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Philly Mag Top 50 Restaurants...

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http://philadelphia.foobooz.com/2012/...

Biggest surprise.. Marigold Kitchen...

Snubs include Ela and Bar Ferdinand in my not so humble opinion. Also very uneven inclusion of restaurants from the suburbs. The Han Dynasty is a bit puzzling as they have three in the city now so not sure which they are referring to. Let the debate begin......

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  1. Pointless to debate the relative rankings, but the Federal Donuts inclusion is ridiculous. If that qualifies, there are a dozen takeout places that could or should be on the list. I will echo what many commenters on the Foobooz post said about the service at Stateside not being up to the level of the food.

    1. I've only eaten at 11 of the 50, so no expert, but... it just looks kind of random to me.
      i'd also rank morimoto higher than any of those 11...

      1. Agree the FedNuts inclusion is odd. Food trucks may be fair game next year at this rate... I do think it's also strange how high Brauhaus is ranked and how low Zahav is. And no Zavino?

        1. cw, thanks for posting this. Always interesting, even if always surprising. I agree with you about Ela and Bar Ferdinand - not proper omissions. And some on this list were places we crossed off our own list.

          When we aren't sure about whether to try a certain restaurant, we don't go to the Philly Mag list - we go to Chowhound!

          1. Typically, it won't come up for me. Where else can I peruse the list?

            1. Never mind I found it -- by hook or by crook and I must say

              I am gobsmacked!

              I cannot believe that Heirloom, Sola, Stella Sera and Savona are completely missing while Blackfish (a fine restaurant) ends up #1 and for the second year in a row it is in the top 5 while Vetri comes in at an embarrassing 2nd.

              What are they drinking up there?

              2 Replies
              1. re: arepo

                If you think whatever list you looked at is crazy, wait til you see the real one (the link is working, it was down a few min I think).

                1. re: barryg

                  I could swear it said 2012 but maybe I was wrong.
                  This list is also mind boggling.
                  At least Nectar made it -- they deserve it.
                  Clearly, it was chosen with a decided bent toward "jeans joints" this time.
                  LBF all the way down there is a total insult -- even with the new regime in tow.
                  I don't consider Philadelphia magazine the gospel for restaurant recommendations anyway.
                  Chowhound is my advisory board.

              2. Brauhaus Schmitz?

                5 Replies
                1. re: Chinon00

                  Thanks, Chin. I was starting to think I was the only one who didn't "get" Brauhaus Schmitz. Not just in the inclusion in this list. Overall. The food and service disappointed. It has more of a bar/club atmosphere, at least in the evenings. Glad to see I'm not alone.

                  1. re: philren

                    And not only is it on the list but it's #12 on the list?! And better than Osteria?!

                    1. re: Chinon00

                      They made a post about the methodology on foobooz... after reading that it was more clear that this is really a list of "favorites" rather the "bests." In that light, yeah, I can see preferring to go to Brauhaus over Amis on many occasions. But that doesn't make it a better restaurant.

                      The real problem I have with the list is how narrow it is. Arepo's list of restaurants in the Chestnut Hill area he/she thinks should be on there illustrates that. The list was created in a bubble of Center City/South Philly with a smattering of Main Line by people who can't see past the self-feeding hype machine that is driving the food blogs. That's why places like Brauhaus and Percy St BBQ are on there. They may be good at what they do but if they were in, say, Lansdale would the people that created this list be schlepping up there to eat? I highly doubt it, and they wouldn't have made the list.

                      The new food editor they brought in to run the magazine and Foobooz is a real hack but here we are talking about it giving them pageviews so I don't think he's going anywhere soon.

                      1. re: barryg

                        Eh, this year's list has generated much less discussion here than in years past. I know that for me personally, it's because I read it and it was so wrong in so many ways that I just don't care.

                        1. re: barryg

                          the last time i paid much attention to their list (last year? 2 years ago?) i actually bought the magazine and used the list t think about where i'd go out next. this time: no. it's just irrelevant. so yes, i gave them a few pageviews, but this approach could come back to get them. if it's shock for shock's sake -and it might well not be - then that only works for so long.

