When Chef Justin Bogle named his restaurant “Avance,” it was no coincidence. He took the French translation, “to advance,” into consideration.
Avance opened in December and owner Bogle and his staff aim to maintain a new identity with its progressive American cuisine and setting in the face of expectations from the location’s past.
“It means to push forward, to lead, to progress and that’s the goal that we’ve set for ourselves here is to just keep on moving forward and have it be a living, breathing animal that’s constantly evolving,” Bogle said. “We set the tone in the beginning and we have a lot to live up to.”
The restaurant, along with its natural plating style, combines modern and classic techniques to create a changing menu tied closely to the importance of seasons.
This includes using ingredients when they are at their prime and letting local farmers and nature decide what would work best for the menu during the appropriate season.
“We really want to be able to highlight and showcase the products of the season in the best way possible,” Bogle said. “The restaurant moves with the seasons – the seasons drive what we do here.”
Bogle said that at the restaurant, he and his staff “don’t try to force anything.”
Bogle, a Roxborough native, has been a part of the restaurant business since he was working as a busboy at 16.
After graduating from the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, Bogle eventually became an executive chef of Gilt in the New York Palace, where he earned two Michelin Stars.
It was during the middle of last year when he began the process of starting Avance, coming back to Philadelphia to open his first restaurant.
Bogle said one important vision for his restaurant has been to be welcoming to all types of patrons, even if Avance is considered a fine-dining establishment.
“There’s talk that fine dining’s dead and that’s not necessarily the case,” Bogle said. “It’s just a reinterpretation of it, a modern-day version of fine dining that’s a little more relaxed and little less over-the-top.”
Julie Rock, assistant general manager, said she agreed with Avance’s overall concept and joined Bogle in trying to create something that could even be suitable for the average college student.
“In doing this project, we definitely try to appeal to a little bit of everybody,” Rock said. “There definitely are those polar ends where we have the high-end stuff and the more approachable stuff.”
The downstairs bar, for example, was designed to “stand on its own” with a more affordable bar menu, featuring favorites like the lamb burger to go along with special cocktails.
“The atmosphere’s a little bit more upbeat, a little more casual,” Rock said.
Much like the bar, Bogle said he wants Avance to be able to stand out, not only from its competition but also from the location’s past restaurant, Le Bec Fin.
Le Bec Fin had a reputation for being one of the top fine-dining restaurants in the city under Georges Perrier’s ownership. With the history of the restaurant spanning 40 years, the team at Avance has the challenge of breaking free from its past expectations.
This hurdle is made evident with the recent reviews from Philadelphia Magazine and the Inquirer, which were less than satisfactory.
“It really does set the bar a little higher with this famed address we do have here,” Rock said. “We went into it hoping that people would see us as a separate entity than Le Bec Fin, which we are.”
The last thing Bogle wants is comparisons, he said.
“As much as you hope that people aren’t going to compare you to [Le Bec Fin], you can’t help what people think and do, and a lot of people have kind of stayed hung up on that fact,” Bogle said.
However, the restaurant has already received positive feedback from the public and many of the local industry chefs, managers and friends, Bogle said.
Bogle said he hopes Avance will be able to surpass people’s expectations for their dining experience.
“The goal is to dedicate myself to this place and really put it on the map for what we anticipated and what we’ve set out to do,” Bogle said.
Avance will grill lamb burgers for the Rittenhouse Row Spring Festival on Saturday out on the sidewalk of Walnut Street.
Albert Hong can be reached at email@example.com.