Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Mandarin : Philadelphia

**7/31/2009 Edit** Adding their Sheng Jian Bao (生煎包) and their seafood Noodle Soup (海鲜汤面).

Are you bloody kidding me? First a sushi place near my apartment and then a half-decent Chinese place right under my nose for the last two years?

I feel like I've been poked in the eyes and kicked in my left nut. All of those final exam crunch times, when I had assumed they were just another Americanized Chinese place and had ordered pork fried rice and a spring roll, I could have been enjoying more authentic stuff?!?

Oh dreadful regret.

Anyways, my Dad was in town and due to logistics, we wanted to stay near my apartment. My Dad being fresh to Phili and this place in particular, spotted some of the more interesting (read: more authentic) things on the menu.

Steamed Tiny Buns with Pork (小笼包, Xiao Long Bao)- Hand-made, perhaps not as good as those at dimsum garden. (For one not having nearly as much broth) But it definitely hit the spot. The broth inside was a fairly simple pork broth and the skin was about the average thickness for soup dumplings. This certainly would do in a time-crunch without having to trek out to Chinatown.

Fried Tiny Buns with Pork (生煎包, Sheng Jian Bao) - Just reminds me of street food in China. So, this is a little bit confusing to describe. In Chinese, this is actually called a bun, whereas in English, people would probably call this a dumpling since there's no bread {Hmm, actually there might be yeast. Man I'm confused). Anyhow, the result of the thick skin of the dumpling/bun and the dumpling like pork insides makes it more like the intermediary between a dumpling and a bun. Think of it like the Archaeopteryx, the first dinosaur bird. I'll be on the hunt for these in Chinatown.

Zha Jiang Mian (炸酱面)- Yum, I love these noodles and had been craving these for quite some time. (For those unfamiliar with them, here's the wikipedia link.) I've tried making these before, but have never really had much success (my sauce never turns out right), so I'm always rather happy to find decent renditions in restaurants.

This comes across as simple, but oh so good in a homey authentic way. Oh yeah and ask for the hot sauce.

Seafood Noodle Soup (海鲜汤面, Hai Xian Tang Mian) - Somewhat disappointed at their use of fake crab meat, but I must say that the noodles are pretty nicely done and that the broth, with lack of MSG (as denoted on their menu), is quite tasty in a home-made way as well.

Beef w/ Asparagus (?) - Can't quite remember the exact name to this, but the important thing was that the beef was nice and tender and the sauce wasn't overly sweetened or thick. This was also good in a homey/ authentic way too.

We also got a couple of scoops of ice cream on the house.

Green tea - Not bad, it actually tasting like green tea. I must say that I've personally never really had a version of green tea I like. I always think it's difficult balancing the disparate flavor and taste of green tea (less sweet taste, drier texture) with those of ice cream (sweet and moist). But if you do like green tea and are in the area, I'd recommend you giving this a shot.

Mango - Hmm, this doesn't really taste like mango at all, but rather like those Life-saver creme swirls. Enjoyable if you're not expecting a fresh mango flavor.

Perhaps not a destination restaurant, but if you're in the neighborhood, give it a shot. It's not just your average Americanized Chinese place, although it does that too.

A Mandarin
2102 Chestnut St Philadelphia 19103 (Map)
(215) 496-0828
($Chinese, $Philadelphia)

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