                  2. If they wanted to consign their list to the trash heap of utter irrelevancy, mission accomplished.

                    1. The methodology and explanation of the list is inconsistent with the title of " The 50 Best Restaurants". All are going to have opinions based on one or two or a few visits to a restaurant and how those visit were perceived; same with these reviewers. I would argue with a number of inclusions and exclusions but given the subjective nature of restaurant reviews, professional or amateur, it is a bit pointless. As noted here previously I would rather hear from a few , well regarded, CHs or a professional like Laban and go from there.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Bacchus101

                        Agreed. Philadelphia magazine is an even worse guide than Zagat.

                        1. re: JanR

                          I have trouble taking any of their reviews seriously... something about the way they're written is just off, as if there's some ulterior motive for writing what they do. Anybody know what I mean?

                          1. re: JanR

                            You should read Delaware Today. Where else can you read a restaurant review filled with endless praise when the food really stinks, but because DE is so small it has to be good.

                            1. re: bluehensfan

                              Main Line Today is the same. I'll stick with LaBan reviews, thanks.

                        2. Philly Mag is brutal anymore. They seem to fall in love with cooks and places and can no longer think with an open mind. The only thing worse than the food section is their 50 page advertisement section.

                          1. The monthly individual restaurant reviews in PM are very good. But their lists of “50 Best…” of anything concerning food are usually for entertainment purposes only. E.g., splitting their Best Pizza list into five categories (toppings, crust, sauce, slice and dine-in) confirmed that their ratings are like summer camp awards; make sure there are enough categories so everyone gets one.

                            If you want to make use of this year’s 50 Best Restaurants take the order of the ratings and the written commentary with a grain of salt.

                            1. I do agree with the Stateside selection. Amazing! I'm afraid with Anthony Bourdain's recommendation & PM's, it will no longer be a hidden gem.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: wandasue

                                I don't think it was ever "hidden".

                              2. Thanks cwdonald,

                                I do also have a question about Han Dynasty too. Not the same question you have, I can only assume that the magazine believes the 3 Han Dynasty are about same (due to good quality control). Since Han Dynasty is the only Chinese restaurant on the list, does it means Han Dynasty is the best Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia?

                                By the way, as I was searching for Han Dynasty website, I realized that "Han Dynasty" can be "Handy Nasty"! :P

                                http://handynasty.net/

                                Maybe I should try it and tell you if it tastes like the foods taste like Han Dynasty or Handy Nasty. :D

                                31 Replies
                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  ha! i've been calling it handy nasty forever now...it reminds me of the it's always sunny episode where frank falls in love with sha dynasty back in the day, so they opened up a place with that name, but the sign reads 'shady nasty's' !

                                  i have only ever gone to the manayunk outpost of HD, but they do not serve drinks there. from the article, it sounds like they DO serve drinks at the UC outpost, not sure about the old city one, or the suburban ones either. i wonder if this has something to do with philly mag's choice of UC's HD?

                                  and speaking of HD, do people seem to find that their food is always swimming in a lot of oil? i always get takeout from the HD in manayunk, and dishes like the eggplant are sitting in so much oil that it's hard for me to eat it anymore. there was one occasion where the amount of oil is manageable, but it just seems like it's getting out of control. i've gotten take out from other szechuan restaurants (like R&Z Ping Pong) and while some of the food is oily, HD seems overly oily.

                                  1. re: purplesachi

                                    <ha! i've been calling it handy nasty forever now>

                                    Man, I thought I was one of the first few who figured this out. Guess not. :)

                                    <do people seem to find that their food is always swimming in a lot of oil?>

                                    That's no good. A sign of good Chinese food is actually to use the minimum possible amount of cooking oil. Certainly, the Cantonese cuisine is supposed to be judged on this. Are you sure it is oil, and not just sauce?

                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      Chemicalkinetics, it's oil. Lots of oil. This is Taiwanese-style Sichuan, both cuisines which have a pretty heavy hand with oil Cantonese food is not like that. Purplesachi, you are not the only one who has seen this problem of too much oil with HD's food.

                                      I've been to locations in Royersford, Manayunk, and Old City, and am discouraged enough by their food, which while not bad, is not good enough for me to return without other compelling reasons (eg, social pressure).

                                    2. re: purplesachi

                                      Actually, the Always Sunny in Philadelphia Shady Nasty episode was inspired by Han Dynasty's Han being referred to as Handy Nasty (something he embraces).

                                      There are 6 of them now: Cherry Hill; Exton; Manayunk; Old City; Royersford; University City.

                                      I've only been to OC and Royersford, the former being much better (with a different menu). But all the recent press has been about UC and their drinks, so that is probably why it is in the Top 50. Philly Mag's criteria isn't "best", it's "gravity" (whatever that means).

