This fall gave us our first look at Frank Gehry’s ambitious remodeling of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on which the architect has been toiling for more than a decade. If intended to reassure skeptics that his work will be respectful and understated, his new museum restaurant could hardly have performed better. Called “Stir,” it is a warm and handsome space with floors of red oak and walls of Douglas fir. The open lattice of curved wooden beams that hangs from the ceiling like a late-Gothic net vault imparts a cozy sense of enclosure to those who dine beneath it. This distinctive shape, the architect tells us, will be reprised in the new galleries he will add in the course of his renovations.

When it was announced in 2006 that Gehry, the designer of the extravagantly unbuttoned Guggenheim Bilbao, would be turned loose on Philadelphia’s serene temple of art, there...


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