Mouthful of Sunshine

Satisfaction in every bite

Extremely Americanized in Chinatown – 利口福-Lee How Fook

on April 26, 2012

ImageApril 25, 2012
利口福 – Lee How Fook, Philadelphia PA
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酸辣汤 (Hot and Sour Soup)
杨州炒饭 (Yang Chow Fried Rice)
宫保鸡丁 (Kung Pao Chicken)
北京片皮鸭 (Peking Duck)
豉椒牛肉 (Beef with Black Bean and Hot Pepper)
罗汉豆腐 (Buddha Delight with Bean Curd)
干炒牛河 (Pan Fried Noodle with Beef)
椒盐鲜鱿 (Salt Baked Squid)
~

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Before going to the Phi Psi formal, everyone in Michael’s pledge class and their dates went to Lee How Fook for dinner after the reservation at La Viola was cancelled due to overbooking. I think we were lucky they accepted a group this large at a last minute notice. I was not particularly happy because this is not the kind of Chinese food I approve of. I was glad though, that their food is not oily. It is in fact very light in the oil department compared to the majority of Chinese restaurants. In a way, it is better since it is a lot healthier.

Michael wanted soup so we ordered 酸辣汤. This was surprisingly decent. It was quite sour and spicy with a touch of sweetness. The flavour was nice and strong. The bamboo and the black wood ear or jelly ear were lovely with the quite a bit of chili pepper flakes. I was not sold on the thick strips of pork, though, and would have liked more eggs. A bit of tofu would be nice in the soup too. The texture was alright, neither too watery or viscous. This was actually one of the better dishes of the night.

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Next came the 杨州炒饭, the classic fried rice. This dish is usually a disappointment in most restaurants. This one, however, was pleasant, as I am willing to overlook how traditional it actually is. I just wanted a decent fried rice. There were quite a lot of shrimp, scrambled eggs, and other vegetables in the rice. The amount of soy sauce added gave it a nice flavour so it was not bland. The colouring helped too. Overall, I was pleased with this traditional dish as they did not try to cut back on the ingredients too much. The rice being not overdone helped too as I hate soggy rice. This was nice and chewy so it was good.

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One of the biggest disappointments was the 宫保鸡丁. It was neither sweet nor spicy. I could not taste the spiciness and it should have been very spicy. It tasted just like a regular Chinese sauce. There were hardly any chicken either. Most of the dish was canned bamboo. Not that I do not like bamboo, but it should never be in this dish, end of story. The fact that it became the main ingredient was just unacceptable. At least they did have peanuts and carrots. However, the flavour was completely off, the chicken bland on the inside and overcooked, and it was basically a bamboo dish.

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The 北京片皮鸭 was barely passable. The meat was cooked well but that is hard to get wrong. It came in super large pieces though, and the legs had the bones on them. There is no way you can make a roll out of that. I have always loved the sauce and scallions are, well, just scallions. The pancakes were surprising though. These are not Peking duck pancakes, which should be flat and thin, one piece split into two. This was more of a flat bun and I have never seen this served with Peking duck. This simplest, most popular of traditions was not adhered to, making it disappointing.

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The 豉椒牛肉 was okay. The black bean sauce did not have a strong black bean flavour so it was more like a generic sauce. There were too much scallion and not enough snap peas. The beef was at least tender and the dish was, thankfully, not oily at all.

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The 罗汉豆腐 had the same sauce but slightly lighter than the beef’s black bean sauce. The vegetables were a nice change in this dish and it was not oily, which I really appreciated. The tofu were nicely fried and soaked up some flavour. I also enjoyed the mini corn and the gai lan in the dish since I have not had those in a while. It is hard to get a dish like this wrong and there is no traditional standard so it was okay.

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I ordered 干炒牛河 because I figured this is the one dish that just cannot be screwed up. It was, though, as the one piece of beef I had was not exactly edible. It was chewy, perhaps a bit too much. I could not bite it into pieces. However, the rice noodles were fine. The onions were not completely cooked and I really did not like the raw onion flavour in a dish like this. It is just too strong. They need to make sure the onions are actually cut into pieces and not chunks. Overall, this was slightly disappointing as it is not a difficult dish to get right.

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After reading all the good reviews about 椒盐鲜鱿, I decided to give it a try. The fact that it was baked was definitely a plus. This was one of the better dishes of the night, though I still fail to see how it receives so much praise. It was merely passable for me. The batter was nice and crispy for a baked dish, tasting like it was fried but not dripping with oil. The squid was chewy which was nice. However, I missed the point of the scallions as garnish. They seemed to serve no purpose. Without a sauce, it was hard to eat the two together and the scallion hid the salt and pepper flavour of the squid, which was not very distinct in the first place. It also made the dish look odd. I think sprinkling bits of the greener part of the scallion on top would have worked better. Either that or perhaps a carrot or radish flower to give it more colour.

I would not come back here again just because the food is simply not on par with my standards of Chinese cuisine. This is just too Americanized, not authentic at all. A word about their English translations as well. There was no hot pepper in the beef and no where in the description does it say 干炒牛河 is done with rice noodles. At least it tasted better than dining hall food but that is something I can say about pretty much any restaurant. Let’s just say I did not mind eating here. Oh, and thank goodness it was not oily.

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