Chinatown’s Lee How Fook a hidden gem

The Center City restaurant boasts a welcoming atmosphere and authenticity in dishes traditional and atypical.

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Lee How Fook, located on 11th Street, blends traditional and Americanized Chinese fare.

Chinatown’s restaurants are often hit-or-miss, with so many restaurants lining its packed streets. In fact, some are even better known for their easily attainable saké – especially among college students – than they are for their food.Grace-Dickinson

Out of the numerous, sometimes dingy restaurants that line its streets, Chinatown must offer a few places worthy of your dining experience, right? After all, the neighborhood is known for its authenticity. Lee How Fook is perhaps one of the restaurants that helps Chinatown maintain its well-earned reputation.

Seating about 40 patrons, the Chinese BYOB, located at 219 N. 11th St., provides a casual and gracious atmosphere. Compared to other neighborhood restaurants, its environment is more than welcoming, and Lee How Fook’s warm, attentive servers make up for any lack of ambiance. Pleasant and helpful servers answer any questions about the various dishes offered on the menu.

Lee How Fook offers an extensive menu of the standard Americanized Chinese fare, with a few of its own authentic additions. Its menu offers standard dishes like chicken with broccoli, sweet and sour chicken and pork fried rice are offered, along with some more atypical dishes like sautéed watercress, steamed conch, sweet and sour sea bass filet and a variety of lobster dishes.

The snow pea leaves, which closely resemble spinach and are some of the more unusual items on the menu, are sautéed with olive oil and garlic and then cooked until tender. The leaves are perfectly cooked, retaining their vibrant green color – a visual indication of their equally pleasing flavor.

The chicken hot pot, another one of Lee How Fook’s specialties, is served piping hot in an authentic Chinese-styled, half-glazed pottery bowl that traps every bit of heat from the stove. The dish’s tender chicken and an assortment of vegetables are accompanied by its seasonings. Scallions, cilantro, soy sauce, a hint of sesame and the woodiness of the mushrooms all melt together to create a fully robust sauce that’s perfect for spooning over the available side of rice.

Another standard dish, the beef fried rice is exceptionally tasty. The rice is flavored with just the right amount of soy sauce, and the pieces of beef are surprisingly tender, making for a more flavorful dish than that from your average Chinese restaurant.

Entrées usually serve up more than enough food, leaving you some to take home, and are priced relatively low, ranging anywhere from $5 to $16 (unless you plan on splurging for the two-course Pecking duck, priced at $27.50).

Lee How Fook doesn’t offer a dessert menu, but if you absolutely need a sweet ending, take the money you saved with Lee How Fook’s reasonably priced entrées, and stop by Naked Chocolate at 1317 Walnut St., just a few blocks down the road in Center City.

Grace Dickinson can be reached at grace.dickinson@temple.edu.

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