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Aug 15, 2008 12:08 PM

Does Any NYC Chinese Rival Shiao Lan Kung/Lee How Fook in Philly

I've lived in Manhattan for five years now, and I've tried all of the "best" Chinese restaurants in the city. But I have found nothing that even holds a candle to Shiao Lan Kung (and to a lesser extent Lee How Fook) in Philadelphia. Am I missing something? Does Philly really beat NYC in the best of Chinese cuisine? For those who have been to either of those Philly restaurants, do you agree? Is there someplace better here?

For those of you that haven't been, I would strongly recommend a visit to Philly just to try Shiao Lan Kung.

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  1. im not that familiar with the philly chinese scene, what type of chinese food does Shiao Lan Kung serve?

    Also, when you say "I've tried all of the "best" Chinese restaurants in the city", which specific restaurants have you tried?

    1. It appears from the romanization of SLK and LHF that LHF is Cantonese and that SLK could be Cantonese or Mandarin. It would be helpful as Lau asks, to mention the "best" Chinese restaurants that you have been to here and also to describe the chow served up at these Philadelphia outposts and why nothing here measures up. NYC features five Chinatowns, some 250+ restaurants and has more than 20 times the Chinese population as Philadelphia does.

      7 Replies
      1. re: scoopG

        My use of the term "best" is obviously not set in stone, since I'm asking for advice. An incomplete list includes:

        Shun Lee
        Kam Chueh
        Grand Sichuan(s)
        Joe's Shanghai
        Congee Village
        Mr. K's

        I've been to others, but these are some of the "best," as mentioned often on this board. Both SLK and LHF are Cantonese.

        What makes SLK in particular better is what makes any top restaurant better than others: the freshness of ingredients, complexity of flavors and spices, and just the perfection of the overall menu. In particular, they serve a salt-baked tofu that is second to none and pork dumplings that are truly otherworldly. The thing is, it's one of the few restaurants I've ever been to (in which I include Daniel, JG, Craft, and a few others) where everything on the menu is perfect. It's like Di Fara: the chef is just a master at what he does and I feel almost humbled to eat his food. I've lived in NYC for over 6 years, but I go to Philly at least three times a year just to go to SLK.

        And your citation of the Chinese population in Philly is what makes it all the more surprising. Philly, with the possible exception of Le Bec Fin, doesn't hold a candle to NYC in almost any other cuisine. And I'd say that the average Chinese restaurant in NYC is better than the average one in Philly. But SLK in particular (but also LHF) are better. You might say that they may just be better Cantonese, but I'd put it up against any restaurant with any cuisine (as far as you can compare apples to oranges).

        Here's Craig Laban of the Philadelphia Inquirer's review:

        1. re: sethnavajo

          I haven't been to the restaurants you mention in Philly. But I have to say that from your list, I only like Grand Sichuan (not the C-town branch), Kam Cheuh for live seafood, and Joe's Shanghai for soup dumplings. If you want to stay in Manhattan, you may want to give Szechuan Gourmet a try for Sichuan food and Amazing 66 and Fuleen for Cantonese food. I haven't really liked any restaurants for Shanghainese food -- I'm starting to wonder if I just don't appreciate the cuisine as much.

          And if you go to Flushing, you'll find that the level of Chinese restaurants are a lot higher. So you may want to read a few posts on the Outer Boroughs Board. Not sure where you live, but Flushing is only a 20 minute ride on the LIRR from Penn Station.

          One thing that Philly had that definitely surpassed NYC was Burmese -- loved Rangoon.

