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What are your favorite non-Szechuan restaurants in Chinatown?

s
sylviag Jul 22, 2013 11:11 AM

I know I'm in the minority here - I can't eat spicy food.
Some of our favorite places have changed - lost owners, etc. - and we would love to have recommendations of where to go in Chinatown
for non-Szechuan food.

For years, our favorite was Lee How Fook. (And of course, Lakeside Deli).
This weekend, we were at Lee How Fook with mixed reviews. All new menu, and a delicious Peking duck roll. However, the sweet-and-sour pork was full of bones and gristle. When I complained, the waitress said that next time I should ask for the white meat, no bones. We will go there and try it again, because our other dishes were fine.

We do go often to Yang Ming, which we like very much, but it's far.

Where else in Chinatown?

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  1. b
    barryg Jul 22, 2013 11:23 AM

    Have you tried Square on Square near 18th & Chestnut? Not authentically any Chinese cuisine, but dishes like sweet and sour pork are executed very well. Not much atmosphere but ok to eat in. Good for take out too.

    1. b
      Buckethead Jul 22, 2013 11:52 AM

      Rangoon for Burmese, Terakawa for Ramen. I'm not a fan of Sang Kee, Penang, Vietnam, or Vietnam Palace. I don't remember liking Banana Leaf much either but it's been years since I was there.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Buckethead
        c
        cwdonald Jul 22, 2013 11:54 AM

        Buckethead, curious about your experiences at Sang Kee? What was bad? I only go there for Peking Duck and it is acceptable.

        1. re: cwdonald
          b
          Buckethead Jul 22, 2013 11:57 AM

          I've only had one experience there and it resulted in some really unpleasant gastrointestinal distress, the food wasn't good enough to risk another visit.

          1. re: cwdonald
            Delucacheesemonger Jul 23, 2013 12:22 AM

            Yes Sang Kee Peking Duck is acceptable, but always room temperature. l am not a fan of the place(s)either.
            Lee How Fook was always my go to for decades, but since Doris and husband retired,then his sous chef died, it is now cooked by a crew with no notion how to fry, all is bathed in oil and as said pork dishes like the afforementioned sweet and sour consists of nasty bits of who knows what, cheap yes but terrible.
            Their hot pots are still quite good but standards like the salt baked scallops or salt baked squid are so greasy it is sad.
            Hot and Sour suffered as well, decent by a memory from the finest ever had in their past.

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger
              PhillyBestBYOB Jul 27, 2013 08:12 AM

              Sang Kee reminds me of the characters in the classic spaghetti Western, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly", re-imagined for an Asian audience, with English subtitles:

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzNnCK5cd8Q

              The GOOD,

              ~Peking Duck (4 stars):

              Either a whole ($30) or a half Long Island duck ($20), this is some of the better I've had outside of NYC, perfectly crispy on the outside, with a nice but not excessive layer of fat over juicy meat. Thankfully, not over-cooked like so many places serve just say they have it on the menu, it comes with the typical bowl of hoisin sauce, sliced scallions, and steamed pancakes. This is a do-it-yourself version, so hopefully you've had the dish prepared for you before so that you know how the assemble these delicious little ducky wanna-be burritos. Personally, I do prefer the drama that comes from having it prepared by the server table-side, especially if you have guests who are experiencing it for the first time. Unfortunately, the steamed pancakes were mediocre, inconsistently steamed so that they tended to crack when folded (please get a steamer with a lid!). Also included was a tasty dish of tender duck morsels, stir-fried with string beans, bell peppers and onions, with rice on the side.

              The BAD,

              Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), or as the menu referred to them: "Steamed Shanghai Juicy Buns", 8 for $6 (2 stars):

              A Shanghainese invention, for anyone who has daydreamed about Din Tai Fong's famous version of these pre-modernist era examples of molecular gastronomy (try to guess how they get the soup inside--and no, they don't used a syringe!), Sang Kee's are an insult. A thick, tough wrapper, dried out on top despite steaming over a lettuce leaf (again no lid), containing almost no, lukewarm soup and a boring pork dumpling, with a side of bizarrely sweet soy sauce, chopped scallions, little vinegar and no ginger. Edible, but a travesty if you've ever had the real deal. Why is it so hard to get decent XLB in the US???