                                      Whether it's the best Chinese in Philly is a debatable point, but it's certainly the only Chinese in Philly that has had national exposure (I've never been sure what to make of that place that advertises they won an award for "Best Chinese in America"--none of the Chinese expats I know ever mention it).

                                      1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                        <Whether it's the best Chinese in Philly is a debatable point, but it's certainly the only Chinese in Philly that has had national exposure (I've never been sure what to make of that place that advertises they won an award for "Best Chinese in America"--none of the Chinese I know ever mention it).>

                                        That is the thing. I have never been to Han Dyansty. I looked at the Old City menu and it is brief which is nice, but it also looks like it does not have a core theme or signature. The Old City menu almost looks like a list of answer from "Please name the most common Chinese dish you can think of"

                                        I should also mentioned that I eat and cook Chinese food very often and visit Philly Chinatown every week, and I have never heard much of Han Dynasty among the Chinese who I know. Oh I myself is also Chinese too.

                                        This, of course, makes me wonder the entire list now.. :)

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          HD has fine-to-acceptable versions of each dish on their menus. As I mentioned upthread, it's a Taiwanese take on Sichuan in America, so you'll see Taiwanese-style Sichuan dishes, Taiwanese dishes, and dishes they've selected that they think will appeal to the American palate.

                                          As your palate is Cantonese, and your previous posts mention your visits to the other Sichuan places in Philly's Chinatown, I would venture that HD would only be worth a visit if you want to see what all the fuss is about. I know that the Royersford location had (has?) some kind of tasting dinner Tuesday nights which is supposed to be good. But most of the recent fuss has been over UC's cocktails. If you try it, I would be interested in hearing your opinion.

                                          1. re: mookleknuck

                                            <it's a Taiwanese take on Sichuan in America>

                                            I see. I suppose that "Four River" in Chinatown theoretically is that too. The owner and chef are from Taiwan and they serve Sichuan food. "E Mei", on the other, is Mainland Chinese chef cook Sichuan dishes. To be really honest, I have eaten from both Four River and E Mei, and I cannot tell a heck a lot of difference, and I like both.

                                            <As your palate is Cantonese>

                                            Yeah, I have a more Cantonese palate, but I really do like Sichuan food too, which is why I often ate at E Mei and Four River. The problem is that I cannot eat Sichuan food too often or I would feel too overwhelming.

                                            <I would venture that HD would only be worth a visit if you want to see what all the fuss is about>

                                            I should. I mean I hear all the good talk about Han Dynasty from all these magazines. I have a prediction of myself. I think I will like it ok, but I won't love it. Kind of like my attitude toward McRib.

                                            I don't want to hijack this thread anymore. This is supposed to be the top 50 choice restaurant, not just Han Dynasty. Thanks all.

                                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Actually, OC's HD menu is divided up by cooking styles (for example, "Dry Pepper"), with several dishes under each. I've never seen this sort of menu at any other Chinese restaurant, Sichuan or not (and I used to be a regular at arguably one of the best Sichuan restaurant in the US).

                                            I've only been to one other HD location, Royersford, which has a menu divided up into "American" and "Authentic" sections (I may be getting the terminology wrong) rather than by cooking styles. I don't know how the other locations do it, but these differences between locations are curious. I don't remember any recognizable "Americanized" dishes on the OC menu.

                                            I've always assumed this scheme was devised by Han, but I don't really know for sure. It does make the usual confusing Chinese menu a lot more logical. Han is obviously quite the salesman, and it makes a lot of sense to tailor your product for your clientele. If it scares away Chinese expats, he probably more than makes up for it. There's a line out the door on the weekends at OC.

                                            As I understand it, Han is originally from Taiwan but grew up on the Mainland, and his father is from Sichuan province (last I checked he works at OC). They also have at least some Sichuan-trained chefs on staff. Interestingly, according to his tweets, Han spent the past summer doing research in Sichuan, and he gave a tasting dinner of new ideas he brought back this past Monday (a chef friend who attended said it was great).

                                            I've always found OC's Sichuan food to be quite authentic, at least for the dishes typically I order, such as fuiqi feipian and dry pepper-style chicken (I forget the Chinese name), so I don't think those represent "Taiwanese takes" on Sichuan dishes. But they certainly have Taiwanese dishes on the menu, like the 3 Cup Chicken I've had at Royersford.

                                            Personally, I do consider them to be the best Chinese in Philly, but then again, I haven't been everywhere (I've been a bit disappointed in Philly's Chinatown compared to Boston's, which has turned me off trying lots of new places, and there are too many exciting BYOBs to try). However, I also think the search for "authentic" cuisine is a waste of time (I don't expect anyone from China to agree with that; we all expect the food we grew up with to taste exactly like the food we grew up with, even if it's crap like a White Castle hamburger!). All I really care about is does it taste good, not whether it follows some archaic rules from another time and place.

                                            A funny little anecdote: I took my staff, including one women from China, to the Royersford HD for a holiday lunch last month. Going in she was skeptical (having not liked her previous visit to the Exton location), but she came out quite impressed (although admittedly she is not from Sichuan).

                                            There seems to be quite a lot of differences between the various locations of Han Dynasty, so your milelage may vary. I also find it a place where you have to "know how to order", but that's true of a lot of Chinese restaurants. One group can come out singing its praises, while another, having ordered different dishes, will hate it.

                                            My advice for OC is, assuming you can handle the high level of spice in these dishes, order: Fuiqi fepian (cold thin-sliced beef & tripe in chili oil with peanuts and scallions), dry pepper-style chicken (small crispy fried chicken cubes with long hot green and dried red chillies), Dan Dan noodles, and pea shoots with garlic. If it's BYOB day, bring a Gewurztraminer.

                                            Your tummy will be happy. If you don't feel good the next day, well join the club! ;-)

                                            1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                              <I've always found OC's Sichuan food to be quite authentic>

                                              Thanks. I think Tawianese-Sichaun is tough for me to define anyway because there are indeed many people from Taiwan who have direct relationship with Sichuan -- through immigration. The younger generation may not, but some older generation people are from there. Just like you can get very Mexican-like Mexican food in the US too.

                                              Yes, by the way, the old city menu is interesting and I can see its appeal to non-Chinese customers. What surprise me is that the menus are different for different Han Dynasty.

                                              <if it's crap like a White Castle hamburger!>

                                              Hey stop this, I tried my first White Castle last Thanksgiving. I like them. :)

                                              <My advice for OC >

                                              Dumb question, or rather lazy question. Which of the Han Dyansty is closest to Philadelphia? I actually live in New Jersey on Highway 95, and I drive to Philadelphia Chinatown every weekend for music lesson and grocey. I am curious which Han Dynasty will work the best for me. :)

                                              <Your tummy will be happy. If you don't feel good the next day, well join the club! ;-)>

                                              I cannot say anything about Han Dynasty, but yeah, I have that problem of "Taste Good now, Stomach Hurt Tonight/Tomorrow" from Chinatown Sichuan restaurants: Four River and E- Mei.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                I'm not sure if there's a Han Dynasty between you and Philly Chinatown (my PA geography is still a bit weak), but the Old City location isn't far from Chinatown, and there is a decent-sized open air parking lot immediately across the street that I've never had trouble parking at, even during prime time.

                                                If I were you I'd start at the flagship OC location and see what you think. Although I haven't been to UC and for all I know it may actually be better.

                                                I think the differences between the locations may be more of Han's marketing. Actually, the Royersford location is quite attractive inside, despite its strip mall location, more so than OC which always strikes me as disorganized and unattractive (and too busy). I assume the different menu and Americanized dishes in Royersford reflect a recognition that less adventuresome palates might predominate out in the 'burbs versus University City or Old City.

                                                BTW, I have been known to enjoy a White Castle (or six) too!

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  Well first you might try the new one in Cherry Hill NJ... If you are driving to Philadelphia Chinatown, Old City probably would be the easiest, and the second easiest would be UC. You could walk to take public transport to either from Chinatown.

                                                  1. re: cwdonald

                                                    Thank you so much cwdonald. I may try the Old City one because it sounds like it will be closest to my weekly routine. Much appreciated.

                                                    1. re: cwdonald

                                                      Thanks guys,

                                                      I am not going to hijack this thread anymore than I should, but I do want to thank those who pointed me to the Han Dynasty in the Old City. I appreciate all your help and your time.

                                                      I went today, and ordered the scallion pancakes and the Dan Dan Noodle. I wasn't impressed by the foods nor the atmosphere. I thought it would be a fancy restaurant, but it wasn't. The foods were reasonable. Dan Dan Noodle was ok. The scallion pancake was not cooked through -- partially uncooked in the center. They were not bad, but I don't think they were great. I personally will say that it is slightly above average especially if we includes those cheap $5 Chinese take out restaurants, but I don't know if I would call it the top 1/3rd (33%) restaurants -- maybe borderline there.

