Last week, two Asian restaurants were reviewed, Double Knot and Suga — one got a great review, the other...not so much. This week, three more Asian restaurants got reviewed, and all of them landed some stellar write-ups:
New to East Passyunk Avenue, and completely on its own in terms of restaurant concept, is Saté Kampar, the Malaysian saté and street food restaurant by Ange and John Branca. This week, Craig LaBan gave it two bells (very good), his review basically serving as a Malay-English dictionary, providing readers with the what's-what at South Philly's new saté house. Some dishes, he remarked, might be more suited towards the adventurous eaters, while others definitely have a mainstream appeal:
That nasi lemak, with its contrast of sweet rice and crackery, fishy crunch, shows little concessions to any timid Western tastes. Likewise, the nasi ulam salad of fresh herbs brightened with sour asam gelugur fruit and sided with a crispy nest of toasted coconut shreds perfumed with funky grilled king mackerel is another delicious dish - but it takes some acclimation for the uninitiated.
Several other dishes here, though, should have immediate mass appeal, including the bungkus bundle of mee hoon vermicelli noodles tinted orange with spicy shallot-chili oil and ribbons of omelet. The slow-cooked beef rendang is tender and complex, with aromatics such as cardamom, cinnamon, and chili spice that ride atop the sweet coconut at the stew's base. The tasty ayam kurma stew of chicken and potato is milder, despite sparks of white pepper from Sarawak on Borneo in its curried brew.
Over in Chinatown, Tom's Dim Sum — which, if you're in the mood for some food porn, got a nice little photo essay by Eater Philly not too long ago — was awarded three stars by Philly Mag critic Jason Sheehan, who fell head-over-heels in love with Tom's scallion pancakes (which he suggests you order well-done):
Tom's pancakes are flaky like baklava, crisp as the skin of a perfect croissant, soft inside in a way that reminds me of pierogies even if they're nothing at all like pierogies. You should order them well done, even if saying those words out loud feels wrong to you, because this will give them a little extra color and a little extra crunch. You have to trust me on this. I learned it from a friend (the same one who convinced me to order them in the first place, after years of disappointing scallion pancakes elsewhere), and now I'm telling you. This is the way we learn the secrets of Tom's Dim Sumâone small lesson at a time.
However you order them, they're savory, warm, as comforting as anything in the world, gently flavored with the greenness of the scallions threaded through them but not overwhelmed by them. There isn't a moment when I'm at Tom's that I don't want a plate of them on the table, and no moment afterward that I don't wish I'd gotten an order to go. And on those rare days when I do walk out the door with an order wrapped for travelingâwhen I'm possessed of foresight enough to anticipate my needs five minutes from whatever moment I'm inâI only wish I'd ordered two.
Last but not least, a nice, little review for Pho-ladelphia, a 16-seat Vietnamese noodle house in South Philly, south of its brothers and sisters on Washington Avenue. Born from a stall at a local farmers' market, Pho-ladelphia now sits on the corner of 11th and Jackson Streets, serving up noodle soups, banh mis, summer rolls and the like. Adam Erace visited for a Courier-Post review, and put it up against some of Philly's best Vietnamese options: worth a visit if you're in the 'hood, worth a visit if you're not:
I ordered at the counter with a friendly clerk, and food began arriving quickly: pork spring rolls sheathed in crispy shells that crackled like layers of caramelized sugar ($3.99); chubby, translucent summer rolls stuffed with sweet shrimp ($3.99) and tender pork ($3.99), plus crunchy house-made pickles and white vermicelli noodles. They were good. Not just convenient good. Good-good.