the kitchen brigade. The place was full and the kitchen seemed to be on top of everything as there was no chaos.

        The menu is sectioned into (4) courses with the expectation that diners will choose the 4 course prix fixe. It's noted on the bottom of the menu that ala carte selections are available yet there is no individual pricing on the menu. There are a few supplement costs noted including the crab app, the lobster, the lamb and a couple others.

        We chose the 4 course prix fixe with wine selections. I ordered the crab starter, the arctic char, the lamb chop and the cheese plate.

        While waiting for our first course, a piping hot truffle and gruyere popover was delivered. The shell of the turnover was a bit crusty but the center was soft and very tasty. After a scant few minutes, none were left on our plates!

        First course was the crab. It was a small bowl with a creamy thick chowder base with lump crab on top. The chowder like base was flavorful but only lukewarm. Not sure if it was meant to be a cool soup or not. The lump crab was present but not sure where the $8 supplement was used. I'd say there were five petite lumps of crab overall. It's was a good start, but I'll order another starter next time around.

        Second course was the Arctic Char. Stellar. The fish was perfectly cooked, delicate, full of flavor and the celery root was a great compliment.

        Third course was the Lamb chop. Excellent. The lamb was a large double chop that was center cut from a roasted rack. As a result, the lamb surface was a bright pink medium rare. Looked great and tasted even better. Really a great preparation and would order it again.

        Forth course was the Artisanal cheese plate. Mistake. The cheese plate is served with samples of two types of cheese for the evening. Friday's selection were a blue and a harder sheep's milk cheese (forgot the name). I requested no blue when ordering so I received a double portion of the sheep's cheese. Overall there was nothing wrong but it was just a bit boring. A fig nougat was included as a compliment to the cheese. Would have loved a soft selection or the gruyere from the popover to replace the blue. Also, a small amount of honey on the plate would have been welcomed. Next visit, I'll be ordering another dessert. Also, Kevin's signature Singapore Sling dessert (from the online menu) was not on Friday's menu?

        Wine pairing throughout were generous pours that were unique and complimentary to each individual course. I would certainly add the wine pairing in future visits as it's a great way to sample some lesser known varietals.

        Overall, we left with full bellies and for the most part were quite pleased. Also, the value here is excellent. $45 for 4 courses and $30 for wine parings. With various supplements, an espresso or two, plus tip, we were out the door for just over $100 per person.

        Service throughout was professional and outstanding. We recognized our waiter from other top rooms in the city. He was well informed with regard to both the menu and the wine selections. The entire service team was very engaged and efficient, which made for a pleasurable evening.

        The room is the low point here. With a wall of windows opening to the corner sidewalks, it's great for drawing in passerby's, but also gave a certain feel of dining in a modern storefront or corporate dining room. The dark November evening lessened the feel of being on display, but I expect mid summer evenings with the late setting sun, will be less enjoyable as one watches the city traffic pass by.

        Kevin was very personable and more than gracious in filling a request from the girls in our party for a quick pic after dinner. Since the hour was late and the kitchen was winding down, he was chatting up a few other patrons as well.

        A final note with regard to the dining room - there are 6 coveted stools at the kitchen counter where one can dine. You will overlook Kevin and the entire line for the evening. These stools are available first come first served, but we were also told by the hostess that they can be reserved? Not sure which, but we'll call ahead next time, if interested.

        Another great plus is secure parking in the garage, same building as Sbraga, just past the restaurant's door.

        We look forward to returning again.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Foody4life

          Thanks for the great write up. I am sorry the cheese plate was a disappointment. When I dined there my DC had the cheese plate and I remember there being three cheeses on the plate. I am very surprised you only had one even after not wanting a blue.

          I really agree with you about the room, and the effect of having a view out onto the sidewalk. It feels more like a Panera bread than it does a high end restaurant.

          1. re: cwdonald

            thanks. regarding the room... some full length window shears inside and a few potted evergreens outside would do a lot to soften the look.

            Also, you mentioned above an 8 or 10 course chef tasting. Was that offered when you dined there? We didn't see either online or in print.

            1. re: Foody4life

              Its listed online in the about section of the restaurant. I would suggest if that interests you that you mention it when you make the reservation, even just putting it in the comments section on open table. I do not know anyone that has had the extended chefs tasting.

        2. The location is actually also good for the Phila Theatre Co and Wilma.

          We went tonight with mixed results. Very interesting food. Foie gras soup was VG, although I will probably stick to the terrine (or au torchon) as my two- or three-times a year ration of FG. Lamb belly with fish sauce reduction was surprisingly successful. Cheeses were very good, but only two.

          We also did the wine pairings. 3 oz pours at most. Not a problem with me, but I have to disagree with the "generous" comment below.

          One sour note is that when we asked for sparkling water, we got water which was (at best) from the soda fountain at the bar. And yes, they charged us for it. I assumed they would not, given what it was. I would have preferred to get (and pay for) real sparkling water.

          The other one was that my first course wine pairing (a sparkling rose) was the bottom of the bottle (only about 1 oz left) which was pretty flat. Given that we were maybe the second customers of the evening, it had to have been sitting there since lunch, more likely last night. They topped it up to 3 oz with a new bottle which was much better, but the impression of obvious skimping at the expense of quality remained.

          In fairness, the waiter did give us a free taste of the beer, when we asked for wine instead as a pairing for the cornish hen.

          Portions were small, which I personally really appreciate. The prix fixe was plenty of food, and I have no quarrel with the price.

          Not to negate the very creative cooking, but the little skimps, together with the overzealous bussing didn't make the dinner as much of a success as it should be for the chef's ability.

          3 Replies
          1. re: FrancisdeR

            Thanks for the great write up. I am curious with regard to the service whether you had an early seating or not. Also, was it pre-theatre? Did they know you had somewhere to go? I haven't felt that rushed when I have eaten there, except on at least one occasion I remember receiving the bill shortly after I got my dessert.

            1. re: cwdonald

              Yes on both counts. But we got there a few minutes before 6, had a show at 8 literally in the same building. I told the waiter when we got there that we wanted to be out around 7:45. I think he got it, but the kitchen wasn't having it. In fact, after then second course (which got there at 6:15), he told me he would get them to pace the other courses. They didn't.

              They couldn't have felt too rushed. Even when we left at about 7:45 (with a lot of lingering over coffee) there were at most 6 tables (5 since we were leaving). There was nothing at Verizon Hall that night; it would certainly have had more people if there were. VH is by far the largest venue in the area.

              As for bussing, I think it's really cluelessness, not anything else. They kept on filling our water glasses, even if we hadn't touched them since the last time they had 5 minutes earlier. They would grab my wife's plate (getting so close they nearly brushed my ear) while I was finishing the last bite of mine. I assume they were acting on orders to not dilly-dally. Just went a bit far.

              1. re: FrancisdeR

                overzealous bussing and continual water supply may have been due to only 6 tables being occupied. Leaves staff standing around - who'd rather look busy in the eyes of their manager?

          2. had a very good meal here. very inventive chef; uses combinations I wouldn't dream of. Foie GRAS Soup was one of the best dishes I ate. uses a lot of salty sweet combinations which I am not fond of. But I have to give this inventive chef credit. dreamsickle dessert was amazing. portions are small--and could be more generous for the prices. I would give this a second visit because the foodwasso inventive.