Mawn, a 28-seat Cambodian restaurant in Philadelphia, is positioned as a “no rules noodle house,” according to Phila (pronounced “Pee-la,” who is named after the city), who plans to go beyond Cambodia in his menu while including flavors from all over Southeast Asia featuring dishes from Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. Mawn means “chicken” in Khmer, the official Cambodian language, and has no relation to the Philly word “jawn.” Chicken represented peacetime for Phila’s parents, who survived the Cambodian genocide. As Phila’s mother said, “If there was chicken to eat, there was no war.”
Mawn will initially open for dinner only, operating Wednesday through Saturday from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Lunch service will follow shortly after opening, with hours being 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. There will also be a Cambodian hot pot prix-fixe Sunday brunch added to the repertoire later this spring called “Ya Hawn,” a family-style meal that Phila describes as “a great hangover cure, which is also a really nice meal to share with specially chosen friends and family.”
“We were both born and raised in Philadelphia and are so excited to bring our dream of owning our own restaurant to life,” said Phila. “As a first-generation Cambodian American, I want to share my culture through food, and Mawn will provide me with that opportunity. I’m also very excited to incorporate ingredients from Rachel’s Jewish lineage on our menu.”
Phila and Rachel are both industry veterans. Rachel began her career in Philadelphia 20 years ago, with stints at Stephen Starr’s Pod in University City and Chef Hiroyuki “Zama” Tanaka’s Zama in Rittenhouse, among others. She has spent the past seven years at the Logan Hotel, where she managed Urban Farmer and was most recently the Director of Banquets. Phila has worked in top Philly kitchens since 2006, with Zama, Will BYOB, Stock Fishtown, Barbuzzo, and Mighty Bread Co. on his resume. Jose Garces recently tapped him for a residency at Volvér at the Kimmel Center, giving Lorn his first opportunity to share his food with a mainstream audience. Phila and Rachel met while working together at Zama in 2011.
Mawn will feature an open noodle and papaya station, and the kitchen will crank out grilled items, skewers, small and large plates, and desserts. The Lorns will be serving a variety of noodles from different cultures, including Cambodian beef bone noodle soup; Laotian khao poon; Northern Thai khao soi; a vegan three-mushroom noodle soup; and a Vietnamese chicken pho with chicken schmaltz to pay homage to Rachel’s upbringing. The full opening menu can be found at http://mawnphilly.com/menu. Once lunch service commences, Phila and Rachel will add Cambodian-style sandwiches called num pang that will be served on fresh, warm rolls from Sarcone’s Bakery, which is located a few doors away from the restaurant.
“We are opening this restaurant as a place for people to come to share many different dishes from many cultures,” said Rachel. “We’ll be more of a quick noodle shop during the day, but at night, we are looking to feature more traditional Cambodian dishes while offering a full dining experience featuring foods from Southeast Asia. We are so excited to finally open the doors to Mawn and take the next step in achieving our dream while bringing Philly some more noods, which we think the city needs.”
Marilyn Johnson is a freelance food and travel writer covering the food and drink scene of Philadelphia, South Jersey food, the greater Mid-Atlantic area, and beyond. Email Marilyn at firstname.lastname@example.org with food and travel news. If you liked this article, throw Marilyn a coffee! Follow Marilyn on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
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