One great dinner in Philly
Haven't been to Sampan, but have been to both Chifa and Meritage. Liked them both. Would say that while Meritage has its Asian influences, it's mixed in with a lot of other "new American"-y stuff, so might not be as Asian-heavy as you're looking for. Also not the hippest/coolest atmosphere.
Chifa certain has the cool vibe down cold. I liked everything I had on my one visit there, but should be noted that this is definitely small plates meant to be shared. As has been my experience at other Garces places in the city, don't go with someone who isn't interested in just trying lots of stuff and sharing around the table. There can be long, awkward pauses between when dishes are served--or multiple things at once--so you may get your 2-3 first plate choices before the other party has received one.
I have not been to Chifa but my guess is that you would get awesome food as well as vibe here, all of the other Garces restaurants are excellent.
I actually went to Meritage last evening. Maybe I was too hyped with all of the talk it's been getting, and don't get me wrong all was good, just wasn't as wowed as I thought I'd be. The special appetizer of foie gras dumplings and the mushroom and asperagus risotto were excellent. The soft shell crab was very good with a not very creative corn salad that was warm(would've liked better cold,but maybe just one's preference). Did not love the crispy calamari, while the squid were very tender would not call them crispy and sauce was a little too "Bbquie" for my taste.
All in all though, very good meal overall, will definitely go back.
Of those three, Meritage is by far the best, food-wise, but probably has the least cool vibe. Sampan probably has the coolest vibe, but the least good food. There's also Buddakan, which has long been the standard for Asian fusion in Philly, but the long-time chef left there in the last week or two.
1 Atlantic Ocean Unit 3108, Atlantic City, NJ 08401