          1. re: sethnavajo

            alright, this is helpful, i'll def try SLK when im in philly

            so of the restaurants you tried, u tried a few diff type of chinese food:
            shun lee - high end amercanized chinese (i personally hate this place)
            NGB - i don't know how this place got a good rep (here's my most recent assessment:
            )Kam Chueh - good seafood, but its now closed
            Grand Sichuan - quality varies very heavily depending on which branch u go to, i only go to the st marks one now (would rec szechuan gourmet over GS thought)
            Joe's Shanghai - not a fan although their XLB are passable
            Congee Village - decent, can be good, but kind of hit or miss, best for bigger parties where you can order bigger dishes b/c those tend to be the ones ive found are better and their congee is actually not good at all
            Mr K's - tourist trap w/ so so food

            Now to be more helpful, I think you should make a trip to flushing b/c thats where the best chinese food is in manhattan as i haven't had "great" chinese food in manhattan (if you post on the outer boroughs board, I'll give you a bunch of restaurants to hit up, some of which are great).

            In the city, here's a list i recently gave someone else that probably pertains to this as well:

            also agree with Miss Needle's comment on shanghainese food in the city. Miss Needle - its the city not the cuisine, I'm going to try shanghai tide in flushing soon if its as good as yang tze was then ill let u know and u should def try it out (its night and day)

            1. re: Lau

              Looking forward to your report on Shanghai Tide. As I've never had Shanghainese food in Shanghai, I was starting to think that I just didn't like it.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                Miss Needle, I think you might not like Shanghai cuisine. I've been to Shanghai, and ate well, but it didn't make me stop enjoying NY Shanghai food. Three of the best are Shanghai Cafe in Chinatown, which is really the extension of the legendary Little Shanghai of yore (same owner), and Evergreen in midtown (formerly of Chinatown). For upscale Shanghai, Our Place Shanghai Tea Garden was great at my one meal there, but their menu is also multiregional.

                Also, I think Congee VIllage has gone way downhill over the last few years.

                My best of Manhattan list would include Amazing 66 and Phoenix Garden for Cantonese, but neither compares with Imperial Palace in Flushing. Shanghai Cafe for Shanghai cuisine, with Our Place a serious contender, Szechuan Gourmet & Wu Liang Ye 48th St. for Sichuan (different dishes at each), and NY Noodletown for salt & pepper fried seafood and vegetables only.

                If the original poster is looking for great Cantonese/HK-style, my best bet would be to go straight to Imperial Palace in Flushing.


                1. re: Peter Cherches

                  yeah imperial palace is very is the best cantonese food ive had in NY

                  also ny noodletown has very good bbq meats and have the only good version ive had of shrimp wonton noodle soup in ctown

            2. re: sethnavajo

              Shun Lee serves mostly Americanized Chinese food. I prefer Shanghai Cafe over Joe's Shanghai. Congee Village is an old reliable. Grand Sichuan in Chinatown is very mediocre but some folks love the St. Mark's branch.

              Interesting review. A Hongkong trained Chef who seems to do it all! In general you will not find Cantonese, Hunanese, Sichuan dishes etc. served under one roof. Amazing 66 at 66 Mott serves great Cantonese, family style. They do serve a Cantonese version of the Sichuan classic Gong Bao Ji Ding. They also feature some 68 lunch specials for $5.25 which includes a cup of soup, one steaming hot lunch special, rice and tea:


              Best Dumplings:

              Lanzhou style Hand-Pulled Noodles:

              A recent thread on Best Chinatown Restaurant:

              Szechuan Gourmet in Midtown, haven’t been yet but raves here:



              What makes Manhattan’s Chinatown unique is our abundance of Fujian immigrants and the great cuisine they’ve brought with them: from delicately flavored, boiling hot soups and rich stocks to steaming seafood casseroles and stir-fries. My favorite is Best Fuzhou at 71 Eldridge Street. I’m also am fond of Best Fuzhou at 68 Forsyth Street:

              Other favorites:

              Big Wong King at 67 Mott Street, 10013 - Best Cantonese BBQ Roast Pork
              Fuleen Seafood at 11 Division Street, 10002.
              New Chao Chao at 111 Mott Street, 10013 - Excellent Soups
              Shanghai Café at 100 Mott Street, 10013 - Shanghai Soup Dumplings
              Yogee Restaurant at 85 Chrystie Street, 10002 - under-rated Cantonese

