Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Philadelphia >
Jan 16, 2013 08:20 PM

Looking for delicious places in Chinatown for 1/20/13

Hey guys, from force of habit, every time we drive to Philly for the day we go straight to the Italian Market and then putz around the Franklin Institute.
Last year I went to the flower show with my mom and we went near Chinatown and had some really good soup dumplings and then afterwards walked to a bakery and tried some pandan cake. I really love how we switched it up and want to do so again. But I never travel down to this area so I'm unfamiliar with everything...
I need some great recommendations in Chinatown for Dim Sum among other things. Would love some hidden gems if possible! We will be spending the day there mainly for the food. We are pretty adventurous eaters :)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. For Cantonese Dim Sum, I recommend Joy Tsin Lau and Ocean Harbor from the numerous choices.

    They are right across street from each others on Race Street near 11th Street. For Shanghai style Dim Sum, then try Dim Sum Garden on 11th street close to Arch Street.

    Hidden gems? There are many reasonable good restaurants, so I am not sure where to start. Do you like the concept of hand drawn noodle? There are two restaurants which do and show hand-drawn noodle. One of which is the Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House which is right next to Joy Tsin Lau. The other one is in the intersection of 10th and Cherry Street.

    What about Chinese BBQ? Do you like Chinese BBQ? There are numerous BBQ shops. An easy one for newcomer will be Sang Kee Perking Duck House on 9th and Winter Street:

    What about spicy Sczechan foods? If so, try Four River or E-Mei. E-Mei has much better decoration, but Four River has a very mom and pop feel.

    What about Vietnamese Pho, Japanese Ramen, Korean cuisine, Malaysian foods......? Any preference you will like to try?

    22 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      If you opt for dim sum, there are also a couple of good bakeries in the same block as Joy Tsin Lau and Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House.

      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        We are open to ALL recommendations, these places all sound great and since we live 40 min away we can actually try and eat at all these places in future trips :D Ramen shops, Korean and Malaysian food sound amazing, would love to hear where these places are too!
        Thanks for the great options you've given us!

        1. re: TiraMisuSH

          The Ramen shop is Terakawa. It is very close to Sang Kee on 9th Street.

          The Korean restaurant is Sammy Chon's K Town which is very close to the Ramen Shop on Race Street:

          In my opinion, Terakawa is pretty good, and very friendly waitresses and cooks. Sammy Chon is ok, but not as good as some of the Korean restaurants I have had. Between these two, I would go for Terakawa.

          Since your nearest visit will be on 1/20/13, I doubt you can eat more than two meals there. I would recommend trying a Cantonese dim sum restaurant and a hand drawn noodle house.

          In other words, try Joy Tsin Lau or Ocean Harbor or Ocean City for Dim Sum, and try Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House or Yummy Hand Drawn Noodle House for traditional hand drawn noodle.

          If you have never tried Cantonese Dim Sum before, then I recommend Joy Tsin Lau or Ocean City. Ocean Harbor is good too, but it is faster-pace, so it may not be as welcome for a first timer.

          As for the hand drawn noodle shop, ask to be sit near the kitchen so you can see them hand pulled the noodle.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Here is something specific... Okonomiyaki or takoyaki? Any places have that? Its something I've wanted to try for forever.... I wont get my expectations up though

            1. re: TiraMisuSH

              I have to look those words up. :)

              Okonomiyaki -- No, not that I know of, maybe there are places in Philly Chinatown, but I don't know.

              Takoyaki - Yes, I have had them in Terakawa Ramen

              See the menu (fourth item)


              I am not an expert of Takoyaki, so I cannot tell you if what I had is considered good or not. It tasted fine to me -- if it means anything.

              1. re: TiraMisuSH

                Speaking of - why the heck is okonomiyaki so damn hard to find in this city?! It's so easy and cheap to make and incredibly delicious - if someone was smart they would start an okonomiyaki food truck (especially for late night near the bars). Seriously, japanese restaurants need to get it together and add this awesome starter to their menus!

                I do know of one place that does offer it but it is in the Philly burbs and probably too much of a trek pit of the city. Is a Japanese/ Korean place in a strip mall in springhouse, pa called Surah. It has awesome Korean food too (and sushi). They offer a lot of great thing. Enjoy your day eating!

                1. re: amysep

                  I haven't tried it but it's on the menu at Yakitori Boy.

