I look forward to trying Pho Cali.
I always thought Pho 75 was the gold standard for Pho. I was surprised to learn that Pho Xe Lua Viet Thai on Race Street is equal or better. I thought it was good for inexpensive dishes, and never realized it had Pho on this level.
Looks like we've got an embarrassment of rich Pho broth in Chinatown!
I braved the downpour last Wednesday to attend the opening reception at the new Tiffin on Emlen Street, and it was well worth it. Tiffin offered their more adventurous Mt. Airy neighbors a sampling of their foods, including a moist and flavorful tandoori chicken, and wine.
Munish Narula, the proprietor, has a winning recipe, combining a smart business plan and no-compromises as-good-as-it-gets Indian food to produce a labor of love.
Developed with the savvy of friends from Wharton, Munish has created a business plan which includes an assortment of rotating offerings which are available each day for takeout. I don't know how they do it, but this adds up to a huge variety of dishes and depth of flavors. They also have a terrific regular menu with some of the best examples of Indian dishes I've eaten anywhere. It's refreshing to experience the complex combinations of flavors that are usually lost when these dishes are dumbed down for American tastes.
When Tiffin first opened on Girard Avenue, I discovered that these dishes freeze and re-heat extremely well. I was never one for takeout, but in no time at all, I was making regular trips to Tiffin to purchase 10 or 12 dinners at a time. I usually cook all my own meals from scratch, but I must say, I've never eaten so well, since I've been able to take these meals from freezer to microwave, and eat Baingan Bartha, Ajwaini Chicken Tikka, or Malai Kofta just a few minutes later.
Since I've gone digital, I don't get into town as often as I once did when I was constantly bringing film in for processing, so I'm thrilled to have Tiffin closer to home. Munish's enthusiasm and pride are obvious, and his creation will be a great asset to this side of town.
Lately, I've been in the habit of picking up a large block of feta every couple of weeks or so from Makkah Market, across from the mosque in West Philly, at 43rd & Walnut. Open 24 hrs a day, they have a steady stream of customers, including many cabbies, for the inexpensive hot food up front, for takeout, and also to sit at their few tables.
They have good prices on a large selection of canned goods, dried grains and beans, excellent dates, dairy, halal meats, and more. Judging by the size of the jars of tahini and such, I suspect they sell a lot at wholesale, or at least in bulk. I believe the feta is $4 or so a pound.
I'll be at the North Shore Music Theater in Beverly tonight.
Which clam shack can I get to easily from there?
Hopefully, this is also the one that has the best quality, lightest batter, maybe some great not too thick chowder, and relatively short lines for takeout on a Saturday night!
Ken is right about the excellence of Pho 75, and also about Adams Ave preceding the Washington Ave and new Chinatown loccations. Pho 75 existed in the DC/VA area first, although I'm not positive that they are related.
I must say, though, that Pho Xe Lua on Race St. is a close call when it comes to pho. I would definitely give it a try if you haven't already.
I think what threw me is that I was looking for a truck. It's not really a truck, but a rather small sidewalk cart. And yes, the tacos al pastor really are spectacular - one of the best things I've eaten in the city of Philadelphia! And they really are wonderful people.
Do you know if they are doing the specials only for one day on the 4th? For that matter, are they open on weekends? I also forgot to ask how late they are open. I've driven by at 5pm and not seen them there. Tacos lengua are my favorites. I'm tempted to drive for an hour, just for those.
I did see a small sign, but it's on the sidewalk side - not visible from the street.
For my father's 94th birthday dinner at Chez Pascal last month, we decided to share the duck entree, as his appetite hasn't been huge lately. The waiter brought an absoloutely beautiful plate, with a 1/4 duck and confit, sweet potato torte, and roasted fennel and endive. But I was a bit concerned that it might not be enough to share. Until the waiter brought a second identical plate for my father! Without asking, the waiter had split the entree onto two separate plates, each of which was a perfectly respectable dinner for one. And absolutely delicious!
We also had a combo plate with three chocolate deserts, which was heavenly. I can't wait to go back for the cassoulet. The chef had also taken a whole vermont pig and made from it his own sausages and many other preparations.
I was prepared to splurge for the occasion, but by today's standards, the meal turned out to be a bargain.
We've had very nice dim sum from Lucky Garden, my favorite of which might be the eggpland and peppers stuffed with shrimp. We've also had a decent whole fish with ginger and scallion, and last time tried a plate of an unusual type of nicely prepared fresh greens which I've never seen before. Sorry, I can't remember what they were. They were long thin shoots with a tiny bulbous thing at the end. Not pea pod shoots, but they have those as well.
So now that you all know where it is, would you please share that info with the rest of us?
Drove up and down Broadway a week or so ago, and didn't see it.
Love to hear a dinner review as well, if anyone can give a report.
You just reminded me - don't write off all of Pawtucket. Last week we tried the shish kebab place on Smithfield Ave. near Mineral Spring that was mentioned in the big Prov Journal article on ethnic food in Pawtucket. Tiny place, just a few tables, $6.95 for lamb shish kebab with pilaf. We also shared grape leaves, kibbeh, and lamajoun, and enjoyed it all. We were stuffed for about $16 for the two of us!
And then we discovered a new Arepa joint across the street! A hugh assortment - I got a couple to go, one with a huge amount of delicious melted cheese, and another packed with chicken salad and avacado. I think they might have been $2.50 each. Can't beat that! Delicious.
Just a month ago I took my father to Chez Pascal for his 94th birthday, and it's the real deal! In this day of overpriced, overhyped pretentious nothings, I thought this was a relative bargain. The duck confit was wonderful, and the service was as comfortable as being with an old friend.
When the weather was nice last fall, we ate outside at Venda, and I must say I've become more and more disenchanted. The veal dish was twice the price, half the size, and about a tenth as flavorful as Mike's Kitchen at the VFW in Cranston. I thought the service was awful. And am I the only one who thinks the olive oil tastes rancid? For a place filled with shelves of fancy olive oil, I'm a bit turned off when they pretentiously pour olive oil from a fancy glass pitcher onto your plate for dipping bread,when the pitcher is refilled from the large tin of their cheapest olive oil! If your definition of "fun" is pretentious, don't bother with Mike's. If you're a real foodie, I think you'll love both Chez Pascal and Mike's Kitchen.
I recently enjoyed Solomon's Market, although the beef dish I had was a bowl of not much beef, and mostly the stuff that normally comes free in six different small side dishes at most of the Korean restaurants I've been to. It was good, but I haven't decided yet if it's better than Sun and Moon in East Providence.
And at the risk of heresy, not everything at Apsara is great. My brain has escaped me at the moment, but the pancake or omelet like dish made with rice flour I believe, and filled with shrimp and pork and sprouts and stuff is way better than at most other places in town. Their soups are all made from the same precooked stock, and have way too much sugar for me to handle. YMMV.
We also went to the hole in the wall in Olneyville Square called La Lupita, and I do believe it has about the best Pozole I've had anywhere, including all my favorites in San Antonio!
And has anyone mentioned the Monday night lobster deal at Spumoni's? Is it $11.95, for a boiled lobster with soup or salad, and spaghetti or baked potato?
"Just ate the thousand year old egg w/ locust paste--it's unusual but good if you like thousand year old egg. It tasted very fresh too."
OK. So what's the criteria for how fresh a thousand year old egg should taste?
Two years ago, a year before my mother died, I was able to travel West with my folks and take them to both Ton Kiang and Koi Palace, the two other world class dim sum restaurants in San Francisco. We arrived at Koi Palace for lunch at maybe 10:30 in the morning so we could make our flight home, and couldn't believe the hundred or more people in line! But the place was so huge, the line moved unbelievably fast. The unusual offerings, and being able to order sharks fin and abalone from the huge dim sum menu were quite something. It is a wonderful memory that will thankfully stay with me forever.
One of my favorite dishes at both Ton Kiang and Koi Palace was each's version of eggplant stuffed with shrimp, and I will say that Lakeside's is in the ballpark. The large resaturant in the strip mall on Washington had some of the feel of the larger SF banquet restaurants near the SFO airport, and did have some unusual dishes when it first opened, but I fear it's no longer the same. I also thought Ocean Harbor was great when it first opened, but suffered from the competition when HK Golden Phoenix opened.
We're luck to have as many dim sum places in Philadelphia as we do, and we've come a long long way in recent years, but we've still got some catching up to do to match San Francisco or Vancouver.
