When Philadelphia chef Susanna Foo exited her eponymous Walnut Street restaurant in June 2009 after a 22-year run, she left a hole in the city's food scene: no more nuanced Chinese-French cuisine in a white linen experience. "I missed the city when I left," Foo says. “[But] the running back and forth between there and my grandchildren in the suburbs took up all of my energy."
So this time around, she’s bringing the family into the city. Foo is about to open Suga at 17th and Sansom, with her son, co-owner Gabe Foo, running the front of the house. She’ll be executive chef.
"I decided to join the business when my parents were planning on opening our Radnor location [in 2006]. It just seemed so exciting," says photographer/restaurateur Gabe, referring to the Main Line's Gourmet Kitchen. It closed last year so the family could focus on Suga, but the younger Foo has been surprised at is "how difficult it is to open a business in Philadelphia," he says. Suga was originally set to open in September.
As for the venue itself, planned out by Eimer Design, "we’re going for a chic, clean, modern Asian feel," Gabe says. "The colors — red, teal, gold — were inspired by the colors of the Chinese and Taiwanese night markets." The space, lit by golden orbs, has natural wood accents.
"We’re just returning to our roots," says Gabe about both the look of Suga and its traditional Chinese menu, which includes dishes from Susanna’s childhood in Mongolia."We're focusing on the cuisine that my mom grew up with, but with her personal interpretation."
On the menu at Suga
Diners can expect delicate Chinese recipes along with more unusual Mongolian dishes. But that doesn't mean that Susanna won’t be returning to any of her greatest hits: Suga will serve her Chopped Asian Salad, as well as her light-as-air signature steamed dumplings, with meat, seafood or vegetables.