                  1. re: barryg

                    Excellent call:


                    Just a notice. Yakitori Boy is gear toward night business. It opens at 5:00 PM and close at 2:00 AM. Same owners from the Terakawa Raman

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Ah, good point! I forgot that they had it - I haven't tried it there. Most of what I've had there has been decent, though. Do they still own Terakawa Ramen? I thought that was a separate company now after Ramen Boy didn't make it.

                      1. re: oliviasaru

                        I also saw a few other places serving it like Maki Man and Hikari.

                        1. re: oliviasaru

                          Ramen Boy definitely did not make it. Nelson and William told me that he more of less bought the "franchise" of the New York Terakawa Ramen and expand upon it. More of less, you have the same people work there (from Ramen Boy to Terakawa). It is not quite the traditional sense of "franchise", but the Philly one does have a small connection with the New York one yet maintain a separate operation.

                          I have never been to Yakitori Boy. They have been asking me to go, but I rarely come to Chinatown after 5:00 PM.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Chemicalkinetics, slightly off topic but would you compare Nom Nom with Terakawa Ramen? I have only been to the former, and enjoyed it immensely. Curious if there is anything different or better at Terakawa.

                            1. re: cwdonald

                              I have only been to Nom Nom once, and it was recommended by someone here. Maybe you? :)

                              Nom Nom is good. It has more of a college food stop feel: very simple decoration, cafeteria like tables and chairs, and a simple but focused menu. I liked the way the noodle was done and the hanjuku egg was good. Nom Nom is better the the old Ramen Boy. Ramen Boy's egg wasn't done correctly -- more like hard boiled egg, and the noodle can be a bit too soft.

                              Terakawa is noticeably better than Ramen Boy. It has improved the egg now, and you can ask for the "doneness" of your noodle: well done, semi-well done, semi-firm, firm. The pork is finished with a flame touched now. In term of the pork slice, it is a tough call. Terakawa (Philly) was using the traditional pork belly just as Terakawa in New York, and I believe Nom Nom is using pork belly -- I could be wrong. However, many customers at Terakawa found the pork belly to be too fat, and not finish eating it. So Nelson has switched to using pork shoulder (pork butt). I prefer pork belly, but I don't think it is wrong to use pork shoulder either. Terakawa menu is certainly bigger, including more Ramen, curry rice, appetizers, now just added Udon. The interior design of Terakawa is also better.

                              In short, in my opinion, if all you want is a good solid bowl of Shoyru Ramen or Miso Ramen, then you can get it as good as in Nom Nom. If you want something different or if you want a more comfortable place to hang out with your friends, then Terakawa is better.

                  2. re: TiraMisuSH

                    It's not in town, but Maido! Market in Narberth (not too far out of the city) has okonomiyaki. It's a little Japanese market with a lunch counter, where they have a variety of authentic offerings. The lady who owns it is from Osaka, and since okonomiyaki is a traditional Kansai-area dish, she does a very good version. I actually don't know of any other place around Philadelphia that offers it, as it's rather specialized.
                    You can have lunch and pick up a few hard-to-find Japanese groceries, too, including fresh vegetables. Across the street is a very nice French bakery for an afternoon snack and coffee afterwards. Maido's website is

                    1. re: TiraMisuSH

                      An added note, though - if you have had okonomiyaki in Japan, Maido! does not allow you to cook your own. They prepare it on their teppan behind the lunch counter and then serve it to you. Otherwise, though, it is quite authentic - right down to the Kewpie Mayonnaise! ;)

                        1. re: oliviasaru

                          I think we might go when we leave the city so we can get groceries too, thanks I had no idea there was a place like this!

                  3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    We REALLY Love soup dumplings btw if you know of a great place please let us know! We're crazy for them

                    1. re: TiraMisuSH

                      <We REALLY Love soup dumplings btw if you know of a great place please let us know!>

                      :) You probably had been there already since you said you have some really good soup dumplings last year. There are many places which offer soup dumplings, but more than half of them are pretty bad.

                      The two decent ones are Sakura Mandarian:


                      and Dim Sum Garden:


                      I am sure you have been to one or the other. :
                      )Sakura is a nice place to sit down and enjoy. It has much better decoration. Dim Sum Garden, on the other hand, is cheaper, faster. If you order soup dumpling from Sakura, it can take 10-15 minutes. Dim Sum Garden can get them to you in 5 min.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Haha Yeah Sakura Mandarin was the one It's hard to forget the kiwi green colored walls!

                        1. re: TiraMisuSH

                          :) Then you should go to the Dim Sum Garden. It looks a bit scary from the outside, but the people inside there are very nice and the cashier/waitress I talked to speak both English and Chinese well.