Dib, from what I can see, it looks like the "salted bean curd soup" is the same as the "salty dou fu dessert" on page two. The Chinese characters look the same to my untrained eye, anyway. The salty dou fu, by the way, tastes very similar to me at the two different places.
I'll look forward to hearing what you think of the Sweet House once you've tried it.
I found a crumpled up menu in my files. Yay for being sort of organized! I've never tried posting an image here before, so we'll see if this works. If not, it's at 148 N. 10th. (215) 238-1368.
BTW, the fruit shakes and fruit and tapioca-pearl drinks are also a hit at both, and the Side Walk Sweet House is also my favorite place for Congee. (a rice porridge.) $3 for a quart! Better than many places that charge much more. The pork and preserved egg is my favorite. And try the sticky rice tied up in banana leaves that you'll see on the counter. It will set you back another couple of bucks. If you splurge on the $3 chow fun soup, the "beef" version is a trimmer cut of meat, but the "beef stewed" version is more flavorful.
Lots of hits for such a tiny little place with a small menu! Enjoy!
Absolutely. Look across the street from the fire station. There may still be two or three on this block, but the one I go to is maybe five or so doors in from Race. I don't remember the name, but I don't know that they have a prominent sign anyway. You'll see one step up on the street before the doorway, and a menu in the window. Inside is a counter where you order takeout and pay on the left, and they also have a half dozen or so tables. The family there is extremely nice, and I've enjoyed watching one young girl grow from the days I couldn't believe she could count my money and give me change. (And English is obviously not her first language!)
They have delicious homemade soft do-fu with a variety of topings. Most of them are sweet, which I don't eat, so I order the salty do-fu, with soy sauce and a sprinkling of teeny dried fish and such.
They are also a great source for fresh homemade ho fun type rice noodles, which they sell by the pound, or in containers with the tiny shrimp in them. And they have other great snacks as well which can make for a quick $2-$3 meal! I often get the stewed beef soup with ho-fun noodles for $3, which you can't beat.
I'm surprised no one has mentioned the pierogie place off Henry, especially since Mawrtr specifically asked about Manayunk/Roxboro. It's a small take out place a couple of doors in on a side street from Henry, near the ballpark and the cheesesteak places. There's a sign visible from Henry, on the left side heading west from the city, so it's easy to find.
Besides perogies, they have frozen trays of a half dozen huge "golubkis", which are reasonable and quite good, although they were a bit salty for me the last batch I tried. Or perhaps they are "galumpkis" on this side of town. I hear the spelling is an east-west thing! In my family, we called them stuffed cabbage!
BTW, has anyone been to Theresa's Polish Buffet in Port Richmond?
If you like Mexican, you might also like Guatemalan. Check out Mi Guatemala on Atwells Ave, past Mexcico, on the right hand side. Always filled with Guatemalan families. Great home made food. If you're adventurous and like tongue, I think their Lengua Guisada is some of the best anywhere! And they have lots of varieties of inexpensive sopas type things. The portions are generally huge, and the prices reasonable. The service is always friendly. If your server doesn't speak English, another will appear who will. And you can keep up with the latest hispanic soap operas while you're there!
Phantom Violist, can you tell us how much this Beijing style hotpot at Four Rivers cost?
I ask because it sounds like a huge dish, and I'm usually in Chinatown during the day when I'm doing errands by myself. My former student dentist at Penn, who was here studying from China, always spoke highly of Four Rivers and told me it was the most authentic food Chinese food in Philly. But I always walked past without stopping in, since her recommendation was for whole fish, which isn't really a dish for one, and just isn't the same reheated.
Were you offered "off menu" options, or did you ask? I'm curious, do you speak Chinese? At some restaurants it's easier than at others to be taken seriously, or to understand the "off menu" options if you don't speak the language. Do you have other favorite dishes there as well, especially "off menu"?
<Scallops are supposed to have an iodine marine odor...translation..no smell.>
This sounds like a contradiction to me. Can you please explain what you mean by "iodine marine odor"?
For years I've spent July 4th weekend eating scallops on the dock in New Bedford, Massachussetts. Absolute height of scallop season, straight off the boat, in the scallop capital of the world. A transcending experience! There is certainly no fishy smell.
I have trouble parting with the cash, but I do hear from those who know that Whole Foods has odorless fresh fish, as fresh fish should be.
