When Stir first opened at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2018, many flocked to check out to see its main exhibit—the menu.
But like many spots, the establishment shut down during the pandemic, and then reopened in October 2021. More recently however, the establishment has gone under its own revamp—in-house that is—with the addition of Chef Hoon Rhee, who has taken the lead as Executive Chef of food and beverage operations.
In this new role, the Philadelphian chef will take over the museum’s full-service restaurant, as well as several café spaces and catering for private events.
“I am thrilled to join the Constellation Culinary team and take on the responsibility of leading the culinary programming at the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” said Rhee in a statement. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to deliver a world-class dining experience, with a menu inspired by the art at the museum itself, my upbringing in Philadelphia, and my culinary experience and travels which have helped to shape my cooking style and approach merging Eurocentric flavors and techniques with East Asian and Nordic influences.”
Rhee has held both front and back of house positions in his career, including as a line cook, bartender, pastry cook, barista, consultant and more. And as a release states, Rhee also gained valuable experience through an internship at Per Se and later at Narisawa and L’Effervescence in Tokyo. He’s held positions at top restaurants on the East Coast including Daniel, Masa, and The Modern in New York, as well as Lacroix at The Rittenhouse Hotel, Jean Georges at the Four Seasons, and Morimoto in Philadelphia.
Rhee will stick to the parameters of offering visitors rich and varied globally inspired dining experiences while at Stir—but with an interesting twist.
The menu at the artful establishment now boasts dishes such as Sweet Corn Soup (made with puffed corn and rice, honey brown butter and house Togarashi), Slow Roasted Melon (made with Sake Crème Fraiche, fig oil, and lemon verbena), Peas (made with asparagus, haricot verts, strawberries, braised almonds and goat cheese), Peaches (made with seasonal greens, basil yogurt, roasted celtuce and pickled rhubarb), Zucchini Gnocchi (made with roasted cherry tomatoes, garlic chives, squash blossom tempura and golden sesame oil), and Roasted Jail Island Salmon (made with roasted fennel, yuzu date kosho, charred coconut and cauliflower, potato flakes and Houttunyina). And that’s just listing a few.
What Rhee has provided is an experience of the senses. Through the different consistencies, the garnishes and the combination of flavors and even temperatures—each bite holds its own essence and each menu item is unique in its own way.
In a way, the dishes each embody some local ingredients and fixtures that make this area a culinary oasis. And on the other hand, global influences play into the mix to take Philadelphians elsewhere at the same time.
The cocktails also mirror that experience with different fixtures ever-evolving in a rotating list. But, there’s also beer and wine (Rhee is also a Level1 Sommelier) to pair along with the meal for those who oblige, and softer drink options for those who don’t.
Overall, the marriage of certain fixtures (such as a fresh melon roasted to bring out certain flavors), the ingredients (from the fruit to the cheeses, everything tastes fresh), to the presentation (each dish is quite literally picture perfect), Rhee has found a way to make his mark. Everything on the plate is put there for a purpose, and it’s meant to be visually appealing and stimulating…quite fitting for a dining establishment in a well-known cultural institution.
“We’re proud to welcome Chef Hoon Rhee to become an integral part of our team,” noted William B. Petersen, the museum’s Chief Operating Officer. “Visitor experience is a top priority, and we’re confident that Rhee will contribute greatly to a museum visit that includes world class food, art, and architecture all in one.”
The atmosphere also plays a huge part in the experience. Stir is designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry who is famed for his experimental, yet environmentally considerate designs on renowned structures such as the Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao), the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Louis Vuitton Foundation. With Stir, however, the approach is as clean as the layout of the museum and the effects are just as powerful as you see with works of art—simply because that’s what it is.
To learn more, visit philamuseum.org
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