Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga discusses Philadelphia restaurant

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Kevin Sbraga, the winner of the seventh season of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, opened his first restaurant, Sbraga, with his wife and pastry chef Jesmary Sbraga, last October in Philadelphia.

The restaurant serves a four-course, fixed-price dinner for $49.

A native of nearby Willingboro, N.J., Sbraga studied at the Johnson & Wales campuses in Providence, R.I., and North Miami, Fla., before working at such properties as The Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fla.; the restaurants Joël and Seeger’s in Atlanta; Buckhead Life Restaurant Group in Atlanta; and Starr Restaurant Organization and the Garces Group in Philadelphia.

In 2008, he was a semifinalist in the Bocuse d’Or USA culinary competition.

He recently spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about his restaurant and how to get on Top Chef.

Tell me about Sbraga.

It’s a 60-seat, modern American restaurant that bridges the gap between fine dining and casual.

How so?

It’s more relaxed than a fine-dining restaurant. I don’t think fine dining’s dead, but I think it’s changing and evolving. People don’t want to sit for three hours; they don’t want to spend $300 per person on a meal; they don’t want stuffy service. I don’t want to put on a suit for a meal. If I can put on jeans and a T-shirt I’m happy.

What dishes are popular at your restaurant?

They love my foie gras soup. We take garlic, ginger, shallots, lemongrass and Thai chiles, blend that into a paste, fry it in oil, deglaze it with brandy, then we deglaze with honey and let that caramelize. We add chicken stock, bring it to a simmer, and add a touch of cream. Then we finish it with a bunch of foie gras, and then we blend that up and serve it with pears and a rose petal relish.

It started as an accident. I had guests coming in and had to do something special for them, and that’s what I did. At first I just garnished it with pears, but then I added the rose petals.

We also use local bluefish and take the approach of miso black cod, but we use an apple cider glaze. The cider controls the oiliness of the fish. We serve that with adzuki beans and bok choy kimchi.

Probably our biggest dish is the meat loaf. We take beef, veal and pork. Me make a mousse out of the veal and use that as a binding agent instead of breadcrumbs. There’s diced foie gras in there to keep the moisture. That’s cooked sous vide, and then we slice it down and sear it.

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