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Look Inside Mei Mei, Old City’s New Taiwanese Restaurant With a Hidden Basement Lounge

The dimly lit, pink-and-purple restaurant is going for high style on Second Street

dark lounge with chandeliers and candles
The lounge at Mei Mei, a Taiwanese restaurant opening in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood.
Neal Santos

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.

bowl of rice with scallions and egg
Fried rice at Mei Mei
Neal Santos

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:

dark restaurant lounge with purple lights Neal Santos
Neal Santos
dark restaurant with booths Neal Santos

And here’s the downstairs lounge:

dark lounge with banquettes and candles Neal Santos