A year after the federal government shuttered most of the independent Chinatown bus lines traveling up and down the I-95 corridor, NBC 10 reports that Peter Pan Bus Lines and Greyhound have partnered to reintroduce the service: YO! Bus travels between Chinatowns in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia with fares starting as low as $12 per trip.
These buses are a little fancier than the old Chinatown buses of yore; they include wifi services and leather seats with extra legroom. NBC reports: “The monster bus companies intentionally kept YO! Bus true to its Asian roots while giving it a bit of Philly flair. The name alone has dual meaning as it’s derived from the Chinese word meaning “to protect” as well as serving as a nod to Philadelphians’ favorite “Yo” greeting, according to the company’s website.” In Philly, the YO! bus can be boarded at the Greyhound station at 1001 Filbert.
Chef Zeng Feng Zhang has moved his Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House a block west on Race Street but the magic of the noodles remains. What Craig LaBan is most excited by are the new appetizers from the expanded menu.
An expanded menu, though, is the unexpected plus of Nan Zhou’s big expansion. In particular, don’t miss the surprisingly exotic chicken dumplings (fried is better than steamed), whose minced poultry fillings are flared with curry and rich coconut milk.
My biggest surprise, though, was the assortment of appetizers drawn from other regions of China. For vegetable starters, the shredded sea kelp tastes like snappy cold green noodles ignited with fresh garlic heat and sesame oil. Crunchy batons of raw turnip doused in sweet soy and vinegar are piled high with shriveled little fuzzy brown preserved plums that are as flavorful as they are ugly. The shredded potatoes are as addictive as they are a curious find in Chinatown, the cool, white, crunchy spud laces sparked with hot chile oil. Even more unusual, though, was the “gong” vegetable, a pickled green reminiscent of cactus in texture, but with a crunch so resonant, it rang in the back of my head like a bell.
Two Bells – Very Good
Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House [Official Site]
It has become a vital question among Philly’s serious cocktail connoisseurs: Where to eat after a night spent drinking at Chinatown’s Hop Sing Laundromat? Depending on how many cocktails you’ve put away, the distance between Hop Sing’s secret door and the nearest late-night noodle spot is a serious concern, so we’ve broken the options down for you by how far you’ll have to walk. Or stagger.
The Hop Sing Laundromat Drunk Walk »
Blessed with a good set of pipes? Woo your loved one with song and sushi. Yakitori Boy’s prix fixe Valentine’s menu includes the pictured “Sweet Heart Sushi Rolls.” Then head upstairs to a karaoke room and serenade your significant other with the cheesiest love songs you can find. For someone, this is a perfect valentine. For more options, check out our Valentine’s day Guide.
2013 Valentine’s Day Guide [f8f8z]
Yakatori Boy [Official Site]
Hop Sing Laundromat makes Details Magazine’s Best New Bars in America feature. Hop Sing is listed under High End Cocktails along with bars from New York, Chicago and Seattle.
The 1,000-bottle inventory and the enigmatic, always cuff-linked owner-host known only as Lêe are just two of the draws at this red-hot Chinatown spot.
The Vibe: A feel of aristocratic exclusivity, thanks to Victorian accents and Lêe’s strict house rules (no sneakers, no photos).
The Drinks: A mix of pre-Prohibition-era picks (like the orange-and-lemon-juice-laced Ward 8) and modern interpretations.
Best New Bars in America [Details]
The sign is up but newspapers still cover the windows at Happy Noodle Bar. Happy is preparing to take up residence at 927 Race Street, the former home of Nan Zhou Hand-Drawn Noodle House, before it moved to its bigger digs at 1022 Race Street.
Adam Erace had held out longer than most. Turned off by Hop Sing Laundromat’s hype and its proprietor’s self-deprecation, Erace at avoided Lee’s Chinatown cocktail bar. But for a first review of 2013, the bar beckoned. And although identified, City Paper’s reviewer tells his tale.
The off-menu tequila Old Fashioned was mostly booze but, paradoxically, not boozy. When the fire vanished from its tableside-flamed orange peel, it revealed a smooth tango of mezcal and reposado, smoke and oak set to plainspoken Angostura, agave and a spray of essential citrus oils. I sought that balance in the Triple A special, but there wasn’t enough fresh-pressed green apple juice to combat the lethal doses of applejack and absinthe.
“I know you didn’t like the Triple A,” Lee whispered when he set down the check, “so I took it off the bill.” I’d given no indication I hadn’t liked it. I’d even drunk most of it. Is Lee psychic or just a very keen observer?
The Truth About Czar Lee [City Paper]
Hop Sing Laundromat [Official Site]
Photo by Neal Santos
Craig LaBan sings the praises of Hop Sing Laundromat’s Nevermore cocktail. LaBan calls it a “deliciously one-of-a-kind cocktail.”
A one-of-a-kind drink from Hop Sing Laundromat [Philadelphia Inquirer]
Photo by David Warren | Philly.com
My mother used to tell me that the best way to judge a cookbook is the least judgmental. In her opinion, all it took was a single recipe worth cooking to prove its value.
Her point didn’t actually have anything to do with food. She was mainly trying to convince a haughty teenage brat that just because someone might not have much to say about political philosophy or the Fibonacci series or the gnostic Christians, that didn’t mean they weren’t worth talking to at all. (Yep, I was that guy and this actually needed to be spelled out for me. Now, of course, I am a delight.)
But still, there’s one Philadelphia restaurant that I’ve always looked at in this same way. The first time I went to Banana Leaf, it was for roti canai, and from that day forward it became the only thing I went for. Why mess with a good thing—especially one I’d been jonesing for for so long—by veering off into the rest of the menu?
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So, three guys walk into a bar…
Wait, let me start over.
A homicidal maniac, an Al-Qaeda torture specialist, and a Foobooz commenter walk into Hop Sing Laundromat. After surrendering their photo IDs for inspection at the door, they are seated in an anteroom—on a church pew opposite an unmanned shoeshine stand.
The insane murderer gazes around at an antiquarian’s fantasia of leather-bound books—shelf upon shelf going right up to what must be a 15-foot ceiling—and feels a novel sensation. By the dumb luck of having tucked his collared shirt into the Dolce and Gabbana pants of his latest victim, he has passed the bar’s not-exactly-restrictive dress code. For the first time in his life he feels validated. The light is low. A faint scent of citrus oil wafts through the air. The proprietor was only play-acting when checking IDs, so the smears of dried blood on his had gone unremarked. And by the time he’s given an Old Fashioned chilled by a doorknob-sized hunk of ice (without even being asked for a credit card to start a tab), he has made an iron pact with God never to kill again.
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