Jay Ho is getting ready to open Mei Mei, a chic bi-level Taiwanese restaurant and lounge in Old City, next to Stephen Starr’s Continental on Second Street. Mei Mei makes its debut Thursday, March 12.
On the main level, the restaurant — at 33 S. Second Street in what was the short-lived Ardiente — is decorated with hanging cherry blossoms, velvet wall panels, and lucky cats. The dominant colors are pink and purple and there’s room for 90 diners at tables and the bar.
Head downstairs and you’ll find the more intimate basement lounge, with its own menu and bar and room for just 25. This section of Mei Mei requires a reservation.
Chef-owner Ho learned the restaurant trade through his family. He was born in Taiwan and grew up in Houston, Texas, helping his dad out at his restaurant when he was just a kid. His family moved to Allentown and set up a few restaurants there under Ho Ho Incorporated. Ho eventually took over the business in 2014 and is now expanding to Philly.
Ho calls his menu at Mei Mei “progressive Asian” and says he’s using modern techniques and ingredients for traditional dishes. It has something of an Asian fusion vibe with options like miso-crusted sea bass, miso caesar salad, rolled scallion pancakes with braised pork belly, Peking duck bao, Korean-style fried chicken wings, Taiwanese-style Hunan beef, and fried rice with Taiwanese sausage.
Starting March 12, Mei Mei is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to midnight daily. The bar is open until 2 a.m. Take a peek at the street-level restaurant:
And here’s the downstairs lounge: