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Chew Man Chu Restaurant Review


Scallion Roti, Photo by Rachel DukemanDuring hard economic times like these, a night out with friends and loved ones is likely one of the luxuries you’ve placed on the back burner to keep your wallet happy.  That, or you’re settling for the prepackaged, frozen fare of Applebee’s and PF Chang’s, as much an insult to your palate as your waistline. It doesn’t help matters that many fine dining establishments are proving steadfast in their refusal to give customers the relief they so sorely need to enjoy some of their amenities, and it’s a sad day indeed when a graduation dinner has to be celebrated in a room adorned with vintage Coca Cola signs and flair-speckled hospitality.

One of the goals of Chew Man Chu, the new noodle, dumpling, and everything-wok style restaurant at the Symphony House on Broad Street, is to provide an authentic, upscale experience at moderate prices.  It’s a goal that’s accomplished well.  Chew Man Chu offers classic Asian fare that’s quite tasty at recession-proof prices.  Appetizers range from $4.50 to $7.00, and entrees go for anywhere between $8.00 and $19.00.  Executive Chef Tyson Wong Ophaso’s menu is ambitious yet simple, and very well executed. 

For starters, Chew Man Chu offers a variety of dumplings.  The Oxtail Dumpling, a bread dough wrapper filled with blue crab meat, pork, oxtail and ginger, is a vast improvement over any steamed dumpling I’ve ever had.  While tasty, the crab meat and oxtail that are featured so prominently on the menu are virtually unnoticeable. 

Homemade sauces, Photo by Rachel DukemanThe Scallion Roti, a fresh, flakey, Middle-East inspired flat bread was light and buttery, a nice balance to the salty soy sauce the dumplings are swimming in.

Onto the entrees. We began with the Angry Lobster, an ambitious effort by Chef Ophaso that didn’t quite translate to the plate as well as I’d hoped.  The lobster is cooked perfectly, with the chili, garlic and ginger it’s cooked in providing the fire that gives the dish its name, without sacrificing that wonderful lobster flavor.  Getting to the lobster is another story; it’s an absolute mess to get out of its shell, and fragments will likely end up in the pieces you manage to free.

The Black Pepper Sirloin, cooked medium rare (as Chef Ophaso recommends it), is delectable.  The black pepper rub gives the steak a nice char; inside, the steak is wonderfully juicy, enhanced by the five-year aged soy sauce it’s cooked in.  When steak is done right, it can’t be beat, and I would recommend this entrée to any steak lover.

If you’re in the mood to share, the Wok Fried Rice provides a serviceable side to any entrée on the menu.  Chew Man Chu serves it up with half the grease and all the flavor, a remarkable feat in my book, with your choice of chicken, tofu or shrimp.  The Crispy Chinese Salad, a mixture of green and red cabbage, lettuce, spring roll, bean sprouts and other assorted goodies, is fresh and springy, with a nice crunch.  The sweet plum dressing drizzled on top is light and pleasant.  Watch for the pickled ginger; if you aren’t paying attention, they’ll go off in your mouth like a fire cracker.

All in all it’s a positive experience, giving you a tasty alternative to greasy Chinese take out running your pockets the way many restaurants in Center City will.  The service is friendly and enthusiastic, headed by veteran restaurateur David Madison, who’s serving as GM after successful stints with Spice Market in New York and Stephen Starr’s Striped Bass when it received its Four Bell review.  If you want to try the menu but don’t have time to sit down and eat, take out and delivery are available.




Symphony House • 400 S. Broad St.

Philadelphia, PA 19146


Phone: 215-735-8107 • Fax:215-735-8126