Eat like an Insider: Chef Sylva Senat of Maison 208

Chef Sylva Senat celebrates the one-year anniversary of his restaurant Maison 208 this week. | Provided

Chef Sylva Senat of Maison 208 first started cooking as a high school student in Brooklyn.

“I was given the opportunity to be introduced to C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program),” he says. “This is where I built the foundation for my career.”

After being encouraged by one of his teachers, the Port-au-Prince native soon began working at the beloved New York restaurant, Sign of the Dove.

“I was exposed to a whole new world of old school culinary at a restaurant that had a true pastry program,” Senat says.

Senat later received the Daniel Boulud Scholarship to study at the Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France.

Last year, he opened Maison 208, a French-influenced restaurant in Philly’s Midtown Village. In addition, he’ll be opening Baby Buns in the Bourse in late August.

So what does Senat love most about being a chef? For him, it’s about creating memories.

“From anniversaries, to birthdays, to first dates and celebration dinners, people will always remember the atmosphere of a restaurants, what they ate, and who they shared these memories with,” Senat says. “I’m grateful to play a role in creating these experiences for people.”

For this edition of Eat like an Insider, Senat reveals a secret menu item at Royal Izakaya and the Rittenhouse restaurant with quite the “wow” factor.

Best late-night meal?
The Industry Chirashi Bowl at Royal Izakaya (780 S. 2nd St.). It’s not served on the regular menu, and comes in a simple deli cup.

Best hidden food gem?
Will BYOB on Passyunk (1911 E. Passyunk). Everything is delicious; it’s difficult to choose just one dish. Overall, I’m confident in whatever Chef’s cooking that day.

Best place to dine alone?
Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro (129 S. 13th St.). The cheese plate is delicious, and they have a great selection of wine — quiet and quaint atmosphere.

Place you always take or recommend for out-of-towners?
Vernick’s food & drink (2031 Walnut St.) never disappoints. It’s a spot with a “wow” factor that I love taking my out-of-town guests to experience. They have an amazing Halibut dish and it’s always at the top of my list of recommendations. 

Best meal under $10?
The new, up-and-coming Baby Buns (111 S. Independence Mall) at the Bourse in Philly. It’s soon to open in late August. Come visit us – I’ll see you in the kitchen.

Go-to date spot, hands down?
Burg’s Hideaway in Point Breeze (1200 S. 21st St.). You can’t go wrong with the burger and they have great cocktails. It has a quiet atmosphere, the décor is amazing (very retro-modern) and overall, the place is done very well.

Best place to catch up with friends?
SouthGate on 18th & Lombard (1801 Lombard St.). It’s a great Korean Bar — really mellow and laid-back place to hang out and catch up. The bartenders are great as well. I typically trust the bartender’s choice when I order.

Most Instagrammable restaurant?
I don’t want to be biased but have you been to Maison (208 S. 13th St.)? My favorite dish on the menu is the Island Lollipop. It’s a fun, inventive concept I was able to bring to life. We have a great brunch menu as well. My favorite thing about Maison is the open kitchen concept where you we get to see chefs at work firsthand. In addition to having Philly’s first retractable roof and an eye-catching mural, I think it’s tough not to want to take a capture and share photos of our drinks and dishes.