                                                      I am very surprised that it is voted as the Best Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia and the Top 50 Restaurants in Philly. It is possible that I just so happened to order the wrong dishes. Regardless, this really makes me question the rest of the "Top 50".

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        Spot on review to me, echoes my sentiments.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          I've eaten both dishes you mentioned AND some of the other recommended dishes AND some chef-recommended dishes that supposedly makes this local chain special and still don't get the love for HD. But why slag on a restaurant for failing to meet my tastes?

                                                          You're right, however, about this threadjacking so to return to the OP, a review of the magazine's so-called methodology reveals: 1)their cut-off was Will's opening at the end of August which eliminated a number of later-opened restaurants 2)these are their favorite restaurants as opposed to the best 3)successive meals of excellence 4)multiple believers with beliefs in that a restaurant "was only getting better" and 5)the personal vision that this list is about new American cuisine and that they are on the cutting edge of what Philadelphia's restaurant scene is about.

                                                          I wouldn't take this list to mean The definitively best, but continue to use it as a picture of relative excitement and a snapshot of what was "in," in 2012. It's a shame that the restaurants we feel deserve more love and attention from others (eg, tourists and people who don't pay attention to food news) won't get that as a result of this list, but shouldn't that spur us Hounds to do more to mention the places that should?

                                                          1. re: mookleknuck

                                                            <but continue to use it as a picture of relative excitement and a snapshot of what was "in," in 2012.>

                                                            Do you think the rest of the list matches this belief? If so, which one would you recommend for me to try?

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              Yes, maybe a quarter of this list would reflect that (just look at how much disagreement there is with it on this thread and in that list's comments). Out of the places I've gone on that list, I think you might like Little Fish. Not all dishes are winners, but the ones that were really great were really great. General light hand with seasoning so that the fresh seafood flavors stand out for your Cantonese upbringing. =D

                                                              1. re: mookleknuck

                                                                :) Thanks. I will look up Little Fish. Yeah, I love the name already.

                                                    2. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                      I havent been to E Mei but I have found the dishes at Four Rivers, compared apples to apples, are as good or better than Han's--and certainly less oily (which is not to say they aren't generous with the chili oil). One exception is the Dan Dan Noodles. Han's are a more peanut-sauce style and I prefer them. However you very much have to know how to order as the English names of dishes are different between restaurants and the menu has crappy Chinese-American dishes mixed in with the good stuff, if you don't know Sichuan food you are basically rolling the dice. The specials I have had were excellent as well; the specials menu is Chinese only but they will explain it if asked.

                                                      Philly's Chinatown has some great food but the issue across the board seems to be ordering for English speakers. It is very difficult for me to determine what a place specializes in and to feel like I am ordering the "real" stuff rather than something geared towards non-natives. David's Mai Lai has three different menus (that I know of), they only give white people one unless you ask for the others. This is why Han has been so successful and is regarded so highly in foodie circles, he makes it easy for us to get authentically flavored foods and helps diners explore rather than dumb down the recipes. I wish the restaurants in Chinatown would realize there is a market among non-natives for this and not pollute their menus with crap they don't cook well. If someone who knows Chinese cuisine and Philly's Chinatown like Chemicalkinetics or mookieknuck would make a directory with the best things to order at each restaurant, that would be amazing.

                                                      Speaking of Sichuan food, I saw that Jane G's at 20th & Chestnut now has a Sichuan menu and a trained Sichuan chef. They opened with an insipid-looking Asian fusion menu but I guess that didn't work out.

                                                      1. re: barryg

                                                        That's a good point. When I lived in Boston I worked for a 50% Chinese company and so had a lot of guidance when I dined in Chinatown. As I said below, sometimes it's all about knowing how to order.

                                                        1. re: barryg

                                                          <Philly's Chinatown has some great food but the issue across the board seems to be ordering for English speakers. >

                                                          I am guessing that E Mei may be a bit better because it is a fancier restaurant. Four River is good, but it is almost a "hole in the wall"

                                                          <David's Mai Lai>

                                                          I do noticed that he has at least two menu. Just talked to David last week and had a good chat with him. I was doing take-out and he just happened to be in the counter, so he told me some older Chinatown stories, like he used to own the restaurant across the street...and his views on various Dim Sum restaurants...etc.