                      2. re: TiraMisuSH

                        Here are the two menu. By the way, in Dim Sum Garden, they call them as Shanghai XXX Juicy Buns.



                    2. not Dim Sum, but what about Tasty Place? (I am no Chinese Food expert so hounds might disagree!)

                      1. I just got back from Chinatown today and tried the Dim Sum Garden and Terakawa today and tried the crab and pork steamed buns (aka soup dumpling) and Takoyaki. I think the Takoyaki is finally starting to grow on me.

                        Are you going to there because of the Car Show? I didn't even know there was a car show until I got there and was asked to pay more for my parking. Anyway, I figured that I might as well go to the car show. It was fun. Bye.

                        1. Red Kings has the best soup dumplings in Chinatown and fresh, authentic food if you like spicy. This gem often overlooked but by far our favorite. Really not impressed by Four Rivers or Sang kee ( except for Peking Duck). Dim sum in Chinatown is pretty average to mediocre.

                          20 Replies
                          1. re: laurag2

                            Red Kings will run out of business soon - my guess.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              I hope not. That would be a HUGE loss. All the more reason to support them

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                I'm curious Chemical, why do you think Red Kings will be out of business soon?

                                1. re: StrandedYankee

                                  I don't see a lot of people going there. I could be wrong. I am a day time visitor of Chinatown, so it may gear toward night time business, but I don't think so.

                                  It looks empty every time I pass by. I know it is a relatively new restaurant, so it will stay open just for the "sunk cost", but the business is unlikely to pick up. It has passed that initial opening days.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    I've been going to Red Kings for at least three or four years now, usually for dinner; it seems to have decent dinner business, both eat-in and takeout. I would be really sad if it closed as it is quite consistently good. Like I mentioned on another thread, I've never had anything bad there, just things that weren't my style. I'm feeling inspired and may check it out again tonight.

                                    1. re: mookleknuck

                                      So, in Chinatown, there are restaurants which gear toward the normal 9AM - 9PM business, but there are also other restaurants like Lake Tai and David's Mai Lai Wah which target the 5PM - 3AM crowd. I am pretty certain Red Kings belong to the former. If it has good business in dinner, then it is good for it, because it looks very empty during lunch. Maybe it should consider open late instead of early.

                                      No, I have not been there and not planning to go there any time soon.

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        Well - thankfully, not going to let those negative thoughts influence my opinion in any way. I know flavorful, fresh and top knotch when I taste it. :)

                                        1. re: laurag2

                                          <flavorful, fresh and top knotch when I taste it.>

                                          Fresh and Top notch for Red Kings?

                                        2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Red Kings definitely belongs to the former crowd. When I've gone between 4-9P, it's quite empty from 4-6P, but from 6-9P, there is a steady stream of business such that there are only a couple of tables open at a time. I've never had to wait for a table. If I lived in Chinatown, it would be one of my go-to neighborhood places where I would go if I didn't feel like cooking.

                                          There's usually a mix of both white and Chinese customers with a higher percentage of Chinese. There's no "secret" menu, however, just for people who can read Chinese although there a handful of dishes listed in Chinese that are, I believe, also on the menu.

                                          I don't presume to speak for laurag2, but the food I've eaten at Red Kings has always been fresh and flavorful. Chemical, you've mentioned enjoying Sichuan food elsewhere on this board, so you may want to consider Red Kings as another possibility for spicy food as their Sichuan chef is quite competent.

                                          1. re: mookleknuck

                                            Ok, fine I will try it. Now, I do question the phrase "fresh and flavorful". There is no doubt that Sichuan cuisine is known for its powerful and flavorful spice usage. Kind of like Indian foods are very flavorful. However, Sichuan food is not renounced for being fresh. This is not to say the foods are old and rotten. Not at all. What I mean is that it is not known to serve fresh fish or fresh shrimps with a tank in the restaurant. The strong spices and pepper also have a tendency to cover the freshness of meat. That wasn't a criticism of Red Kings but Sichuan food in general. Just like Cantonese foods are not know to use powerful spices or salt.

                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                              The fresh refers to their soups and vegetables, which are not necessarily Sichuanese, while their Sichuan entrees are definitely flavorful. I specifically mentioned the Sichuan because you've been mentioning visiting Han Dynasty, Four Rivers, etc.

                                              1. re: mookleknuck

                                                Yes, I have visited Han Dynasty, Four River, E-Mei...etc.

