Dine + Design: Treat Yourself to Sweeping Views and Signature Dishes at Philadelphia's JG Skyhigh
Powerhouse duo Chef Jean-George Vongerichten and architect Lord Norman Foster came together for the project.
What's better than finding a restaurant with incredible food? Finding one that's also beautiful. Each week our editors spotlight one of the most stunning eateries around the country, showcasing how inspired interior design can enhance the dining experience. Follow along with Dine + Design to see where we go next.
It takes 48 seconds for guests to reach JG Skyhigh, the bar, lounge, and restaurant topping off the Four Seasons Philadelphia and the Comcast Technology Center. For chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, it took nearly five years to get there; since August 12, 2019, he's been serving a three-part menu that draws from his signature dishes at Jean George New York while incorporating local meat, fish, produce, and Amish chicken into the mix.
"The whole story started about four and a half, five years ago," Vongerichten recalls, recounting his introduction to the project by Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. "When he showed me the project, Lord Norman Foster was the designer of the building, and I thought wow, I'd love to be a part of this."
Naturally, Foster would lead the way on the design of the bi-level space, which comprises the lobby of the hotel. "It's exciting when you arrive here; it's not the usual hotel lobby where you check in," Vongerichten explains. "You can gather and have your rendezvous or whatever you do, and when you go down the staircase, there are two walls with a water feature...and you arrive in this beautiful setting which is Jean-Georges."
A second, smaller bar serves guests in the main dining room, where tables are set along the windows serving up sweeping views of the Philadelphia skyline. "There's no bad view. Everywhere you look, it's spectacular," Vongerichten says. There's even something to be seen overhead, where mirrors put Philly's car and foot traffic on show. "When you're that high in Philadelphia you only see the horizon, so as part of the decor Lord Norman Foster created a chiseled mirror so when you look up you can actually see people walking down on the street [below] and cars passing by. It's very surreal; at night, the whole ceiling shimmers, as well as the city."
The menu—30 percent of which is composed of signature dishes from Jean Georges New York and 70 percent of which features local ingredients—holds its own against the stunning backdrop. "There are already so many great chefs here… and every chef has his own individual flavor," Vogerichten says. His goal is twofold: To serve signature flavors with a global twist—"We want to attract a local clientele as well as world travelers," he says—and to let the city's complex culinary story shine. To that end, Vogerichten assembled his own "cast of characters" as he puts it, including local cooks and pastry chefs, as well as a local bartender, who crafts drinks and snacks for bar-goers. Offerings include guacamole, hummus, and special dip with harissa, plus little bites from chicken samosas to tuna tartare.
Downstairs features a more a la carte, plant-based menu—"We're very forward with vegetables and plants," Vogerichten says—as well as fish and meat and a tasting menu for someone who wants to maybe splurge or celebrate an occasion. "Sitting up here and seeing the view of Philadelphia, it's really a great place to celebrate."
"As a chef, as you get older, you try to keep your food more simple—take away the superfluous and just go to the essential ingredients. Like sushi, it's rice, fish, a little dipping sauce, and you're in heaven, so I use that philosophy on [my] plate." Getting back to basics may come easy for Vogerichten, whose culinary style has always leaned on the classics. The bigger challenge, however, is doing it this high up. "This is definitely a departure," he jokes, "my kitchen was never this high in terms of altitude."