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December 17, 2013

Now Open: Chef Justin Bogle Debuts Progressive-American Restaurant Avance On Walnut Street In The Former Home Of Le Bec-Fin

Modern fine-dining destination Avance is now open on Walnut Street, welcoming diners into the former home of storied Philadelphia restaurant Le Bec-Fin. (Photos by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia)

When Le Bec-Fin shuttered in June of 2013, many Philadelphians mourned the end of an era. But now, the storied space has moved into modern times and reopened as Avance, a thoroughly modern sanctuary of fine dining.

The address maintains an excellent pedigree with Michelin starred-chef Justin Bogle, a Philadelphia native, at the helm. The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College alumni has worked with such notable culinary masters as Douglas Rodriquez, Jose Garces, Alfred Portale and Christopher Lee, and holds the distinction of being one of the youngest chefs ever to earn two Michelin stars, which were awarded in his previous post as the chef of Gilt at the New York Palace.

But though the lineage of both the space and the chef at Avance are remarkably exceptional, arrogance nor affectation come into play. Instead, the goal of the entire staff is to create an approachable, guest-focused fine-dining experience in which to deliver thoughtful, exciting cuisine.

Sound appealing? Read on for more on this new fine Philadelphia dining destination.

The Layout

 
From the sleek Walnut Street facade to the black-walnut tabletops, every detail of the restaurant was carefully considered by Chef Bogle, his general manager Adam Olland and the team of top-notch hospitality talent assembled to create Avance.

Outside, where gilding once flashed and a heavy door barred even the slightest glimpse into Le Bec-Fin, passersby can now enjoy a lush living wall of greenery and peek through a vertical window to catch sight of what’s beyond the front doors. The peek-through window is a small detail, but one that the team hopes will build anticipation and make passing through that front door all the more comfortable.

Once inside, that attention to detail continues, flowing through the renovated foyer and into each of the three dining spaces — the bar, the main dining room and the private-dining space overlooking the dining room dubbed The Study.

With renovation and design help from local group Pomegranate, the restaurant was overhauled in a mere six months. Hardly resembling its previous tenant, Avance features guest-friendly updates, warm-toned ipe wood — a gorgeous, dense hardwood — minimalist gray walls and carpeting, and glowing Edison-style light bulbs to create a welcoming-yet-polished vibe.

In the dining room, living walls of greenery cultivated by Urban Jungle and tabletops cut from Vermont black walnut bring organic elements into the modern space, and nod to the proprietors’ appreciation for the natural world.

Downstairs, the elements of design extend to the intimate bar and its cozy bar nook. An eminently inviting room, the cushy banquets, raw-edged black walnut tables and low ceilings make for sophisticated bar-going.

The Food and Drink

 
But as attractive as the space may be, it’s really chef Justin Bogle’s progressive American fare diners will arrive to experience.

With multiple ways to dine — à la carte, prix-fixe tasting menu, chef’s tasting or the bar menu — dinner at Avance is tailored to the guest.

Bogle’s contemporary approach to modern American cuisine means that his dishes will be well-balanced, super seasonal and — above all — delicious. A focus on what’s fresh and available from the farms and growers will dictate the elegant, ever-changing menu.

Currently, the à la carte menu includes a curated selection of 12 dishes and 5 desserts, each done with impeccable ingredients and unexpected, sometimes-playful plating. In the bar, a fine burger will join an abbreviated menu of à la carte items.

For the tastings, the five-course tasting menu ($87) ups the dining ante, and may or may not included dishes culled from the à la carte menu. For a truly custom dining experience, the chef’s grand tasting ($138) will take diners on a one-of-a-kind culinary adventure, as the chef adapts each tasting to accommodate the guests.

For the complete current dinner menu — which may change at any moment — see below.

Pairing with the haute cuisine, sommelier Alexandra Cherniavsky and bar manager Bradford Lawrence have crafted refined wine, beer and cocktail menus that truly include something for every palate and purse.

The sizable wine list spans from a $9 glass of sauvignon blanc all the way to rare, reserve-list vintages for upwards of $500 a bottle, with many bottles — around 30 each of red and white — available for well under $80.

As for the brews and the spirits, the range is considerable — expect anything from a frosty mug of lager to a liquid nitrogen-garnished craft cocktail.

Ready to visit Avance? Reservations are now available right here.

Avance Opens
When: Tuesday-Saturday, 5 p.m.
Where: 1523 Walnut Street
Cost: Varies
More info: www.avancephiladelphia.com

The Walnut Street facade of Avance features a living wall, warm wood paneling and a peek-a-boo window. (Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia)

Dine at black-walnut tables beneath modern lighting in the main dining room at Avance. (Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia)

The black-walnut tabletops are set simply with organic-inspired trimmings to place the focus on the food. (Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia)

The subterranean bar at Avance is well stocked with a wide range of high-end spirits, making for a sophisticated cocktailing experience. (Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia)

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