Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House

Nan Zhou is a neighborhood joint in Philly’s China Town.  It’s a quaint place, but the food is ohmagoarshuhmazing.  Try it.  You wont be disappointed.

The Food

Appetizer: Coconut Curry Chicken Dumplings

Holly called this “whitey-bait” and I don’t know how I feel about it. It is true that coconut curry chicken as a dumpling filler is in no way a traditional filling, but at the same time it was a perfectly cooked dumpling. They asked me if I wanted steamed or fried (and I laugh in my head at the thought of steaming anything) and they were perfectly cooked and crisp.

The Soups!

What a bowl of soup. Despite the temptation of rice flake noodles, we both went with the eponymous hand drawn noodles which were aces. The broth was really flavorful and satisfying without being overly fatty.  Hooked up with chili oil and soy sauce, we spent 15 minutes just slurping noodles in foodie silence.

Culturally challenged beware: it may be extremely hard to eat with the utensils given (Chinese soup spoon and chopsticks. Josh is a noob with chopsticks. Holly rocked it). Also know that there will be bones in the duck, and the beef tendon is really gelatinous and chewy.  This is part of the enjoyment of the food!

The Design

This is probably one of the best examples of classic Asian restaurants trying to look “designed.”  Basically, it was the same wooden chairs and cheesy Asian “art” on the walls, combined with what seems like a ubiquitous love for neon thanks to the blue lighting accents in the ceiling.  But really, the design doesn’t matter here.  I don’t give a damn about ambiance when it take 5 minutes for my food to arrive and I’m too busy eating to notice that the place isn’t pretty anyway.

The Overall Experience

You know a place is going to be great when it’s hoppin’ at 2pm, and the only people there are ethnically and culturally the “proper” eaters of the food being served.  We were the only white folks there, until when we were about to leave and a strange middle-aged dude came in and tried to sound like he knew what was up as he ordered half the menu. (One of the servers was eating her lunch, and he asked her what it was, to which she replied “wonton soup” although clearly there was some kind of nasty-bits meat in it, possibly some kind of testicle.  I think she made the right choice in telling him to order something boring).

The Receipt

Very, very affordable. Dumpling were $6 for eight medium to large sized dumpling and our giant soup bowls were $8 a piece as well. If you want a good, affordable lunch in China Town this is definitely a place we would recommend.

Our Ratings

Drinks: n/a

Food: 5/5

Design: 1/5

Service: 3/5

Budget: 5/5

Overall Experience: 5/5

Will We Visit Again: Yes. Couldn’t keep us away if you tried.

International Smokeless BBQ

International Smokeless BBQ

This place is a true cultural experience, deep in the heart of an Asian community in South Philly.  It may not be as easily accessed (travel or cuisine-wise) as China-Town, but it will provide a unique and valuable food-culture experience. It may be hidden away in a strip mall, but it should definitely be sought out by any adventurous foodie.

The Food

International Smokeless BBQ is an all-you-can-eat “Korean” buffet. Now, this definitely is NOT your typical suburban “Chinese” food American gorge-a-thon like we’re used to.  At a Korean-style buffet, the food is brought to you in copious amounts on a large tray, and from there you will choose what bits look best to you.  International Smokeless BBQ takes it a step further as it is a “BBQ” which means that each table is fitted with a gas “grill” in the center, and you cook your own food. If you are a white-y, you are pretty much expected to just order the dinner special, which will offer plenty of tasty items to enjoy. The tray comes to your table with a variety of veggies and marinated beef, poultry, pork, and seafood; along with some already-cooked appetizers like fish balls on a bamboo stick (like a Korean corn-dog) and super crispy fried spring rolls.  Just lube up the grill pan with the provided 1/4 stick of butter and have at it. My personal favorite from the offerings was the calamari, but the beef was also tender and very well marinated. And when you run out, you can get more–it IS a buffet, of course.

Cooking your own Food

Food Cooking at International Smokeless BBQ

The Design

The one thing about this place that was reminiscent of our favorite Chinese food buffets from the suburbs was the decor.  I swear every Asian restaurant buys their chairs from the same catalog, and the faux brush-stroke paintings were in place as well. The ceiling is what set the place apart: It was painted to look like a clouded sky, and in the center a soffit shaped like a heart enclosed another soffit with a cloud-like profile, which then opened to reveal a night sky complete with LED stars. Cheesy? Yes–but absolutely perfect.

The Overall Experience

The best part about this place is how perfect it is for a group outing.  A pile of food is just brought to you on a tray, and you can sit around cooking and eating–which is actually really fun.  There is no pressure, no decisions to make, and everyone is bound to find something they will like.

The Receipt:

The price is 18.99 per person.  For unlimited protein as well as some tasty side dishes and the interesting experience, I would say it’s worth it.

Our Ratings

Drinks: N/A (we were just brought water and were not offered anything else, although there was a “bar” in one corner of the place)

Food: 4/5

Design: 2/5

Service: 2/5

Budget: 5/5

Overall Experience: 3/5  (but it gets lots of points for being unique)

Will We Visit Again: Maybe.  It’s hard to not fall in love with the unique-ness of this place, but we probably won’t venture back unless it is to show it to our friends.