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August 07, 2023

Pod is back serving sushi again, two years after Kpod rebranding

Among Stephen Starr's original Philly restaurants and known for its sushi conveyor belt, Pod had closed during the pandemic

Food & Drink Restaurants
pod philadelphia Provided Image/Cashman & Associates

Stephen Starr's Pod restaurant is now a sushi-focused Japanese eatery. Above, Pod's lead sushi chef Kevin Yanaga (left) and executive chef Kenjiro Omori (right).

Pod, one of Stephen Starr's earliest restaurants in Philadelphia, is being resurrected in its original form (with some changes) after a brief rebranding as Kpod.

A press release about the return of the restaurant, which many remember for its conveyor-belt sushi service, described the new Pod as a mature and "more refined" version of Starr's original spot at 3636 Sansom Street on the University of Pennsylvania's campus. Pod opened in 2000 and closed during the pandemic. Starr rebranded the restaurant last year as Kpod, a Korean-American concept, but according to diners, something was missing from the new menu.

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"When we reopened the space as Kpod, our customers kept asking us, 'Where's the sushi?' So, we listened and decided to transition the space back to its original conception – a Japanese restaurant and Izakaya," Starr said in the press release. The restauranteur also briefly discusses the change in an Instagram video on Monday. 

Pod is once again a sushi-focused Japanese restaurant. Its conveyor belt is gone, but it does feature the sushi menu curated by Pod's former, lead sushi chef Kevin Yanaga. (As Kpod, Chef Peter Serpico was brought in to design the menu; Serpico left the company this March and was replaced by corporate chef Mark Hellyar.)

Hellyar developed the menu and executive chef Kenjiro Omori is carrying out daily operations. "I've created a menu that embraces the essence of the original Pod, but with a little more elevation, polish and Japanese tradition," Hellyar said. "Between the updated menu and the restaurant's intrinsic energy that defined the space for two decades, diners will fall in love with Pod all over again."

There are a variety of sushi rolls, in addition to a selection of hot and cold dishes, like the pork ramen and mentaiko spaghetti, a popular dish in Tokyo, and grilled yuzu prawns, smoked pork belly and beef short rib.

The cocktail menu has modern takes on classic Japanese cocktails along with sake, wine, beer and fan-favorite cocktails from Kpod, like the Champ-pop, a mix of sake and boba.

The Starr Restaurant Group has 19 restaurants in Philadelphia. It also has restaurants in New York, Florida and Washington, D.C. Pod is open for dinner Monday-Thursday from 5-10 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 5-11 p.m.

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