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The University City restaurant Pod reopened as KPod on Feb. 9 after nearly two years of being shut down due to the pandemic. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Pod — a University City restaurant popular for its Pan-Asian cuisine and futuristic atmosphere — has reopened with a new name and a new menu.

Restaurateur Stephen Starr reopened Pod as KPod on Feb. 9 after almost two years of a COVID-19 pandemic-induced shutdown, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Inspired by the “K wave” of Korean music, fashion, and culture in Western life, KPod — located at The Inn at Penn — seeks to celebrate and explore Korean cuisine.

Chef Peter Serpico, drawing upon his Korean American background, has reimagined traditional South Korean dishes for the menu, the Inquirer reported.

KPod’s menu features traditional Korean foods such as mandu (Korean dumplings), rice cakes, banchan, and bibimbap, in addition to American dishes such as shrimp cocktails and wedge salads. Serpico also seeks to blend Korean and American flavors, offering dishes such as a grilled pork chop with kimchi and brown butter.

Serpico, the former second-in-command for New York City-based restaurateur David Chang, relocated to Philadelphia in 2012 to collaborate with Starr on his other restaurant, Serpico, an upscale American restaurant in South Philadelphia.

Through his partnership with Serpico, Starr intends for “something new and fresh … that brings a level of attractiveness to a new population and some of [Serpico’s] existing customer base that existed prior to the pandemic,” Penn’s Executive Director of Real Estate Ed Datz said.

Along with the revised menu, KPod has a new design, replacing Pod’s futuristic white lacquer furniture with earth tones and brown wooden accents. KPod will continue to offer Pod’s three “pods” — popular semiprivate dining rooms — with LED patron-controlled colored lighting, the Inquirer reported.

Additionally, KPod replaced Pod's revolving sushi conveyor belt with a Korean-inspired raw bar, according to the Inquirer.

STARR Restaurants, Starr’s restaurant conglomerate, has been anticipating Pod’s reopening since before the pandemic. “The renovation and refresh [was] already planned,” Datz said. “It just was literally delayed [by the pandemic].”

Starr first opened Pod in 2000. In 2018, Pod was named one of Philadelphia Magazine’s “5 Restaurants Worth Revisiting in University City.” Originally marketed for upscale suburban crowds, Pod’s prices appealed more to Penn faculty and staff than students.

STARR Restaurants owns over 30 restaurants spanning two continents, including Philadelphia’s Parc in Rittenhouse Square and Morimoto in Old City. In 2017, Starr was named “Outstanding Restaurateur” by the James Beard Foundation

KPod is located at The Inn at Penn, 3636 Sansom Street. The restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 . p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-11 p.m. on Friday, 5-11pm
on Saturday, and 5-10 p.m. on Sunday.

“We hope the students, faculty, staff, and the [Penn] community will find a place [at KPod] to enjoy a good meal as we come out of the pandemic,” said Datz.