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Jan 12, 2014 11:18 AM

LeBan's guide to Chinatown

I thought the article the ultimate guide to chinatown was one of the better articles Leban has done in a long time. I am curious what people thought of it, and what restaurants he missed.

The obvious misses to me are E Mei, and Pho Cali. Others?

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  1. I liked it too but also noticed nothing on Pho places which are the up and coming thing now. (One going up in Bryn Mawr soon).

    5 Replies
    1. re: arepo

      Arepo I think it was only Philadelphia chinatown .. It would be nice if someone developed a Delaware Valley asian food guide.. you could cover Washington Ave, Cheltenhams Koreatown, Upper Derby etc.

      1. re: cwdonald

        Could somebody please do this? Especially the Cheltenham/Olney Koreatown? I LOVE Korean food but it seems like the Korean restaurants around here tend to lack websites or a general online presence more than other types of restaurants. I'm always trying to find the good spots and I feel like it's tough to find out unless you have a Korean friend to ask for advice.

        1. re: carnicero

          I like Korean food too. There are plenty good ones near and in New York. I like to know more about the Oleny Koreatown

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            So far all I know for sure is that Cafe Soho has awesome fried chicken- but I'd rather call ahead for takeout than eat in because the K-Pop music is WAY too loud for me by the end of the meal.

          2. re: carnicero

            My go-to for the full Korean is Seorabol (a couple blocks north of 2nd and Olney)
            Some people like Kim's, but it gets SO smoky in there, sometimes. The Center City Korean options range from awful (how glad am I that Miga has finally closed? I cringed every time someone was tricked into thinking that was good Korean) to edible fast food (Rice and Mix, Giwa, Koreana). Good fast food Korean can also be had in the food courts at the two H Marts.

      2. It was a Philadelphia guide only. And, priceless for tourism
        in general for Chinatown. As in the article on class act places, with d├ęcor no less, on the front page. I plan to make special trips, and order some of the dishes he mentioned. Wouldn't have done it otherwise.

        1. Excellent article. Thanks for the link. So many spots...numbing

          1. Is this guide to capture a diverse list of Chinatown restaurants or best of Chinatown restaurant?

            I disagree with either attempts

            Obviously, there is no EMei and Pho Cali, but it also miss a few respected places, such as
            Vietnamese and Thai Restaurant
            Joy Tsin Lau
            Ocean Harbor
            Ocean City
            Jade Harbor
            Tai Lake
            Beside what are missing, it is also what are on this list.

            It amazes me that Ken's Seafood is on there, but not Tai Lake and Jade Harbor. Anyone who has been to Chinatown in the evening and nighttime knows that Tai Lade and Jade Harbor have better foods than Ken's Seafood. Even if you don't know Chinese seafood, you can tell by just looking how packed these restaurants are. Tai Lake and Jade Harbor are usually packed, and Ken's is usually empty.

            The fact that Red Kings and Red Kings 2 on there also amazes me.

            sorry.... I cannot agree with this list.

            14 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Even worse, I hear they use dihydrogen monoxide in their soup.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I was really surprised to see red kings, and couldn't believe E Mei wasn't there. Certainly not an expert, but I wondered about the rest of the list considering those to misses

                1. re: Bigley9

                  He kind of admits that he'll probably never be able to catalog everything there is to eat in Chinatown, maybe E Mei is just one of those places he's never been for some reason.

                  Or maybe he did go and got that one horrible waiter they have there, and omitted it for that reason. Last time I tried to go to E Mei, it was 30 minutes before closing and that guy was sweeping the entry way and wouldn't let us come in. It will be a very long time before I bother trying again.

                  1. re: Buckethead

                    I think LaBan's list is a great starting point and really useful for someone like myself that is not all that into that type of cuisine except for an occasional visit to someplace like Nan Zhou.

                    That being said, I was wondering if anyone on the board has tried Simply Shabu, the new hot pot place that opened. It looks fun and different.

                    1. re: Buckethead

                      <He kind of admits that he'll probably never be able to catalog everything>


                      It isn't about catalogize everything. I don't expect anyone to do that. I simply think he highlighted the wrong restaurants. If he had only highlighted 3 good restaurants and stopped, then I would be quiet happy.
                      For example, if he had mentioned: Ting Wong, Dim Sum Garden, Four Rivers, then I would consider it to be a good attempt. Instead, many not-so-great restaurants are made into his list, while some really good ones are left out. The list just seems a bit "random" to me.

                      The fact that Ken's Seafood is on his list while Tai Lake and Jade Harbor are not, suggests that he may simply been to Ken's but not the others. Based on LaBan writing, he might have simply been dragged around by his friends.