              [FYI, Mr. Sang Kee, this what XLB should be like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kcCpm...

              ]

              and The WEIRD

              ~Restrooms (1.5 star):

              Do you really want me to go into details? Whatever you do, don't let them seat you at the big table in the back near the bathrooms which people have to squeeze around to get in and where you can see through the doesn't-close-the-whole-way door to the Men's. Otherwise the restaurant is moderately attractive, in a Chinatown-sort of way, although I've never been to the second floor.

              Complementary small, tasty scoops of coconut and mango ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce for dessert.

              Cash only. Fairly busy at 4PM on a Saturday evening. The service is generally good, in the impersonal way so many Chinese restaurants have. Easy parking in the open-air lot across the street.

              Worth going to for the Peking Duck, and for some of the other dishes according to my friends.

              But take my advice and skip the XLB.

              And walk over to Hop Sing Laundromat afterwards for drinks and the bathroom.

        2. m
          msiangal Jul 22, 2013 01:22 PM

          Dim Sum Garden for dumplings. Also, I'll have to disagree with Buckethead on Sang Kee, Banana Leaf, and Penang.

          Sang Kee's Peking duck is quite good, but passable to decent Peking duck can be had at other places. What I like most about Sang Kee are the Cantonese-style noodle soups, which I haven't seen anywhere else in Chinatown.

          Banana Leaf and Penang both have fairly authentic Malaysian food. I've only been to Penang once, but at least at Banana Leaf, their kopitiam items are generally better than their more generic Chinese or Thai-inspired entrees. Malaysian food can be spicy, but none of the versions I've had at Banana Leaf or Penang have had much heat.

          1. b
            Bashful3 Jul 22, 2013 01:42 PM

            Not in Center City, but Chun Hing in the Pathmark shopping
            center , not far from the Target there has been under the same ownership for decades, and is both very consistent, and from my perspective very good.

            I cannot do spicy either. The fried or steamed dumplings
            are my gold standard; no one in Chinatown does them better.
            Also special to them is the pork and turnip soup; I love their
            lobster dishes. Good quality; stale décor, but most
            accommodating. Very reasonable for the quality.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bashful3
              s
              sylviag Jul 22, 2013 02:59 PM

              We will definitely try it. Not that far from center city, and easy parking.
              And I trust your judgment - we are both Fuji (Haddonfield) addicts!

            2. s
              sylviag Jul 22, 2013 01:51 PM

              I definitely did not phrase this correctly. I should have asked about Cantonese restaurants.

              We do enjoy Vietnamese and other cuisines, but I don't have as much trouble finding places we like.

              I'll keep all your suggestions in mind - as usual.
              I'm getting a crave for dumplings!

              1 Reply
              1. re: sylviag
                r
                rsgdmd Jul 22, 2013 02:54 PM

                How about Tai Lake for seafood or Ken's.

              2. m
                Misha Jul 22, 2013 05:04 PM

                I like Sang Kee for their duck, dumplings and roast pork with vegetable wonton soup. Also some of their noodle dishes (beef with black pepper) are tasty. Shao Lin for salt baked shrimp. David's Mah Lai (sp?) has good duck chow fun and they're known for the old standbys.

                1. b
                  Bashful3 Jul 22, 2013 08:23 PM

                  Hi Syl. I didn't even notice you were the original poster.
                  Yes, Chun Hing is Cantonese. I like anything they have in black bean sauce, except the lobster, which is best with
                  ginger and scallion. But their dumplings rock.

                  Another great dish is the Shrimp Shung Tau style with watercress. Very large shrimp, not overcooked, but you have to ask for this 'not very spicy'. And, as you noted,
                  easy free parking.

                  1. Chemicalkinetics Jul 22, 2013 08:55 PM

                    < I should have asked about Cantonese restaurants.>

                    It depends specifically what kind of Cantonese you are looking for. For Cantonese dim sum, the three (Joy Tsin Lau, Ocean Harbor and Ocean City) are are good choices. For Cantonese congee, fan, noodle, rice, I recommend Ting Wong. For fresh seafood post 4 PM, I recommend Jade Harbor and Tai Lake.

