Web Original: Critic’s Notebook: Will Chinatown Ever Be Cool?

What’s keeping Chinese food from being hip in Philly?

Ed Levine recently sparked a discussion about the relative hip-ness of Chinese food on his website Seriouseats.com. In his post, he asks readers why Chinese food doesn’t have the same sway over chefs as other Asian cuisines. China’s food culture is just as rich, ancient and diverse (I recently learned more about it in the pages of Fuchsia Dunlop’s memoir about eating in China, Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper), but its popularity hasn’t matched that of its Japanese counterpart.

Yes, Philly boasts several Chinese restaurants that are completely satisfying and delicious — read: Szechuan Tasty House and Sang Kee’s spots in Chinatown and Wynnewood — but our city, like most other cities, lacks a Chinese spot with the coolness factor present in restaurants like Morimoto. Perhaps if we had a high-profile chef riffing on the cuisine, like New York City has in David Chang (chef/owner of Momofuku), Chinese food would get more interesting. But then again, what’s it going take to attract such a chef? I just can’t help but wonder, what’s keeping Chinese food from being hip in Philly?