                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  Second mookleknuck- vegetables are what I meant by fresh. The hit green pepper with chicken is great. Try that and the XLB and report back. :) I will try Sakura but have to say latest reviews have not sounded too tasty. I can't vouch for the crab dumplings at red kings since I haven't had them

                                                  1. re: laurag2

                                                    "green pepper with chicken"

                                                    辣子雞丁, right?


                                                    That is pretty classic for Sichuan dish. Got it. I don't want to try any more XLB. I have eaten too many already, and unlike some people, I am not a die hard fan of XLB even if they are really well executed.

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      Actually the dish doesn't look like that - it has bright green fresh hot peppers which is why I liked it so much - along with the dried Sichuan hot peppers. Its a lot less greasy than the version you pictured and like they serve at Han Dynasty. I haven't tried everything on the menu - but the only thing I wouldn't recommend is the Dan Dan noodles. They had a spice that was very bitter. The pan fried dumplings were above average - but try some other things and let me know what you think

                                                      1. re: laurag2

                                                        Yeah, after I re-reading your last post, I realize I was wrong. You said they are green hot pepper, and not red. Ok, are you talking about:

                                                        Hot green pepper stir fried shredded pork or beef is more common, but chicken exists too:



                                                        The hot green peppers are long, and they are sliced finely or coarsely depending on the chefs.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          Yes- they also have pork and beef if you prefer

                                2. re: laurag2

                                  Red Kings has cheap lunch options, most choices are $4.95 which includes a cup of their soup. I like the Sichuan dishes here and at E Mei a lot, both provide terrific spicy flavor.

                                  1. re: laurag2

                                    Replying to several of you.

                                    I just came back from Red Kings. My short answer is:


                                    I can totally understand why it is an empty restaurant.

                                    I tried to ordered Xiao Long Bao, but the Chef (for the Xiao Long Bao) had not come in yet, so they were not ready. So I ordered 韭菜餃 (Chive Dumplings), and 小辣椒牛絲 (Shredded Beef with Spicy Green Pepper) -- as indicated from the second and third photo. The pan fried chive dumplings were good, but I ordered steamed, and they came out as pan fried. This was a mistake. The shredded beef with spicy green pepper is a very standard Szechuan dish. Here are two huge problems. First, they used the wrong pepper. This is a fairly spicy dish, and usually I need to drink a lot of water to accommodate it (like 3-4 glasses of water). This time I ate half of the plate without take one sip of water. Second, they put 海鮮醬/甜面酱 (Hoisin sauce). Yes, the sweet Hoisin sauce, which anyone should know is not a Szechuan sauce. Look, I am all for creativity, as many one read my other posts on my Toronto and my Virignia trips knows, but this is too much of a change -- making the dish unrecognizable.

                                    The foods are not horrible, and they are good if you don't think of them as Szechuan. They are what I would consider as "Cantonese's take on Szechuan". The vegetables and meat were lightly stir fried. They were light in oil. The pepper were crispy and bright green which means they were stir fried for a short duration. This is the classic signature of a good Cantonese dish, but not for Szechuan dish. For Szechuan dish, it is important to use the hot oil to extract the spice and pepper, which is why it is ok for Szechuan dishes come out with a darker color.

                                    The servers were very friendly and very helpful. They did tell me that the Chef thought the authentic version of this dish will be too strong for the customers, so he tone it down and used Hosin sauce. I don't know if it makes business sense, and I would argue not, but I can tell you that this dish deviated too much from the original dish. For what it is worth the owner is from Hong Kong, not from Szechuan, so this may explain the Cantonese influence.

                                    I may go back again, but for now, I cannot honestly recommend this place to anyone who want to eat authentic Szechuan. The foods are not bad, but whatever I have tasted, they were really far from Szechuan food. For a more authentic version of Szechuan food in Chinatown, I recommend E Mei and Four Rivers.

                                    Do you happened to be from Hong Kong or Canton region? Or that your parents are from there?

                                  2. Chemicalkinetics - I can tell by your review of Red Kings that we are never going to agree on food because your two complaints were that it wasn't purist Sichuan and that it wasn't spicy enough. Neither of these things are important to me - and by the way - since XLB are not SIchuan and their XLB was how this all started, I am not sure why you expected the chef to be from Sichuan.......?????

                                    Really I am just looking for food that tastes great to me - I am not the type to write a paragraph on whether of not a tablespoon of hoisin sauce ruins a dish.

                                    Also - I specifically wrote in my original note that the reason I like Red Kings is that it is spicy but that I can stil feel by mouth :) I personally like spicy, but not to the extent that I have to drink water like a camel that just got back from a Sahara trek. I don't find that pleasurable and I think too much spice makes it impossible to taste other flavors.