FWIW, I used to buy the "pieces" at Reading Terminal - small chunks of scrod, tuna, or quality salmon at $1.99 to 3.99/lb. Great for making soup. I've always been told that it is as fresh as the rest of their fish. But too often it smelled of ammonia when I opened the package, so I've stopped. Anyone have a similar experience?
Has anyone noticed that Pho 75 is coming to Chinatown?
I was heading towards my $9.95 "Whole Canadian Lobsters w/ Ginger and Scallion" at "Wong Wong" the other night, and noticed a new sign on Race reading: "Coming Soon - Pho 75!"
The sign was in the window of the former "Hoa Viet", which has seen a number of changes over the years. I guess they had trouble settling in on a format that worked for them. It's a few doors away from "Joy Tsin Lao".
I have mixed feelings. Now we'll have "Pho 75!" competing with "Pho Xe Lua" on two consecutive blocks of Race. Both are top notch Pho. Great to have an abundance of quality, but a bit redundant.
I haven't had a chance to post before now, but I did in fact go to Taste of India the day after my less than stellar lunch at Aman's. My faith in humanity was immediately restored when I entered the men's room and saw a sign that said "please" three times, along with two smiley faces! As mentioned before, there's a professional looking sign on the buffet with common sense tips for buffet etiquet.
The meal was head and shoulders above Aman's, and what impressed me most was the assortment of extras. I don't usually eat sweets, but I did have a snitch of the halwah which was a treat. I can't say that any of the dishes would be on my list of all time favorites, but this may be partly a factor of that day's choices.
Today I was back in the neighborhood, went to Bawarchi, and this was a revelation. It was one of the best Indian meals I've had in the Philadelphia area! Absolutely no compromise here for American tastes. At one point I looked up and saw about 15 attractive Indian faces in line at the buffet. At about 12:30 the place was packed, and I was the only non-Indian there. I can't imagine that the hidden location will be too much of an issue, as it seems to cater to an Indian clientelle that I'm sure seeks this place out.
The buffet began with a very spicy rasam and sambar. Along with idly, pakoras and naan. At the other end was raita, yogurt, mixed pickles, mint and mango chutneys, and another chutney with cocoanut and peanut, fresh looking salad stuff, and more, including pure ghee. And a free delicious masala tea.
The entrees included two biryanis, one vegetarian and one chicken "cooked on dum". There was also a delicious Paneer Butter Masala. Not a lot of vegetables, but along with a cabbage dish, soups, and extras, the choices were nice. For carnivores, there was also a tasty Lamb Rogan Josh, a nice chicken curry labeled "Dum Ka Murga", and Tandoori Chicken. And they had a great carrot halwah. All in all, lots of interesting flavors, and a surprisingly impressive meal. And while I've lost a bit of tolerance for extreme spiciness over the years, Bawarchi had some take your breath away heat that I really enjoyed!
The service was friendly, with water refilled often, and empty dishes taken away efficiently. Every time I looked up, the buffet was being replenished. These folks never stood still. And it was about the cleanest buffet I've seen.
By contrast, I look back and realize that my lunch at Aman's really was one of the worst meals I've had in Philly. Tiffin has some great dishes, including the best selection of interesting tandoori chicken preparations I've had anywhere, and now I can see adding Bawarchi to my list of regulars.
As I mentioned in a posting in November, usually when I'm in the wonderful Mexican neighborhood on Marshall St. in Norristown, my hands are too full and greasy to hold a paper and pencil. Today I ate lunch elswhere, ( a mistake.) then stopped in on Marshall St. for a supply of fresh tortillas, and took a few notes. So now I can actually tell you the names of some of these places.
My favorite place - the restaurant and bakery - is called El Puerto Jarocho. The folks here are the nicest in the world! Last time I had a pleasant chat with the cook, the only one who really speaks English. It's at 516 W. Marshall St. I like to go on weekends for the soups, but you can get the best tamales you've ever had, by far, anytime. Some with corn husks, some in plaintain leaves. Some with mole, with chicken or pork. Though they may not have all four types every time:
Tamales Jarocho en hoja de platano, salsa roja de puerco.
How do you say "yum" in Spanish?
Brought home tacos de lengua and cabeza for dinner. Also recommend you drink some champurrado while you're at it.
