The City's Best Chef-Side Seats
by meredith fertig and michelle mass
Counter culture: Catch a glimpse of the action over at Barbuzzo.
Celebrities like Colin Farrell and Miley Cyrus have kept a.kitchen front and center in the local gossip columns in recent months, but the real star here continues to be chef Bryan Sikora’s European small plates menu. A marble-topped chef’s counter seats 12 and comfortably encircles the open kitchen, which bristles with activity from breakfast at 7 am to late-night dinners. 135 S. 18th St., 215-825-7030
Proudly offering truly authentic Spanish small plates—chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author Jose Garces takes tapas to the next level with his updated takes on century-old recipes. Opt for the Latin Road Home tasting menu and allow the Amada team to handpick a multicourse menu and wine pairings for your party. Guests can also ask to sit at the six-person chef’s counter for a more interactive dining experience. 217-219 Chestnut St., 215-625-2450
Brussels sprouts might not have been a childhood favorite, explains co-owner Valerie Safran, but at her Midtown Village Mediterranean restaurant she invites you to take a first-row seat at the chef’s counter to see how this once flavorless green is made to taste so savory: pan-seared with pancetta, pickled chilies, caciocavallo, and pangrattato. It’s one of our favorites. 110 S. 13th St., 215-546-9300
Fish is on the move yet again, relocating to a new, more intimate location in its space on the corner of 13th and Locust Streets. A five-seat chef’s counter is a sought-after reservation, promising prime views of chef-owner Mike Stollenwerk preparing a new menu of inventive seafood dishes nightly. 1234 Locust St., 215-545-9600
There is no better seat at this haute dining hot spot than at the sushi bar. Located in the back of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s vibrant restaurant sits the extraordinary counter where diners can watch the chefs slice and roll throughout the night. Morimoto himself loves to get behind the sushi bar and interact with his guests. 723 Chestnut St., 215-413-9070
Michael Schulson’s sleek oasis Sampan is one of the most popular restaurants in town. What’s even more desirable is his acclaimed chef’s tasting menu. Featured around an open kitchen from which modern Asian small plates emerge, this table turns supper into a moving aesthetic experience. Tuna rice crackers, Kobe beef fried rice, and the calamari salad are ideal dishes for sharing between two people. 124 S. 13th St., 215-732-3501
Kevin Sbraga’s eponymous restaurant debuted a six-seat chef’s counter in late summer, letting Top Chef fans and devoted foodies sit eye level with the affable staff. Thematic specialty menus have made the counter, available Monday through Thursday, one of the city’s toughest reservations. Upcoming menus include the Feast of the Seven Fishes, available December 17–27, and Three Kings Day, January 3–10. 440 S. Broad St., 215-735-1913
Chef Michael Solomonov’s authentic Israeli flavors have helped to carve out Zahav’s reputation as one of Philly’s singular dining experiences. A recently added four-seat kitchen counter hosts just one group every Friday and Saturday night that gets to experience a special 10-course menu available only during the weekend. Sample Zahav’s inspired cocktails and rare Israeli wines by adding beverage pairings to your dinner. 237 Saint James Place, 215-625-8800
photography by jason varney
Today show coanchor Tamron Hall gets fierce at her Philadelphia Style magazine photo shoot.