Chef Michael Schulson’s Sampan Restaurant Philadelphia’s Latest Hot Spot

Thanks to my friend Laura Burkhardt, Publisher of Where Magazine for taking me to the 1st “Dry Run” of the hottest restaurant to open Michael Schulson’s Sampan, an Asian-Fusion place, on the hottest street in Philly South 13th Street in Midtown Village. A “Dry Run” is like a “preview” or “Dress rehearsal” and the restaurant owner, investors and publicist invite friends, other business owners (I spotted folks from Capogiro, owners of many of the eateries on the corridor, Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran, plus Laura Price, QUAKER CITY MERCANTILE and her fiance [who I also broke bread [w/Kate Ryan] at lunch with Tues, that’s when I took this shot below of about 3 workers sprucing up Sampan’s windows as I left El Vez]) and influencers to come in so that they can try the place out, it helps the servers practice their trade and then the guests can give feedback if the have any suggestions. And it’s anything but a “Dry Run” as the Saki was flowing on this night, as well as some really delicious food. (This wall changes 4 different colors that I could tell, and I have a feeling that with each season it changes too, no one said so, but I have a fairly good intuition about these things. Although I love the bare trees. Am I right, anyone?) Also I cannot wait until spring to see the outdoor space, I hear the garden dining is going to be an oasis of visually delight. (Originally this was towards the end, but you need to listen to it while reading/reviewing pixs cause it’s so funny)
Did I mention the unique bathrooms, someone like’s movie quotes and thought that while we’re doing our business it would be fun if we recognized a few of the quotes ourselves. (It was Michael’s idea)

Cooked up by Philly’s latest celebrity chef Michael Schulson. Celebrity chef and television star Michael Schulson is returning to Philadelphia to open Sampan, a modern Asian restaurant, set to open 12/18/09. Sampan features a variety of small dishes including items such as: Edamame Dumplings, Tuna Tataki Summer Roll, and Skate Wing Sandwich, among others. … also go to Schulson’s famed Japanese pub Izakaya in Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, which was named one of the “50 Best New Restaurants, 2009″ by Travel & Leisure magazine (May 2009). With him here is his GM of Sampan Randal Mrazik.
Our servers for the evening were Warren & Faith, who were terrific. Chef Schulson really wanted a relaxed atmosphere, and for the servers to be comfortable, he’s achieved that. A comfortable server is a confident, happy server I think. They get to accessorize with belts and their jeans.
First up:
Crab and curry fritters with cucumber raietta (OMG an explosion of tastes, spicy, texture and then the “cool” cucumber raitta is a great balance)
The interior is beautiful. Michael was going for something very simple, unadorned, but thru many discussions with biz partners and the designers, UrbanSpaceDevelopment who co-created it with Sparks Design, they came up with a compromise of what I think is a clean, simple look that was also very stylish and unique.

Yum Edamame dumplings. I was not familiar with Chef Michael Schulson and told Laura how creative I thought it was to have edamame in a dumpling. She told me this was one of his signature dish at his other restaurant, Izakaya at The Borgata. (So we’re on the same wave length) The bar is centrally located in the middle of the room, but you really don’t notice it as there is no need to walk thru it to get to your table, those spaces are to the left or right as you walk in the door. If you walked thru the bar you would end up looking into the open kitchen.
A few movers and shakers in the City were there enjoying the “Dry Run”, including Meal Ticket’s Felicia DAmbrosio , Kar Vinekanathan and Kenneth Espejo
Philly cheesesteak. We braise short ribs, pull the meat and then sauté it with some ginger, jalapeno, scallion and cilantro, then layer it with sharp provolone and pickled spicy shallots. It tastes like a cheesesteak.
As a kid I never like Brussels Sprouts, who really did. As an adult I like them a little more. When you have these Sampan’s Brussel Sprouts you’re gonna want them everytime you step in the place. Everyone I talked to LOVE them!!
as well as the braise short ribs, with the pulled meat and then sauté it with some ginger, jalapeno, scallion and cilantro, then layer it with sharp provolone and pickled spicy shallots.
hmm salad always a good Hughe choice
After a couple hours of laughter and good times it was time for Laura to go home. As we walked out the door we ran into Jennie Hatton, ProfilePR and Lauren McCutcheon, Philadelphia Magazine. So I stayed and chatted them up for a bit.
They had the prime “VIP Seats” where you could watch on the chefs prepare the meals.
Especially Chef Michael Schulson, who I did not know had a fan following of adoring women and I am sure a few good men. Again I wasn’t really familiar with him before as I rarely have time to watch TV, but that was not the case for every single women I ran into this evening.
Earlier Laura & I had the braise short ribs in a bowl, but Jennie & Lauren enjoyed them on these skewers and they were just as delicious.
I don’t know what this is, but it looks good doesn’t it?
We finished the night off with Soy Chocolate Ice Cream Cones. Chef Michael says most meals will be affordable in the $20 to $40 range. Our bill was $110 total, which included a few drinks.
As I was leaving I ran into yet another super great person, Drew Milstein, who was enjoying the night with real estate giant, entrepreneur & businessman Allan Domb, Tony Rim of Raw (Check out his recently opened Sumo Lounge for private parties. It’s so private you have to walk thru the kitchen to get to it) and Tim Shaaban of UrbanSpaceDevelopment who co-created Sampan with Sparks Design (responsible for the color changing wall among other elements.)

What a joy this place is, I felt like I was in a secluded cabin in the woods with a bunch of my friends. What an improvement to the 13th Street Corridor too. Before it’s transformation this was considered a “temporary” metal contraption building that housed a clothing store and a greeting card store. The building has now been re enforced and fortified ensuring the longevity of the building, and no doubt Sampan as it will remain one of the hottest restaurants around for a long time. The menu is eclectic, the tastes surprising and the atmosphere lively, but not overwhelming. Enjoy.For further in depth reading you should check out these sites for interviews and tidbits about Sampan. Philadelphia Grub Street; The City Paper’s MealTicket and Michael Klein’s Inqlings

This is a tad long, but it’s a grainy video of Sampan to the tune of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” which was playing in the background.

Thanks to the couple of PhillyChitChat readers for their condolences, well wishes and for reading PCC, that I ran into tonight.