The uptairs mini-mall a few doors down is called La Plazita. Here there's a new restaurant with a chef from Coyotte Crossing.
Across the street at 513 is Paraiso, the little place with a chalkboard menu in the window. No English here, just authentic spicy food.
Next door is a more decorated place with a sign saying "El Rincon de Mexico", with tacos and enchilladas and such. Next door is a little store with the same sign. I believe the restaurant has another name, if I remember correctly, taqueria something perhaps, it's on the menu, but not out front.
One block East, there's a new, larger place called Tequila Sunrise. Poked my head in and looked at the menu. It's the only one of the places I know of here that has fish tacos, so I suspect they're from elsewhere in Mexico, perhaps the Baja.
(And I still like the little corner place nearby on West Main St, with spicy soups, and tasty real tacos - cow's head, brains and tripe, among others!)
I usually like to experiment and load up with a variety of dishes from each of these places. Each has it's own flavor. Keeps me well fed for a week!
And last but certainly not least, several doors down on the side street that separates these places - no street sign, but I believe it's Chain Street - you'll see a sign for the place on the side of the corner building - is the tiny little store that makes tortillas and sells them by the pound, cheap and hot off the conveyor belt. Not to be missed. Extremely nice people. The women don't speak much English, but not a problem. I ask for the hot ones, not the ones already bagged, and just keep waving to put more and more on the scale.
On one visit they had hand cut chunks of fresh cheese, the somewhat crumbly stuff, I believe Cojita. It was delicioso! On the next couple of visits, I was told by the nice young man that he had picked it up in New York, and was having trouble getting it now. Today it was back, and I'm a happy man!
Once again, I feel like I've been on vacation to a village in Mexico. If you haven't been, give it a try, and send me a postcard.
I finally started my quest of west of the city Indian with a trip to Aman's.
I was picturing old white Norristown house, converted to restaurant. I was not expecting large K-Mart shopping plaza, just past Plymouth Meeting. I was also thinking pure ingredients, maybe not authentic spicy, but a pleasant nonetheless.
My second impression after the K-Mart, was the sign warning me that I would be charged extra if I took more from the buffet than I could eat! My third impression was the sign that the tiny soup bowls were for soup only. I usually like to use a smallish bowl for raita. Not here. And then came the dried out scraps of pakora.
The soup was a tomato soup that tasted like, well...tomato soup. When the empty tray was refilled with tandoori chcken, I found that it was crispy and tasted like, yes, chicken. More fried tasting, and I must say totally without the wonderful flavor I've found at Tiffin.
Sorry to be sounding so negative, but it didn't get much better after that. I was expecting nice vegetables, but found the vegetable korma was undistinguished mush, with none of the delicacy and richness I've come to expect from my korma at Tiffin or Minar, even when frozen and re-heated! A chickpea dish was also mush, and I found the chicken tikki masala to be undistinguished as well. The lamb rogan josh was ok.
The dishes were not totally without spice. There was a potato dish that was quite spicy. I did not try the non-Indian looking chicken wings, or what looked like Chinese extra-gooey orange chicken.
Unfortunately, they did add more pakoras. They tasted overly fried on the outside, like raw dough on the inside, and yes, there was a hair on my plate.
There was an interesting grated carrot with syrup dish, and I liked the fact that they had plain yogurt in addition to the raita, along with decent mint chutney and pickles. A friendly man, who was also at the cash register, kept my water glass full.
Fortunately, there are plenty of great sounding places yet to try, and a few wonderful quality dishes still in the freezer from Tiffin! Aman's is relatively easy to get to from my home, and I thought might be a standby. I now think not. But I did get over to Marshall St. afterwards for fresh tortillas and tamales! I'll post separately about that.
Boy, would I not agree with this one! Besides the fact that the place is filled with sexually themed statues, these have got to be the rudest people in the world! I know I'm not alone in wanting to give it a good chance after hearing good revues, and then continuously having very unpleasant experiences there.
If it's worth it to you to go for the food, so be it, but for a celebratory dinner with kids, I think not. There are so many good choices in the city, and the Chinese places especially are used to accomodating large family groups.
Thanks for all the info!
Do I understand correctly that the back of the gas station in K of P is a branch of Royal India in Malvern? If so, how does the food compare? I'm wondering if this might be another good source, along with Tiffin, to replace Minar Palace to provide food for the freezer.