                    <I know I'm in the minority here - I can't eat spicy food.>

                    That is actually majority. Most people cannot eat Szechuan spicy food.

                    1. h
                      Hungryin theBurbs Jul 23, 2013 05:42 AM

                      Sang Kee is my family's favorite in Chinatown for Cantonese. We love the duck, and most of the noodle dishes are very good.

                      For dumplings, Sakura Mandarin is very good.

                      1. paychecktoday Jul 23, 2013 07:59 AM

                        Go to Shao Lan Kung for their Salt Baked anything. Their soups also are pretty good if you are into soups.

                        Suprisingly, everytime I've gone to Sang Kee, I have never gotten their duck. I usually get their noodle soups (sometimes with duck) or a salt baked dish with their house fried rice. Their pan fried dumplings are also very good there too.

                        David's or Tai Lake are only visited from me if it is late at night and in the area. Again, salt baked anything or fried rice is usually what I order. David's pan fried dumplings are to die for with the ginger-garlic sauce.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: paychecktoday
                          m
                          msiangal Jul 23, 2013 09:18 AM

                          paychecktoday, just curious--why only late at night for David's and Tai Lake? Is the menu/food different than earlier in the evening?

                          1. re: msiangal
                            paychecktoday Jul 23, 2013 11:19 AM

                            From my experiences with both places, it seems that the food is better late at night. Both are open late at night during the weekends and usually packed from the bar crowd. My guess is that during the day, the restaurant isn't as busy so the food is ok; but as it gets busier, the food seems fresher or hotter?

                            On a side note Shao Lan Kung is also open late on the weekends and is also noteworthy for their food. Out of all 4 restaurants I listed, I would rate in this order:

                            Shao Lan Kung
                            Sang Kee
                            Tai Lake
                            David's

                          2. re: paychecktoday
                            s
                            sylviag Jul 23, 2013 10:22 AM

                            We used to go to Shao Lan Kung for their salt-baked seafood, and then we heard that the chef/owner had left and it wasn't as good.
                            Is it the same? Do you have any information about that?

                            1. re: sylviag
                              h
                              Hungryin theBurbs Jul 23, 2013 11:02 AM

                              It used to be our favorite, then we had a couple of not so good experiences and stopped going. I'd love to know if it has gotten better again.

                              1. re: sylviag
                                paychecktoday Jul 23, 2013 11:22 AM

                                I have dined both before and after the owner/chef left. The salt baked seafood has not faltered on any of the times I've gone there (I've dined both when busy and when it has been dead). It's still the best salt baked seafood served in town. The last time I dined was about a month ago.

                                1. re: paychecktoday
                                  s
                                  sylviag Jul 23, 2013 01:45 PM

                                  Thank you, good to know.

                                  1. re: sylviag
                                    b
                                    Bob Loblaw Jul 24, 2013 07:41 AM

                                    x2

                            2. PhillyBestBYOB Jul 27, 2013 08:05 AM

                              David's Mai Lai Wah on Race Street...

                              Go there for 3 reasons, and 3 reasons only:

                              1) They are open when you should really be asleep, to 3 or 4 AM

                              2) They make kickass Salt & Pepper Chicken wings--think the Chinese version of Korean Fried Chicken

                              3) They are half a block from Hop Sing Laundromat, so get some giant fried dumplings before worshiping at the feet of the inscrutable Lee

                              Eater Philly's "Hot 38":

                              "David's is the late-night spot for industry folk, and offer some of Chinatown's best eats. Don't sleep on the house noodle soup or the salt and pepper chicken wings. If you end up within a half-mile of the place around 2:30 AM, make a bee line for David's. You won't be sorry."

                              http://philly.eater.com/archives/2012...

                              Oh, and don't you just love places where the service sucks? I'd pay extra just for that!

                              [5PM Saturday, before hitting up Hop Sing, we came in during their staff meal. 8 or so employees chowing down in the back, but no other customers, and the best effort they could muster was just to wave us to a seat between bites. LOL, fortunately you don't actually need menus in a dive like this, just get the wings and dumplings.

                              ]

                              Oh, and Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House, also on Race, is good too.

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