                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            What do you like at David's? I have been disappointed with most of my orders there, the food wasn't bad by any means but nothing was great.

                                                            The menus I have seen are the regular English menu they give without asking, a noodle/noodle soup menu, and an English menu with more exotic items (including a lot of overlap with the regular English menu).

                                                            1. re: barryg

                                                              Actually, I didn't like David's Mei Lai Wah the first time, and I didn't go back until someone here (it could be you, ironically) wrote that David's "Salt and Pepper Squid" is very good. I went back on a sick day and tried it, and it really was alright. Not out of the world good, but pretty good. Since then I did a few take outs, so I only have eaten from there for 5 times, maybe.

                                                              I have been ordering the salt and pepper squid, and also the blackbean sauce squid which I do not like as much. I asked David and the waitress for suggestion last time. (For disclosure, I don't know David before this. I just happened to get to chit-chat with him last time).

                                                              I said that "I don't want to order the same thing, any suggestion?", and they suggested me to have something called

                                                              "Sha Tin Fried Clam".

                                                              I then asked to see the menu for it (because I wanted to know the price), and I remember that it is not on one of the menu or possibly not on neither of the menu. The food tasted good, but there were a lot of broken pieces of the clam shells, so you may or may not like them. The whole clams were fried along with the X.O. sauce and possibly the blackbean sauce with some red chili pepper, but not very spicy. This is a random photo on the internet of the Sha Tin Fried Clam (not from David's):

                                                              http://www.siuyeh.com/wp-content/uplo...

                                                              David's one has more sauce, and more blackbean....

                                                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              I've noticed the opposite at E Mei and Four Rivers, the servers at E Mei are much less interested in helping an English speaker navigate the menu (and helping with other things, like paying the bill) than at Four Rivers. I've actually been gravitating towards Four Rivers more recently because of it, the service there is very friendly and helpful.

                                                              1. re: Buckethead

                                                                < the servers at E Mei are much less interested in helping an English speaker navigate the menu >

                                                                Probably just because E Mei seem more busy than Four River. I just thought E Mei look more upscale, so maybe the menu is less confusing, but I can be totally wrong about it.

                                                                <Four Rivers more recently because of it, the service there is very friendly and helpful.>

                                                                Yeah, Four River is very much that "mom and pop" store feel. I did a few dine in and take-outs there, and sometime they ask me about where I live, how is my job, ...etc. I don't know them really, but they just wanted to ask. Whereas E Mei has a bit more corporate feel, they don't talk to me too much, but they do that slight "bowing" gesture when people walk in the store. Four River people never bowed to me :)

                                                                So I think it is different feel. One is slgihtly more "mom and pop" store, and one is slightly more "established".

                                                      2. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                        "that place that advertises they won an award for 'Best Chinese in America'"

                                                        Are you talking about that restaurant trade promotional effort mentioned here? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/759865

                                                        Han Dynasty is decidedly <not> the best Chinese in Philly. But it does have better service with better English, nicer ambiance, and is more approachable for the average diner may be intimidated by Chinese food.

                                                        1. re: mookleknuck

                                                          mookieknuck, you have exhibited good knowledge and experience with Chinese foods. I have only been to Han one time and was unimpressed enough to not return. But what do I know about how it should be and what is considered good in the various Chinese regional dishes. "Han Dynasty is decidedly (not) the best Chinese in Philly." Hopefully that is true. I would be very interested in knowing your opinion on what are the best Chinese restaurants in Philadelphia. Tks.

                                                          1. re: Bacchus101

                                                            Bacchus101, thanks for your kind words.

                                                            I don't know what this means: "But what I do know about how it should be and what is considered good in the various Chinese regional dishes." Do you mean that you have good knowledge of various Chinese regional dishes? If so, please share your knowledge with us! Which Chinese regional cuisines are your favorites? Do you have a list of which Chinese restaurants in Philly that you consider the best?

                                                            I haven't eaten at nearly all or even most of the restaurants in the Philly area and don't feel ready to give out a best-of list. Also, certain places are better at certain foods, so I let social pressures and time constraints dictate where I eat quite often. I can say that I never eaten a bad dish at Red Kings nor at Ping Pong. But maybe I've just been lucky.

