Marigold Kitchen, he says, has done well in the past three months, as both a destination spot and a neighborhood draw.
The 33-year-old Jewish chef, who grew up in Villanova but spent years just about everywhere else honing his craft, is intent on fostering an intimate atmosphere -- there are 46 seats in the restaurant, which serves dinner only -- with an emphasis on geometrical presentation.
An adherent to the molecular gastronomy movement, which emphasizes the breakdown and combining of enzymes to create unusual shapes with his offerings, he says that his goal is to have a "really worldly menu, and have fun with the food."
"I feel like we're doing something unique in the city of Philadelphia," explains Halpern, who notes that the three-story building he's renting at 501 S. 45th St. has housed an actively running restaurant since 1934. "We're trying to make it accessible at reasonable prices so people can try new things they wouldn't necessarily eat at home."
As such, he's provided a dessert that was served over the holidays. He says his menu changes monthly, and assures that brunch in the works.
Bay-Leaf Crème Brûlée With Candied Ginger
3 cups heavy cream
15 fresh bay leaves, torn
1 vanilla bean, seeded
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
pieces of candied ginger
Combine the cream, torn bay leaves and vanilla-bean seeds into medium saucepan, and gently bring to boil until cream is scalded. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
Slowly ladle the cream mixture into yolk/sugar mixture, whisking constantly, to temper the eggs.
Pour the cream-egg mixture into a container and let it steep for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
The following day, strain the mixture through chinois and fill the crème brûlée ramekins with the mixture.
Bake in a water bath at 275° for about 35 minutes, until the custard is set. Allow to cool.
Sprinkle brûlées with turbinado sugar, and burn the sugar topping using a propane torch.
Garnish with candied ginger.
Make 8 servings.