The space is simultaneously comfortable and hip. The bustling open kitchen and color-changing graphic wall compete for your visual focus. The restaurant’s soundtrack will take you back to your childhood, as long as you grew up in the ’80s; audio clips from classic flicks blare in the bathroom. The excellent desserts are inspired by kid-friendly flavors; think chocolate peanut butter tart and house-made soft serve in flavors like Kit Kat. But the skinny-jeans-clad servers are inattentive, and forget to change out dirty plates or ask what temperature you want your steak. Sampan is trying too hard to be cool.
Schulson has worked at Le Bec-Fin, Susanna Foo, Buddakan (Philly and NYC) and Pod, and also owns the acclaimed Izakaya in Atlantic City. There’s little doubt this rising celeb chef is as talented as he is photogenic. (He’s hosted a cable cooking show or two.) Sampan is the most successful of the recent Asian-themed entrants to our restaurant scene, and with some improvements, it could be that updated Asian restaurant we’ve long wanted.