Lee How Fooks SignPhiladelphia’s Chinatown may be smaller than those of other large cities, but it’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. Didn’t Warren Zevon mention a Chinese restaurant by the same name in his classic “Werewolves of London”? Even if you don’t know what the heck I’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 Lee How Fook from 9th Streetfamily that operates the restaurant was just finishing up their meal as we stumbled through the doorway, but someone greeted and sat us right away.  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 wasn’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 Fook’s menu here. Ultimately, we chose two appetizers and two entrees: “Pan Seared Vegetable Dumplings,” “Salt Baked Squid” (apps) and “Sea Bass Filet with Black Beans and Peppers” and “Abalone with Chicken Hot Pot” (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.

Salt Baked Squid and Vegetable DumplingsOur appetizers arrived promptly, accompanied with forks in the event we were “chopstick challenged.” 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, Our Entreeshowever 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 I’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 didn’t get the opportunity to try one of their bubble teas – I guess that will have to be next time…

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 it’s easily accessible to public transportation and close to many center city attractions. For more information, check out Lee How Fook’s website.

[Tags]Philadelphia, Philly, Chinatown, Chinese Food, Lee How Fook, Podcast[/Tags]

5 Comments on Chinatown’s Lee How Fook

  1. Sue Z says:

    Aw, man!! You didn’t get the chicken feet!!! They are the BEST chicken feet this side of the Delaware!!!!

  2. [...] Trying the expansive menu at Chinatown’s intimate Lee How Fook. [PhillyFoodGuys]  [...]

  3. Eric says:

    I just moved into the Chinatown area and have been meaning to check out some of the food places. My friends keep telling me about the great food in the area, and I usually just end up at Wawa because I’m too scared to try something new. Thanks for the tip, I’ll check this place out.

    Also, thanks for the link back to uwishunu. I added you guys to our blog roll. Love the site. :)

  4. Bill says:

    Eric,

    Thanks for the kind words. Forsake Wawa because life is too short to eat convenience food!

  5. Joan says:

    Next time you are in Chinatown, Tushar must try the salt baked squid at Wong Wong. You won’t be disappointed. I also like the noodle dishes there. Don’t forget the wonton soup, all the wontons are homemade and delicious. I have watched them make the wontons, sitting at a table near the back. Also, they have different meats hanging in the front window. It’s very authentic, but low on atmosphere. Cheap too. I think this is the kind of place you’ll like!

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