Chef Chip Roman of Blackfish fame will attempt to expand his reputation this week with the opening of his new restaurant Mica. Located at 8609 Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill, the restaurant, named for the shining mineral found in much of the stone through Chestnut Hill, will open this Friday March 18.
Mica is Roman’s second restaurant, after Blackfish in Conshocken, which has been honored with several awards from the likes of Philadelphia Magazine and Mainline Life.
Mica will take over in the spot where Cuba restaurant was. This restaurant-to-restaurant conversion has meant fewer changes needed to be made, according to Roman, “We painted some walls,” he said. “Nothing major.”
Why Chestnut Hill?
Roman, 31, already knows Chestnut Hill. He lives just across the city border in Lafayette Hills and his three children attend private school in Chestnut Hill.
So, it was spending time here that gave him the idea to open another restaurant.
“I kind of got the impression the neighborhood could use a new restaurant,” he said. “It was very natural. I didn’t do any kind of demographics search or look at business cycles.”
In some ways Mica will be similar to Blackfish. For the first few weeks, Mica will be (BYOB) bring-your-own-beer, like Blackfish. However, Roman plans on getting a liquor license as soon as possible.
Mica is a smaller operation than his Conshohocken operation. It will have a 12 employees instead of the 20 and have enough seating for 30. Roman said, It’ll be about “half the size of Blackfish.”
“(Mica will be) a little more calm, a little more relaxed,” Roman said. “(It’s) small on purpose.”
Roman also said that Mica will be much less fish-focused, and will feature more “progressive American” dishes.
The restaurant will feature a three and four course prix fix menu, tentatively priced for $50 and $60, respectively. Each course can be chosen from four or five options.
Menu options will vary depending on ingredients available that day.
A tasting menu will also be featured as an option, in which smaller but more numerous portions will be offered. “Adventurous guests usually opt for the tasting menu because the chef cooks just for them,” Tina Breslow, Roman’s public relations advisor, said in an e-mail.
Mica will also feature a chef’s table that seats eight and will be located in a room next to the main dining room with access to the kitchen. At a chef’s table, the chef prepares a meal in front of customers based on preferences established ahead of time. It may or may not include options from the regular menu.
“Food lovers usually love the opportunity to meet and discuss the meal with the chef,” Breslow said. The tasting menu is tentatively priced at $70 for five courses and $90 for seven courses.
Reservations for March 18 and throughout the following week will be limited. “We’re just going to open slowly,” Roman said. “Very few reservations will be available.”
Jason Cichonski, former executive chef of Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, will be helping temporarily while Mica gets started.
With two restaurants and a family, it would appear that Roman’s got his work cut out for him. But Roman said it’s not as bad as you would think. “Everybody says it’s hard, but it’s not that tough,” he said, “I’ve got great staff.”
Despite numerous other celebrated restaurants opening in Chestnut Hill recently, Roman doesn’t feel the pressure of competition, either. “I don’t think I’m competitive with other people,” he said. “We just open up and try to please the customers.”