                      I have been to Ken's Seafood four times. 2 of the 4 times because I could not get into Tai Lake and Jade Harbor due to their long waits. I walked in Ken's and it was empty in both occasions.

                      <Or maybe he did go and got that one horrible waiter they have there,>

                      As for EMei being rude, it is probably no more ruder than Chinese Restaurant (Tai Jiang). The place is messy, cold in winder and hot in summer, the staffs hardly make eye contact, and never smile.....etc. Cheap plastic disposable bowls and flimsy sharp plastic spoons. It is a good place to experience the "street food" atmosphere, but it is certainly not a friendly place to be. Yet, Chinese Restaurant (Tai Jiang) was praised and recommended by LaBan, so I am guessing that service would not have been a problem for EMei.

                      <That being said, I was wondering if anyone on the board has tried Simply Shabu>


                      I walked by. It did not greatly appeal to me. If I try it in the future, I will let you know.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        I'd be interested in a review of Simply Shabu too, if anyone has been there. Chemicalkinetics, out of curiosity, did you find Simply Shabu specifically unappealing, or is hot pot just not your thing? If the former, is there a better place for hot pot in Chinatown? Thanks!

                        1. re: msiangal

                          My apology for not being clear. I don't mean Simply Shabu is repulsive.

                          Looking from outside, Simply Shabu looks a bit unfinished. It just have that "thrown together" look to it. In addition, I often venture Chinatown on my own, and eating hot pot/shabu seems wasteful for one person.

                          You know. I just looked at Simply Shabu website now. It says that its Grand Opening is on Jan 13th. I was there on 11st. So I guess it wasn't officially open when I walked by though there were people eating there. This may contribute its appearance of "unfinished"

                          I don't know if there is a better place in Chinatown because I have not tried Simply Shabu.

                          I know EMei offers hot pot as well. It is on a separate menu. It has three or four soup bases. It definitely has chicken soup base, hot (numbing and hot) soup base, half and half soup base:


                          If I give Simply Shabu a try, I will let you know.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Thanks for the clarification! You have a good point about needing a bigger group of people for hot pot. I've seen messages on some of the other boards about Chowmeets. I wonder if there'd be any interest on this board for a Chinatown Chowmeet (doesn't necessarily have to be hot pot)?

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Going to Chinatown next Wednesday at 1PM with a few food savvy friends, if you care to join us. My pick was Ting
                              When l know destination, will let you know.

                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                :( I will not able to go. I have to work on Wednesday. I do appreciate the invitation. We will have to setup a different date.

                            2. re: msiangal

                              bluehensfan and msiangal,

                              For what is worth, you two have intrigued me to try Simply Shabu. I am not going to write a long report since this is not the place to do it anyway.

                              This place actually has been opened for 2 weeks. I asked about the grand opening on 13th. They said the 13th was the grand opening, but it had its "soft opening" before that.

                              From the outside, the place still looks unready. For example, it still does not have an official sign, and the paper sign is curled up. The inside is clean, bright, and spacious. It has a modern and hype look to it with the modern Asian music in the background. The menu is very affordable compared to other places in Chinatown. Just to give you an example, I ordered the Surf and Turf for $17.


                              It comes with a mix of vegetables, a frozen/refrigerated ramen, beef and assort of seafood. E-Mei would have charged me $13-17 just for the broth. Yes, just the broth. Simply Shabu uses modern built-in electric stoves. The built-in electric set up looks clean and sleek, but it is a bit more difficult to control than the simple gas dial. It has a power setting and a temperature setting. In theory, the temperature setting is better. In practice, the temperature setting kind of bad -- probably a bad feedback mechanism. So I recommend you to use the power setting instead - power at 1000.

                              Long story short.
                              Pro: very clean looking restaurant interior from the room itself to the tables, very affordable, fresh looking ingredients, very attentive staffs (all speak perfect English), willing to explain to newcomers, generous amount of ingredients (my Surf and Turf was definitely enough for one person


                              Cons: Weak broth -- at least the spicy broth I ordered was unauthentic/untraditional. The house broth seems to be a bit better actually (at one point, the wait stuff made the mistake and refilled my pot with the house broth instead, wait staffs seem unfamiliar with all the settings.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Chemicalkinetics, thanks for the report!

                                I think I will give them some time to get the kinks out but it could be do-able in the future.

                                1. re: bluehensfan

                                  Absolutely. Let me know what you think. It is definitely a affordable option.

                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Thanks for the review, Chemicalkinetics! I'll also report back if I try it.