In August, Stratis Morfogen and partner Philippe Chow – and a few sports names – will open Philippe in Boca, a casual version of the successful Beijing Chinese restaurant that started in New York City. It will go into the former III Forks steakhouse location on east Palmetto Park Road.
A fan of Boca
“I’m a Boca area fan — it’s a high-end demographic. They’re well traveled clientele and there are a lot of transplanted New Yorkers here. Someone told me it’s called the ‘sixth bourough,'” he laughed. “My parents have a house down the block and of course, my brother is here.”
Morfogen is the sibling of chef Nick Morfogen of 32 East in Delray Beach. “We’ve never been partners,” Stratis said, “that’s why we’re so close.”
Partners in the project include Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat, Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Knick player Chauncey Billups, and Denver Nugget’s Al Harrington. “Alonzo was a big fan of our Miami restaurant, and asked about investing, and the rest just followed,” Stratis explained.
The differences in the restaurants will be in decor, on the menu — and at the cash register. “We came up with a more casual concept,” Morfogen said. “The price points will be much less at the other existing restaurants. We’re going to have a lot of healthy foods on the menu, too.”
Look for salads, steamed fish options, roasted chicken and duck. “All our oils now will be soybean oils. We’re not using any kind of animal fat or MSG – not that we used those anyway – but we are definitely bringing these dishes to the Boca market because we think they’re a little more health conscious.”
Rents coming down
The price points are going to be significantly lower but not necessarily because of the economy, at least not from a success standpoint. “Our flagship restaurant on Madison Avenue lease is at $400 a square foot. It’s all about the trickle-down effect – our rent in Boca is going to be much less – we got a really good deal with the landlord – and we can pass that along to the customer. Reality is, when we pay high rents, the consumer has to pay for it. We thought this was the perfect opportunity to launch our casual restaurant.”
Prices will average 30 to 35 percent less. “Wonton soup is coming from $10 to $5; salads, from $12 to $9; the chicken dishes will be from $16 to $18 instad of $22 to $26,” Morfogen said.
Critics took on the high prices at the Miami Beach restaurant, but he said it wasn’t meant to be the typical Chinese restaurant dinner. “We aren’t old school Chinese restaurants,” he said. “The other Chinese restaurants want to turn their tables. It’s not us – we want our customers to sit, dine and relax. It’s our job to give them that experience.”
Famous dishes to remain
Peking duck and their own Peking chicken will be on the menu. “We added the chicken, which I think is just as fabulous as the duck, for people who don’t want to wait quite so long. We’ll still have the duck – it was named the best in New York by New York magazine. But people know they have to order it at the bar when they first get their drinks – it takes 45 minutes to prepare.
“The chicken is just as good – I actually prefer it. It’s got a lighter skin and crisps up just like the duck skin, which most people think is the best part. The chicken will be ready in 25 minutes. And you can share a whole one. We give 1-1/2 to two pancakes per person, so everyone can have a bite. We recommend ordering it for a third or fourth course for the table.”
This restaurant also will have pastries from a dedicated pastry chef. “We’re probably the only Chinese restaurant that has its own pastry chef. We think outside the box – it’s what sets us apart.”
A unique “show” of noodle-making will take place at the bar each evening. “Our chef makes the noodles by hand – you’ve got to see it if you haven’t. It wows everybody – from one piece of dough, he creates 300 perfectly fine noodles – no machinery, just using his hands.”
Morfogen is planning a mid-August opening. “I’ve begun cracking the whip on the contractor,” he said. “We’re bringing up the staff from the Miami restaurant to open this, so they’ll already know the menu.”
The Miami restaurant has closed and will move to the former Taverna Opa site in Miami Beach. A mid-August is planned for Philippe in Boca Raton.