DanDan, Philadelphia

DanDan
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.

DanDan Interior

DanDan Interior

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 at DanDan

Scallion Pancakes at DanDan

  • 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 Noodle Soup w/ Pickled Mustard Greens at DanDan

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup w/ Pickled Mustard Greens at DanDan

  • 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.

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