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Two Asian Restaurants Reviewed, One Makes it Out Alive

Double Knot gets its first review, Suga gets its second

Double Knot
Double Knot
Photo by Whitney Casal

Double Knotas you may know, is a bit of a spectacle. It's an all-day affair, open morning to night with fancy pour-over coffee machines, breakfast pastries in the A.M., Vietnamese-lunches during the afternoons, and dinnertime is a subterranean izakaya experience, full of glorious sushi and robatayaki grill items. It's a gorgeous space, top to bottom, and it was an instant hit on scolding hot 13th Street in Midtown Village. This week, Craig LaBan got on board with it too, giving Michael Shulson and his chef Kevin Yanaga three bells for its phenomenal sushi program and inventive plates pushing the boundaries of what Japanese food means in Philadelphia:

Kawasaki-raised Yanaga, 44, a Morimoto and Zama alum who worked three years at Schulson's Izakaya in Atlantic City, is among the first around here to make sushi with warm rice, cooked in frequent small batches and seasoned in a high-tech Japanese mixer. It doesn't hold together as tightly as cold rice, so Yanaga uses less with each piece and spritzes each fish with seasoning, usually a mist of sweet and kelpy soy, to minimize the need, and potential damage, of additional dips at the table.

The temperature contrast works a subtle but noticeable magic, boosting the natural flavors and textures of cold seafood to more vivid relief - the yellowtail as rich as an Omega-3 butter bomb, the live scallop smooth as alabaster and sublimely sweet, a tasting of three different snappers rising in both delicacy and depth, with the meatiest one, kinmedai goldeneye snapper, touched by a zippy dab of yuzu chili paste.

Philly Mag's Jason Sheehan reviewed Philly-legend Susanna Foo's new restaurant, Suga, this week, and he didn't seem to like it one bit, giving the new Rittenhouse Chinese eatery a single star. Sheehan took shots at Foo's use of tomatoes, how the kung pao chicken, to him, was just a prettier version of Chinese takeout, how the "global fusion" found across the menu via Italian, French and Latin influences distracts from a menu that, otherwise, might "work".

Those little popcorn pork ravioli are delicious — a whole bowl of them like the perfect snack food, sweet and savory, golden-brown and crisp from the fryer and topped with a scattering of scallions. The branzino is unbalanced (too French to be Italian, too Italian to be Asian, not Asian enough that most people would notice), and a dull, bluntly flavored bowl of Shaxi cat-ear pasta in a lamb ragu with undercooked cubes of Yukon Gold potatoes is just a mess — €”the cup-shaped pasta nicely al dente, but the competing flavors of the tomatoes, cubed lamb, parmesan and a heatless chili-bean sauce about as elegant as a drunken street fight.

Interestingly enough, the comment section came up with a little tidbit of information Sheehan could've found useful before writing his tear-down of the Sansom Street restaurant:

In the end, Sheehan boiled down his entire Suga experience to this final thought — a thought many commenters agreed with:

It's a menu that's trying to look wistfully backward and forward into an uncertain tomorrow at the same time. And while this friction between past and future was always what made fusion cuisine exciting, it was also the biggest risk that any chef took when trying to blaze a trail: What if no one was willing to follow?

She pulled it off once, and got famous for doing so. But with SuGa, I'm not entirely sure Susanna Foo knows where she's going.

Suga

1720 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Double Knot

120 South 13th Street, , PA 19107 (215) 631-3868 Visit Website

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