          2. Haven't been to either of those Philadelphia Chinese restaurants, but I have been to about 15 restaurants in Philadelphia Chinatown including Ocean Harbor, H.K. Phoenix and Lakeside Deli and found the food there comparable to Manhattan Chinatown. The key, I believe, is that there is no suburban, non-core Chinatown in the Philadelphia area (though my understanding is that one old neighborhood in North Philly may be developing as a secondary, though working class Chinese area). What this means is that the best Chinese restaurants in Philadelphia are largely centered in Chinatown. In contrast, New York City has Flushing, where the Chinese food knocks the socks off the food in Manhattan Chinatown. I suspect Flushing would also far surpass Philadelphia Chinatown, too. Philadelphia is similar to Chicago and Boston, where most of the best Chinese food is in Chinatown, and different from New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, where it isn't.

            6 Replies
            1. Plenty of deliciousness available in Manhattan's Chinatown to go around. Over 250,000 Chinese crammed into 50 blocks. At least 100 restaurants. Chinese diaspora out west is so spread out over a vast area where there is no mass transit. Let's be more precise: It's not LA or San Francisco but the SGV and the Bay area. And we have Fuzhou cuisine in spades.

              1. re: scoopG

                I gotta think there are between 200 and 300 Chinese restaurants in Manhattan Chinatown. I've tried about 150, but that counts a good number that are no longer in existence, and my gut feeling is that I've only eaten my way through half of Chinatown.

                1. re: Chandavkl

                  > I gotta think there are between 200 and 300 Chinese restaurants in Manhattan Chinatown. ...

                  I think you must be right. This site's Places database (incomplete but reasonably up-to-date) includes nearly 300 Chinatown venues.

                  Check out the search results below. Some places listed are non-Chinese; some are bakeries, groceries or other non-restaurant businesses; a few have closed. But the vast majority are Chinese restaurants.


                2. re: scoopG

                  oh NY's chinatown is MUCH better than LA's historical ctown

                  1. re: Lau

                    Absolutely! And much better (and cheaper ) than San Francisco's as well. My point is that LA is not SGV! San Francisco is not the Bay area. Have you been out to Brooklyn's 8th Avenue?

                    1. re: Lau

                      oh my yes. i lived in LA for two years and was stunned at the lameness of their 'chinatown,' which was dominated by places that threw pineapple into EVERYTHING.....including moo shu (my guilty pleasure) and alleged authentic hk casseroles.

                3. Maybe New York doesn't have anything quite like Shiao Lan Kung. From reading that review you linked to, it seems that Shiao Lan Kung's strength is in taking the dishes that the average American (not an expert in Chinese food) likes to order at the average Chinese take-out, and preparing those dishes, like Kung Pao Chicken or Orange Beef, with respect and artistry. Most places here don't do that; what they excell in is preparing the dishes that knowledgeable people in Canton or Hong Kong like. The only place I know that does is, surprisingly, P F Chang's -- with very mixed results (after all, it IS a big chain)

                  Amazing 66 can do a good job at this, though they sometimes get lazy if they think you don't know anything about chinese cuisine. So can some of the places in Flushing, such as Jade Asian and New Lok Kee.

                  Shiao Lan Kung does have a lot of more traditional Chinese dishes, like this crispy intestine. And stuff like that is easy to find in NY Chinatown.

                  1. Thanks to all for excellent feedback! I primarily go to Queens for Tangra Masala and the Mets. Now I'm going to Flushing.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sethnavajo

                      Yes, go!! It's very easy to combine with a Mets game... one short stop away on the 7 train... and if you eat in Flushing and then go to the game (or vice versa) you will be traveling on empty trains... all the crowds are going in the other direction!

                      1. re: Brian S

                        Wew just got back from a weekend in Philadelphia where we happily stumbled on Shiao Lan Kung and its extraordinary rendition of even the most simple dishes. It really stands out in the combined almost a century of Chinese restaurant going between the two of us.