A Whole Lot More Of The Same Old Thing: Aqimero Reviewed

Photo by Emily Teel

Photo by Emily Teel

Look, I’m not pissed off about my meals at Aqimero. To be pissed—for my experiences to rise to the level of actually making me angry beyond a kind of vacant, low-boil frustration—would presume that I was at all surprised by my experiences.

I’m sad, a little bit. It’s depressing to see what could have been a great restaurant space (what should have been a great restaurant space) so terribly misused, and the liveried staff lingering expectantly around the host’s station, waiting for customers who are never going to arrive. To look at those soaring ceilings and sky-reaching pillars, the marble, the vastness of it all, and to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that Aqimero will be (or, again, should be) experienced solely by visitors staying at the Ritz who are afraid to leave the shelter of its luxurious walls, incapable of walking a couple blocks, or just so careless about the price of things that $17 for a (small) plate of fried shrimp seems perfectly reasonable, is just dismal. I didn’t love 10 Arts, which lived here before big-time international restaurateur Richard Sandoval brought Aqimero to the Ritz-Carlton a few months back. I had great meals there, and ones that were merely so-so. A bit of its luster rubbed off after it lost Eric Ripert’s oversight and Jennifer Carroll in the kitchen. But 10 Arts still undeniably fit into the vaulted lobby of the Ritz. It belonged there in a way that Aqimero just … can’t.

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Endless Summer: Tiki Reviewed

Mural at Tiki | All photos by Chelsea Portner

Mural at Tiki | All photos by Chelsea Portner

It’s way too early to be writing this review, and I don’t care at all. Best thing about being a critic? That moment when you find something that’s best only in that moment. That, for whatever reason—despite calendars and schedules and plans and rules—demands to be paid attention to now.

That’s Tiki.

There’s nothing to the place. It’s so stupidly simple that I love it in stupidly simple ways—without thought, just on pure reflex and lust for fried dumplings, acid-tinged surf rock and Bacardi 151.

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What Lies Beneath: Double Knot Reviewed

In the basement of Double Knot | Photo via Double Knot

In the basement of Double Knot | Photo via Double Knot

Breakfast, 9:30 a.m. // Like Garfield and 10,000 novelty t-shirts, I don’t do mornings. Particularly not ones that haven’t snuck up on me accidentally—the sun rising while I’m still out doing whatever it is that insomniac food editors do—and caught me still in last night’s clothes.

One of the reasons I became a writer was so I’d never have to get up before noon. Sadly, somewhere in my youth I missed an important distinction. Some writers get to sleep the mornings away, sure. They’re generally the ones who own more than zero berets and have strong opinions about pencils. And then there are the ones who actually have to make a living.

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Wok Street To Open with Free Lunch

wok street 940Wok Street, the Southeast Asian fast-casual concept from the team that brought us sushi burritos at Hai Street Kitchen have set their opening date at 1518 Chestnut Street. Wok Street’s first day will be Thursday, May 12th and they’re kicking it off with complimentary lunch at noon for the first 300 people through the door.

Wok Street offers a build-a-bowl concept that starts with rice or noodles and then adds proteins like crispy veggie miso tofu, Szechuan glazed chicken, slow braised soy sauced topped beef or pork. The bowls are then completed with veggies, sauces and toppings like coconut red curry sauce, tangy tamarind sauce, pickled red onion and pickled red peppers to name a few. Wok Street also offers banh mi, summer rolls and salad options.

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Future Imperfect: SuGa Reviewed

Dumplings and Scallion Pancakes at SuGa | Photo by Emily Teel

Dumplings and Scallion Pancakes at SuGa | Photo by Emily Teel

I love the smell of SuGa. The dim warmth of it. The banquette tables that run along the wall opposite the bar, in the front of the narrow, shotgun space in the middle of Center City. I love the weird, blobby lights that hang down, casting spotlights onto those tables. There’s a drama there that I can appreciate. A sense of controlling the environment.