Yes, celeriac, I'd say "Inter-family feud" sums it up pretty well.
I can see how the sign about no other branches would lead folks to this misunderstanding. It's ironic, though, that I pretty much never see the word Apsara on chowhound without the phrase "not related", when they are in fact blood relatives. For many years, we would not refer to the old Apsara without speaking the name Kim!
Not to get in the middle of a feud, but Apsara just hasn't seemed the same to us, or as warm, since the days when Kim used to sit with us with her infant child, and call my parents "grandma" and "grandpa"!
-Apsara Palace on Hope St, which is unrelated-
Jeez, I thought this myth had been debunked already. Since when are blood relatives unrelated?
I guess all those times Kim sat at our table with us to say hello at the old Apsara, before she opened up her new place, were just a figment of my imagination!
And while I'm at it, I'll put in my 2 pesos worth for Mi Guatemala!
I should add a couple of qualifications here.
The vegetarian dishes are wonderful, and where a similar preparation is offered with vegetables or meat, I'd just as soon get the vegetables. The chunks of meat are fine, but it's the sauce that turns me on, and the paneer is every bit as tasty as the chicken or lamb. This is what I was thinking, when I gave my feedback to rabidog.
That said, their tandoor cooked dishes also excel! The chicken is tasty and tender, and both the tandoori chicken and the two tandoor chicken tikka dishes - which are marinated in yogurt - are wonderful. One of the three wasn't quite as moist as the other two, but was just fine. So you might want to try this more than once before you pass final judgement. I haven't tried either the tandoori vegetables or the tandoori kebab or surf and turf - with lamb or shrimp - which sound very promising.
Which brings me to my next qualification:
"EVERYTHING is better once you heat it up the next day!!" may be true for vegetarians, and with slow heating is fine for the saucy dishes, but the tandoori dishes will dry out and lose flavor when reheated. This is why I'm holding off on the surf and turf until I have the chance to eat it right away, probably there. Shrimp will turn to rubber in a moment when reheated, and chicken can become pretty dry.
As for my older post about the extras, much of what I said is no longer relevant. Where they used to offer raita with almost everything, they no longer offer it at all except with briyanis. And the briyanis no longer come with dal.
The new menu has also additional chicken and lamb dishes and vegetable pakora replacing the paneer pakora.
Between three visits, I've tried seventeen different dishes now! I hope I don't get burned out on Indian food before I get to route 30!
I buy most of my eggs from Godshall's in Reading Terminal. They are, as missclaudy describes, with wonderful deep color to the yolks, and at times with double yolks. You can taste the difference.
I do not buy their organic eggs, on the assumption that the only difference is organic feed, since they do come from Lancaser farms. I've asked if their non organic eggs are cage free, and unfortunately the sales folks are not that clear. I'm quite sure they are minimally processed, without hormones and antibiotics. And they certainly taste great.
I always insisted on eating natural eggs when I visited home for more than a few days at a time, and my mother would repeatedly buy supermarket eggs, telling me the package said "farm fresh". I don't think I ever saw a carton of commercial eggs that didn't say "farm fresh"!
As for real fresh eggs, when I visit my brother's farm in California, we always hardboil eggs that are a couple of days old, as that day's eggs are impossible to peel.
Good eggs seem expensive by comparison to commercial, but as Felafelboy says, they really aren't all that expensive for what they are.
Having yet to venture out to the western outposts of Indian nirvanna, I have two questions:
Which of the favorite restaurants have buffets on weekends with significantly different and wothwhile dishes that aren't available on the weekday buffets - restaurants you would make a point of going to on the weekend either instead of, or in addition to, weekdays?
Are there some restaurants who just don't strut their stuff in buffets? I've been disappointed with the buffet at Kujuraho several times and wonder if their stellar reputation is based on dinner only. Are there some restaurants which you feel must be experienced from the dinner menu to be appreciated?
I've started to put together a list of the places mentioned to help wrap my brain around more information than my brain can handle these days. If others can add more detail to the list, I think it might be useful to many of us. Addresses, phone numbers, hours, types of cuisine, specialties, bufffet prices, and other bits of information would all be appreciated, and I think would be a great resource for those looking in the future.
Taste of India
Gateway to India
Barwachi (replaced Taj Mahal)
Jewel of India
The gas station on DeKalb Pike