                                                            1. re: mookleknuck

                                                              Mookie, meant to say; What do I know about Chinese food and more specifically what is considered good regional dishes? In conjunction with the statement that I was unimpressed with Han. Thanks for the other rec's.

                                                          2. re: mookleknuck

                                                            That's the one. I've always been skeptical about the radio commercials. However, I do have to say that a non-Asian friend, with a very discerning and experienced palate, thinks very highly of it.

                                                            Will have to give it a shot some day...

                                                            Americans love to rank things, don't we? Even the unrankable.

                                                            1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                                                              It's not just Americans who love ranking things. =D Really, a mental shortcut! Who has the unlimited time and money to waste on eating at a ton of crappy places? I hate feeling the disappointment after the expectations of a good meal. All that wasted opportunity and calories.

                                                              Does your non-Asian friend like the restaurant trade promotion? The winner of that promotion? Han Dynasty? (Sorry, i don't understand what you mean here.)

                                                    3. Always fun to read and discuss (and argue about) which is why they do it. I certainly think they are showing a fondness to the "small, chef-concept-driven" places on Passyunk avenue and similar hot streets. In-city places are definitely getting the love more than out-of-city places.

                                                      The criteria seem to be "incredible food/service/atmosphere' *and* "setting the tone, conversation and bar for the rest of the city." Restaurants that are doing something new (like Federal Doughnuts) and making people look up and wonder why they didn't think of that, are getting recognized.

                                                      For a tried-and-true restaurant to stay on the list, it has to still feel like a hot new place -- in other words, not have dropped off in any way, still striving to be as good or better than they've been (hence Amada and Le Bec Fin and Vetri of course).

                                                      It's fun to see the list, and I do let it drive some decision making for special dinners, but I understand it's a flashpoint in time.

                                                      ETA: Oh, and if they're going to include a Chinese Restaurant, why doesn't Margaret Kuo get any love?

                                                      9 Replies
                                                      1. re: zmulls

                                                        Went to Amada yesterday. I first went in August 2009 and have been 12 times per my "dining" diary. The main thing I noticed yesterday is the continuing trend of smaller portions. You used to get a plate to eat off of that was rectangular, about 3 by 10 inches. The Charcutarie came on a big oval serving plate – covered in meat with about 8 slices of bread. They have new serving dishes, ovals. And now you get your order of meat on the old rectangular “eating” dish, and it is about half of what they used to serve. Four slices of bread and half the size of the old order of meat. But the same price! Jose is cutting corners it looks like since the Amada at Revel is probably tanking along with the casino. A shame to see this place dong this, but since it is mostly tourists no one knows they are getting gypped.

                                                        1. re: jerseybill52

                                                          I wouldn't call it cutting corners if the food is still good... Is it?

                                                          1. re: barryg

                                                            Guess we could call it inflation instead. :)

                                                            1. re: barryg

                                                              Whether or not the food is good its cutting corners if servings shrink.

                                                              1. re: sal_acid

                                                                Serving shrinks is probably a good thing for most Americans. Sometime less is more.

                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  agreed, though Amada was never the problem there. It's one of my favorite restaurants but I consider it a 'splurge' restaurant, it's always been a fair amount of money for the food you get.
                                                                  things do get more expensive over time - i'd have to see how far things have gotten to know if it's really a problem or not. i'm hoping on making it back there sometime in the next few months so i'll find out.

                                                                  1. re: Bob Loblaw

                                                                    The prices of the tasting menus have definitely gone up over the years. Considering the place is booked solid all the time, no surprise prices have gone up quicker than food costs. I suspect the drastic shrinking of portions jerseybill saw has something to do with Restaurant Week. Another reason to avoid the whole thing, what a pain for people who just want to eat a nice dinner and not have to deal with overbooked restaurants and unreliable menus and service. Someone besides Vetri needs to grow the balls to opt-out.

                                                                    1. re: barryg

                                                                      I am skeptical of what JerseyBill says because it is not clear whether he at the restaurant at the Revel or in Philadelphia. He makes reference to the difficult financial standing of the Revel and suggests that is why Garces is changing his plates.

                                                                      Furthermore, just because the name is the same, I do not necessarily expect exactly the same menu or portion sizes at two restaurants.

                                                                      All that said, I think that the challenge for long established restaurants is to refresh a menu, make it interesting and challenging to repeat customers, unless they want to turn it into a tourist destination.

                                                            2. re: jerseybill52

                                                              This was Restaurant Week right? Maybe that had something to do with it.