Philadelphiaâ€™s Chinatown may be smaller than those of other large cities, but itâ€™s packed with good food. So when Tushar suggested searching for a few alternatives to the many mainstream restaurants in the area, I was enthusiastic about exploring a part of the city that I know nothing about. After some discussion, we selected three lesser known restaurants based on the recommendations of a few random characters that we consider friends. They include: Lee How Fook, Chinese Starlight Diner and Joy Tsin Lau.
Venturing into Chinatown on a recent Sunday, I chose Lee How Fook as the first restaurant to visit, since I like the name. Didnâ€™t Warren Zevon mention a Chinese restaurant by the same name in his classic â€œWerewolves of Londonâ€? Even if you donâ€™t know what the heck Iâ€™m talking about, trust me that it was a good choice.
Through an ordinary exterior, we entered a well-kept, yet small dining room that holds about 14 tables. Apparently, the family that operates the restaurant was just finishing up their meal as we stumbled through the doorway, but someone greeted and sat us right away.Â The dining room was fairly quiet with only 3 parties at various stages of their meals. After being served tea and given menus it was time to play menu roulette. With such an expansive menu, where does one start? Of course, Tushar wasnâ€™t satisfied with the menu, he had to ask what the family was eating (whole Sea Bass); thankfully it was unavailable. To see what we were confronted with, check out Lee How Fookâ€™s menu here. Ultimately, we chose two appetizers and two entrees: â€œPan Seared Vegetable Dumplings,â€ â€œSalt Baked Squidâ€ (apps) and â€œSea Bass Filet with Black Beans and Peppersâ€ and â€œAbalone with Chicken Hot Potâ€ (entrees).
Enjoying our tea, we watched the activity in the restaurant. There were quite a few customers picking up takeout orders while dinner patrons steadily filled the room. The staff easily kept pace with the increased dinner traffic and everyone appeared well taken care of.
Our appetizers arrived promptly, accompanied with forks in the event we were â€œchopstick challenged.â€ The Pan Seared Vegetable Dumplings were delicious and supple. Filled with a mixture of mushrooms and bean curd, they were lightly blackened and featured a smoky tang that often accompanies items fried in a well seasoned wok. The Salt Baked Squid was tender and only slightly salty, yet offered a light crunch. I give this item big points for being unique and I would definitely return for it.
The entrees arrived with more fanfare than expected. The Sea Bass was quietly served first with the accompanying white rice. Immediately afterward a steaming cauldron was delivered to the table. As our server removed the cover, the bubbling mass of chicken and abalone hissed and spat as it emitted a big steam cloud. Cool!
As the Hot Pot calmed down, we turned our attention to the Sea Bass. The fish dish was served in a fish stock-based sauce with red and green peppers, onions, salt-cured black beans and hot pepper. Both Tushar and I agreed that it was good, however it was a bit too salty. In addition, the strong flavors of the peppers and onion seemed to overwhelm the fish. The Chicken and Abalone Hot Pot, on the other hand, really hit the spot. The flavors really complemented each other and both meats were very tender. Maybe Iâ€™m a sucker for the flashy presentation, but the Hot Post was tasty and fun to look at.
Typically, as our meal wound down, we once again found that our eyes were too big for our stomachs. Our food server graciously offered to wrap the remainder of our meals as we considered our experience at Lee How Fook. In summary, we both really enjoyed our meal. I love the intimate atmosphere of a smaller restaurant and I think Tushar is with me on that. My favorite item was the Chicken and Abalone Hot Pot, while Tush loved the Salt Baked Squid. The food items were of high quality and the sauces were light and flavorful, contrary to many neighborhood takeout shops. The service was attentive and timely while the staff took the time to answer all of our questions. My only regret is that I didnâ€™t get the opportunity to try one of their bubble teas â€“ I guess that will have to be next timeâ€¦
Lee How Fook is located at 219 N. 11th Street Philadelphia, PA. (215) 925-7266. The restaurant is a BYOB and would be a great choice for anyone from couples to groups up to 8+. Moreover itâ€™s easily accessible to public transportation and close to many center city attractions. For more information, check out Lee How Fookâ€™s website.
[Tags]Philadelphia, Philly, Chinatown, Chinese Food, Lee How Fook, Podcast[/Tags]