There’s a sheen to everything at SuGa of newness and polish and efficiency. It’s a new restaurant (not even quite three months old yet) that operates like there are 20-year grooves cut into the floor. Everything is on rails, running with a precision that would make German train engineers jealous. This place represents the culmination of decades of experience—of Susanna Foo’s return to Center City (where she got famous, where she made her name) after closing her namesake Walnut Street restaurant in 2009 and its Radnor offshoot last summer. A veteran returning to the trenches, Foo is backed up by her son Gabriel on the floor (he grew up in the restaurant industry, went to medical school, but then found his way back to restaurants again) and sous chefs Clara Park (who opened SuGa with Foo, then left) and Chris Dougherty (who stepped up when Park left) in the kitchen. There are no amateur mistakes at SuGa. Nothing happens without a reason.

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Hai Street Kitchen Is Expanding in Philly and Beyond

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The Hai Street Kitchen line isn’t this long anymore, but it does still reach the sidewalk. (Photo from May, 2014)

Expect to see more from Hai Street Kitchen & Co. in the near future: this spring, they are opening their third location at The Shops at Liberty Place at 17th and Chestnut Street, just down the block from their original shop. Then in the summer, they’re opening at the King of Prussia Mall, alongside Nicolette Pizzeria, Melt Shop, Shake Shack and the Fat Ham.

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It’s a Matyson Throwback at Bing Bing Dim Sum

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Celebrate Chinese New Year at Bing Bing Dim Sum

When Ben Puchowitz was the chef at Matyson he was known for his always changing tasting menus. In fact we awarded him Best of Philly awards for those menus twice. In honor of the Chinese New Year, he’s going back to the future with a Matyson-style tasting menu at Bing Bing Dim Sum on Passyunk Avenue.

The Year of the Monkey menu will be served on Monday, February 8th and the four-course meal will cost $35 per person. Drink specials including a harmony punch will also be available. Call for reservations (215-279-7702).

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Bing Bing Dim Sum Rolls Out New Menu

Lox Buns, new at Bing Bing Dim Sum

Lox Buns, new at Bing Bing Dim Sum

At Bing Bing Dim Sum, Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh have been constantly tweaking, changing ingredients, methods and menu items since opening six months ago. And now Darragh tells us they’ve found their groove. And with this latest menu, they’re featuring a streamlined menu of dim sum items and shareable large plates.

On this latest menu jump around the world with pork soup dumplings; Everything Pac Man Buns, served with lox, cream cheese and cucumber, to a South Philly inspired roast pork bao with sharp provolone, long hots and spinach.

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Bing Bing Does Weekend Lunch

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Pan fried Bao at Bing Bing Dim Sum

Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh continue to tinker and improve Bing Bing Dim Sum on East Passyunk. After adding happy hour and delivery, they launched weekend lunch with the kickoff of Philly Beer Week.

A week in, they’ve added some brunch-style cocktails including iced Vietnamese coffee; the Bing Bing Mary, tomatillo, pineapple, tamarind, green tabasco, chili paste and pickled jalapeno; and the Java Jawn Cocktail, Vietnamese coffee, sweetened condensed milk, Barbancourt dark rum, topped with coconut palm sugar and whipped cream.

Bing Bing is now open on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Check out the latest food menu from Bing Bing, which has been tweaked from even a week ago.

Latest Bing Bing menu »

The Electric Dim Sum Acid Test: Bing Bing Dim Sum Reviewed

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Bing Bing Dim Sum | Photo by Courtney Apple

If restaurateurs were rock stars (and in Philly, they’re as close as we come), Ben Puchowitz and Shawn Darragh would be vintage R.E.M. Whether they’re slinging ramen with brisket and matzo balls, as at Cheu Noodle Bar, or papering the walls of their new Bing Bing Dim Sum with acid-trip dumpling emojis, they have a knack for twisting a budding trend just far enough to make it unmistakably their own.   Read more »

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