Wandering Palate
For Patrick Feury, the creative force behind the kitchens of Nectar and the forthcoming Danlu, travel excites the taste buds and the imagination
by Bill Donahue

Ask Patrick Feury about having the freedom to wander—seeing new places, meeting new faces and sampling exotic foods to excite the taste buds—and he’ll likely describe it as vital to his work, even a necessity. Chances are, though, his response will be much more eloquent, yet delivered in fewer words. After all, he’s become a master at turning something simple into a work of art that lingers in the mind as well as on the tongue.

“I always wanted to go where the sources were,” says Feury, executive chef of Nectar, the “Asian-inspired, French-infused” restaurant in Berwyn. “I lived in Paris, went through Stockholm, through Italy and France, and I was always taken in by the beauty of the food in those parts of the world. Funny thing about food: You have to capture the culture to get the flavors and the tastes. Food is about the culture and the people behind it; it’s about how they eat it, why they eat it.”

Chef Feury made it his business to become a student of the world. Considering  Nectar’s reputation as one of the Main Line’s purest sources of artfully prepared sushi and sashimi, few would be surprised to learn that Asia ranks highly among the parts of the world that inform his work in the kitchen. The cuisine of Indonesia, in particular, ignites his imagination.

“In Indonesia, you have the flavors of Vietnam, Thailand and India, with lemongrasses and fish sauces in the curries, as opposed to straight-up turmeric or chili coming at you,” he says. “It also incorporates things like raw papayas and raw vegetables, so [the dishes] are fresh and super crisp. When you eat Indonesian food, it’s like eating a berry smoothie; you eat a little bit and the rest of the day you feel good.”

He’s quick to point out that he’s not looking to simply “reinvent the wheel,” he says. Rather, he hopes to give each dish a unique “translation,” while keeping true to the dish’s country of origin. Look up and down the menu at Nectar and the evidence of his travels are apparent: not only Asia but also Britain (his mother, who taught him how to cook, was born in the U.K.), the Mediterranean and France, even Scandinavia. Of course, there’s also a healthy American influence. The lineup of seasonal specials often features freshly caught fish and other seafood, starring ingredients such as squid plucked from the waters of Cape May, N.J.

“I want fresh flavors overall, but I look at what we’re doing here as eclectic as opposed to fusion,” he says. “The Pad Thai and lo mein are actually made in traditional styles, with the flavors brought out to be the best they can be. I’m trying to find the best ingredients, whether it’s the Mangalitsa pork, the natural beef, the cheeses we get from Birchrun Hill Farms [in Chester Springs] or the tomatoes from the 35 tomato plants we’re growing in the garden outback.”

In addition to cuisines from around the world, Feury draws inspiration from creative friends and colleagues closer to home, including a community of “makers and doers” in Vermont. He’s not afraid to travel in order to find what he considers the best. In fact, he prefers it: “I like to go and visit every single person we’re sourcing from.”

He’ll apply his hands-on approach to Danlu, a daring new venture coming soon to 3501 Market, a high-rise apartment building in University City. Think of the concept as a 3,000-square-foot, 150-seat gastro pub, pairing Asian street food—fresh noodles, unique dumplings and other menu items one might find at a Taiwanese night market—with high-quality, farmstead-style beers flowing from 22 taps.

“I don’t want to have any western influences [at Danlu],” he says. “We’ll have things on the menu no one has seen in the U.S. With this concept, everything will come out super fresh, with no acquired taste. When you put it in your mouth, it should be awesome.”

Photograph by Steve Legato