                                    So again - I like Red Kings for their XLB and for the fact that they have dishes that are spicy but still taste great with fresh vegetables.

                                    The wonderful people who run the restaurant are a plus. Now I kind of feel bad that I sic ed you on them since you were giving them the third degree about the Hoison sauce and where the chef was from.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: laurag2

                                      < it wasn't spicy enough>
                                      I am far from the person who want everything extremely spicy, but I know what this dish is supposed to be.

                                      < I am not sure why you expected the chef to be from Sichuan>
                                      I never ever said that I expect the chef has to be from Szechuan. Four Rivers' Chef is from Taiwan, and I don't have problem. I do expect that the Chef knows how to cook Szechuan foods -- *given that Red Kings advertized itself to be an authentic Szechuan restaurant*. This is asking the minimal. I am not even talking about if it was able to make excellent Szechuan food. I was simply saying that it cannot even make a passable Szechuan dish. Also, let's not forget that I asked for steamed dumplings and got pan fried instead.

                                      <not to the extent that I have to drink water like a camel>
                                      I think you are not understanding my point. I never said I want crazy spicy. In fact I have criticized this in the past. I have always said that many people mistaken Szechuan foods as simply spicy. While Szechuan foods are spicy, the cuisine is far deeper than that, and simply being spicy should not be the only major indication of its quality.

                                      My statements actually refer to the fact that I have low tolerance of spicy food compared to people from Szechuan, and I need more water to eat Szechuan foods compared to them. In other words, I was saying that I have a low standard for spicy food, and the fact that Red Kings cannot even live up to my low standard is a major problem because surely residents from Szechuan would not consider this being authentic. This dish is supposed to be very spicy because of the spicy green pepper, not because of additional chili powder...etc. The real important point is not about how spicy I want my dish. It is that I know Red Kings used the wrong green pepper. If it actually used the correct green pepper, it would have been much hotter. It probably mixed trace of the spicy green pepper with some bell peppers, or it used the wrong spicy pepper.

                                      <you were giving them the third degree about the Hoison sauce and where the chef was from.>
                                      This Szechuan dish cannot and should not have Hoison sauce. If you make Szechuan food, you use Szechuan ingredients. You don't change it into something completely unrecognizable. For Red Kings to advertize itself as an authentic Sichuan restaurant, this is a big deal. Hoison sauce is only one of the several major issues. It uses the wrong green pepper too. I didn't say where the Chef is from, by the way. I said where the owner is from, and then I questioned if this is the reason why it altered a Szechuan dish into something which is Cantonese. I made this a very minor point as I wrote "For what it is worth..." Again, I have never judged the quality of a restaurant based on the origin of the Chef as I have given good review for chefs who are not from Szechuan before, like Four Rivers, and Terakawa Chefs are not from Japan....etc.

                                      You may not like my review because it isn't what you want to hear, but my review is truthful with undeniable facts. Let's walk through:

                                      Is Red Kings advertized as an authentic Szechuan Restaurant?
                                      Should an authentic dish of 小辣椒牛絲 use the correct green pepper?
                                      Yes (but it didn't)
                                      Should an authentic dish of 小辣椒牛絲 use Hoisin sauce?
                                      No (but it did)
                                      Was Red Kings able to deliver an authentic Szechuan dish for me?
                                      Should a so called Szechuan Restaurant be judged based on its Szechuan dish?
                                      I hope so
                                      Is Red Kings a good authentic Szechuan Restaurant?

                                      What is truly damming about my report is that I didn't write opinions which are very subjective like "Is the skin of the dumpling too thick or too thin or too chewy or too plain?" These are very easy to argue one way or the other because people have slightly different preference. I actually wrote about the wrong ingredients. It took out one correct ingredient, and put in one wrong ingredient -- at the very least.

                                      My above review is more than generous. I actually wrote the food taste ok, but it is not good Szechuan food, and I would consider it to be a Cantonese version of Szechuan food. This is a very generous review under the circumstance. Are you seriously thinking that I could call a 小辣椒牛絲 (Shredded Beef with Spicy Green Pepper) dish with the wrong green pepper with Hoison sauce -- authentic Szechuan? This is like calling Northern dumplings for authneic Cantonese wonton. The dumplings can taste as good as they can be, but they will never be authentic wonton.

                                        1. re: laurag2

                                          It is difficult to justify:

                                          "An advertized authentic Szechuan restaurant (Red Kings) executes poor Szechuan food"