Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pagoda Noodle Cafe

Dinner and a movie on a Wednesday night! I am such a good husband. Granted, dinner consisted of cheap dumplings and noodles and we had free passes for a screening of Haywire, but it's the thought that counts. Tucked away under a parking garage off second street in old city and right next door to the Ritz East theater is the Pagoda Noodle Cafe. Offering movie goers a cup of hot tea and a taste of dumplings, noodles and other southeast Asian dishes before a film, it's the perfect spot for a quick meal before the show. 

The menu covers a fairly broad range of food. Dumplings and buns, noodles and stir fry, Chinese, Thai & Vietnamese all make appearances. This is not the restaurant for that one amazing dish or THE place for pho. It's the restaurant for a mish mosh of familiar flavors, cheap prices, and a bowl of warm noodles and broth on a cold January night.

Steamed juicy buns - Shanghai style $8
Loyal readers will know my affinity for soup dumplings. Those perfectly wrapped little parcels, encasing a piping hot portion of pork broth just waiting to see the light of day and then the bottom of my stomach. Pagoda's version also had a little ground pork meatball inside along with the broth. What a thoughtful surprise! They are not the best I've had in the city - that distinction goes to Sakura Mandarin - but these were certainly not bad. In fact, I don't know that I've met a soup dumpling I didn't like. The trick with these is to use your chop stick to poke a little hole in the side, drain the broth into your spoon, allow to cool from its near molten state, and then slurp that back. The dumpling comes next, soaked thru from the inside out with all that pork goodness. Mmmm. For a dollar a piece, you can't beat these for value. 

pat tai  w chicken- $10
The wifey chose the Pat Tai (pad thai noodles) for dinner. They are listed on the menu as being hot and spicy. These were anything but. They tasted just like regular pad thai noodles, which is perfectly fine with me. Not sure why they get the chili pepper flag on the menu. No earth shattering revolution in the preparation - nicely flavored rice noodles, chunks of chicken and tofu, and enough left over for lunch the next day (they always taste better the next day). 

roasted pork and shrimp dumpling noodle soup $7.50
I picked what is becoming my usual at Pagoda Cafe - the roast pork and shrimp dumpling noodle soup. If it sounds like a lot to put into soup, it is. Thick slices of pork, roasted in the oven, cut on the bias, and ringed with an almost pink seasoned outer edge. For the life of me I have no idea what they're using on that pork. I do know that it's tasty though. The shrimp dumplings are full pieces of medium sized shrimp, wrapped in a won-ton skin and quickly steamed. They may even be cooked thru just from the steaming hot broth. Bits of scallion and onion float around and huge pile of rice noodles is the buried treasure at the bottom of the bowl. This is ridiculously substantial for $7.50. 

Pagoda Noodle Cafe is not fine dining. It is not an authentic taste Shanghai, Bangkok or Beijing. It IS a very affordable meal in an otherwise expensive neighborhood.  It IS super convenient for a quick meal before a move at the Ritz. It IS one of our favorite rituals in the gloomy winter months. Dinner and a movie, on a Wednesday! 


Food Baby Rating: Only Child 

Pagoda Noodle Cafe
125 Samson Walkway (next to the Ritz East)
Philadelphia, PA 19106

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