126 South 16th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
During my East Coast trip I made a pit stop in Philadelphia to see one of my good friends who just moved there from New York City. With only 22 hours in town, I wanted maximize my time and eat at a place that I had never been before but seemed promising, or at least intriguing. That restaurant turned out to be DanDan in Philadelphia’s Center City, near Rittenhouse Square.
The restaurant just opened a couple months ago, but I saw a number of good reviews in such a short amount of time. This was bolstered by the mention that its owners were the ones who formerly operated Philadelphia’s well regarded Han Dynasty chain. Regardless, I was skeptical at first, as Philadelphia has never been the place with good upscale Chinese food and I have always been disappointed in its Chinese food scene even though it has a reasonably thriving Chinatown. That said, I took a look at the menu online at it seemed to have all the dishes I would eat at any decent Taiwanese restaurant in California so my skepticism turned into fascination and intrigue.
We arrived at DanDan around 8:30 and it was still so busy we had to take a seat at the bar. That was not a worry, though it did allow us time to be intrigued by the very modern, Asian inspired decor (see above photo). As my friend noted, it seemed very “Chinese from a tourist’s eyes” which led to more skepticism, even though the menu seemed to have a really strong selection of food. After a couple of minutes of contemplating, we ordered the following:
- Scallion Pancakes (蔥油餅) – The pancakes were of medium thickness, but still pleasantly flakey and moist. They had a nice sprinkling of scallions too, but my friend and I both thought these pancakes could have had a stronger scallion flavor.
- Taiwanese Beef Noodles Soup with Pickled Mustard Green (台式酸菜牛肉麵) – The beef brisket was really nice and tender and the picked mustard green added a nice hint of acidity. The noodles were cooked pretty well and the broth was nice, albeit we found it slightly bland and needing a little more spice. Despite this, I really enjoyed it.
- Vegetarian String Beans (乾煸四季豆) – I really liked this dish. It reminded me of my mom’s version with a slightly more Sichuanese take and a nice hint of shallots. These are definitely something I would order again.
- Golden Dish Bunapi Mushrooms (金沙系列白玉菇) – The dish was like a Cantonese style salt and pepper fried [protein] dish, but with a richer duck yolk. It worked very well for these mushrooms and the textural contrast between the crispy breaded exterior played really nicely with the softness of the mushroom. Next time I would be intrigued to see how the fish (likely cod) would go with this technique.
Overall, despite the unease of the flashy interior, my friend and I really liked the restaurant. There were a host of other dishes (like the Dan Dan Mian) we could not try given the limited nature of our stomach for one meal. I was thoroughly impressed with the food in general and the quality of the ingredients, along with the execution, definitely give DanDan a leg up against most Chinese restaurants in the city. As a bonus, the prices are fairly reasonable as well, even though it’s in the very posh neighborhood of Rittenhouse Square. So if you’re in Philadelphia or traveling to there, go and grab a bite at DanDan. It will even still operate when Pope Francis comes to town, even if the rest of the city shuts down.