August 5-11, 2004
In the few hundred square feet below Copabanana at 40th and Spruce streets, 611's Nigel Richards off-South doyen of all things electronic and DJ-phonic has turned his orange-creme-sicle basement boite, O Bar, into an op-art-to-pop-art lounge whose mod-ness Stephen Starr would envy. "Having DJ'd all over the world, I learned: Do not skimp," says Richards, who conceptualized and built O Bar with Sean Catinella. Keeping the look clean and futuristic while accommodating low ceilings meant custom building and designing O's decor low acrylic tables in front of backlit, gray banquet benches with lines of cream and orange Plexiglas in the seat backs. "Orange is a sexual color good to feature in a nightspot," says Richards. The O's bar is also calmly, coolly glaring with cream and orange plexiglass panels, so that the entire room is self-lit without highlighting fixtures. Think of it as walking into a glowstick, a sedative room that can be calm for afterwork house parties, creepy for shoegazing showdowns and electric for any of Richards' banging funk and electro nights, highlighted by superior sound from speakers mounted throughout the ceiling and a subwoofer that could kick the daiquiris right out of your hands. (O Bar, 4000 Spruce St., 215-382-1330)
Photo By: Michael T. Regan
When people heard Northern Liberties was opening a VIP lounge, they choked as if that couldn't happen to their rustic environment. Yet that's not exactly what Andrew Pitcairn and Del Juhasz brought to the premises, which, in their post-Prohibition incarnations, used to be a hotel and a biker-blues bar, Maggie's and Paradise Alley. "We wanted to keep the wood-paneling vibe while making it contemporary, so people wouldn't be uncomfortable ordering a martini and not beer," Pitcairn says. So Metro downstairs is a relaxed 3,000-square-foot blue martini bar area with dancefloor, furnished with custom-made lounge couches by Philadelphia designer Vitaly Kokhan. Yet, it's floored in terrazzo tile, still holds at its center the old wooden post (once used for leaning on, now surrounded by fabrics and a circular couch) and is backed by one of Philly's oldest mahogany, tavern-style bars and a room-length mirror, topped by pendant pin-spots. Walk up now-carpeted stairs and you'll find remnants of old-hotel-ness in Metro's 4,000 square feet of so-called VIP rooms; so-called because they're not exclusive. "If you want to book a room, we'll rope it off, serve you privately," says Pitcairn. "But it's not about spending a thousand dollars." Rather, each of the six rooms red, purple, blue, a mixed "crazy" vibe space, a dancefloor with an all-aluminum bar and Miami-style beds is individually customized by Vitaly Kokhan in different colors and textures of big cushy velour. Added to that, one of the rooms is "just like an old English pub," something "un-fancy and tavernlike" in an environment of crushed-velvet cool. (Metro Lounge, 626 N. Front St., 215-238-1976)
Patrick Feury is the Dave Grohl of Philly chef-dom, having exec'd at Avenue B and Susanna Foo. So co-owning his own spot, Nectar (with Michael Wei of Yangming and Scott Morrison of Tango), isn't unusual. It's rocking. But that the light, bright element-based space is suburban rather than downtown is akin to rumbling drummer Grohl taking on ambient folk. "Not at all," laughs Feury. Of half-Irish, half-English parentage and long versed in French and Scandinavian cuisine, he believes his Asian-fusion Nectar is "all about food," he says, rather than hipster quotient. "It's about respect for the ingredients gleaned from our neighboring farms and local producers. Daily farmers markets are stones' throws away. It's about freshness and organicism and not over-processing anything." He mentions the use of Amish-raised chicken and sushi-quality fish, whether in cooked food or Japanese sushi chef Sano Sherpa's raw menu, as one example. "We're a temple of food."
Built from the ground up by the David Rockwell Group, the 3,000 square feet of Nectar's bilevel, gray stone, dark-wooded space feel breathtakingly holy. The space has exposed walls and open rooms colored in reds, yellows and oranges fire, air and earth tones cut off by 14th-century tapestries of waltzing monks and silkscreens of Buddhist deities. But building the cute, churchy Nectar in Berwyn, challenging the power structure of Center City restaurants, was simply about the nature of the region, both in terms of its monied audience and its agricultural bent. "This is a sophisticated demographic. These are sophisticated farms. Being out here shopping, roaming around the markets is head-clearing." Nectar's religious theme carries onto Feury's menu. Feury has created his own Thai-Vietnamese-Japanese hybrids: Maryland lump crab cakes with Japanese chilies; grilled halibut over homemade kimchee cabbage dish; cured foie gras (served cold with kumquat-apricot relish and red leaf lettuce); their signature Nectar salad, an Indian-inspired green salad lined with beets, turnips, pickles, cucumbers, papaya and mango folded into yogurt and lime on top of a pappadum. But there are also classic Asian dishes, like the General Tso's chicken that's screwed and chopped into a light, leg-meat-based neo-tempura of fresh Thai chilies and zucchini, or his smoked boar lo mien. "When I say it's all about the food, it's not just about my designs," says Feury. "It's about quality." (Nectar, 1091 Lancaster Ave., Berwyn, 610-725-9000)