Maki rolls and pumpkin ice cream

Having been fortunate enough to get a substantial check from Temple, I decided to celebrate and take my boyfriend out for two days of Old City drinks and eats.

1. Hungry and eager for something new and a little romantic, we headed to Swanky Bubbles Restaurant and Champagne Bar. Swanky Bubbles offers sushi and “comfort food with an Asian flair,” said general manager Scott Forman.

The décor is very under the sea, with sparkly blue tables and a wave-shaped bar. Because of this, it was hard to tolerate the cheesy dollar store Halloween banners and plastic skeletons. Forman said the blue cubbyholes set behind the bar and its unique shape were modeled after the dream scene in The Nutcracker.

Our server was attentive and informative. I am sure she gets tired of telling customers that “food comes out family style, whenever it is ready,” but explaining this is necessary to avoid complaints later.

Having a tendency to over-order, we started with a tasty $8 seaweed salad with sesame oil and a small $8 spicy tofu stir-fry with soba (buckwheat) noodles and vegetables. This second dish was pleasant, but the consistency could have been better.

Our meals, on the other hand, were both splendid – $14 mushroom dumplings for me and $17 grilled barbecue shrimp for him. Dan was in tastebud heaven with the hoisin and vinegar-sauced, vegetable-fried rice. Moreover, I was “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing” at the white creamy truffle sauce on my immense mushroom-filled, ravioli-like pasta.

We were dazzled by the palatable champagne cocktails and specialty martinis, which ranged from $7 to $10. Dan was pleased to get a 22-ounce Sapporo, his favorite Asian beer. Eight years in existence, Swanky Bubbles has had time to perfect itself.

“We are sort of a landmark here. We have been here the whole time [that Old City has been a culture hotspot],” Forman said.

2. After dinner, we moseyed around, burning calories and making room for dessert. Around the corner, the Franklin Fountain, open for more than three years, offers a blend of old-fashioned favorites and yummy seasonal ice cream.

This destination has the oldest working soda fountain in the country, built in 1905. The 1899 building has pressed tin walls and ceilings, as well as a porcelain tile floor, all of which take you back to an era of simpler times.

“We were inspired by the architecture of the building and we felt it was a good fit for the neighborhood,” co-owner Ryan Berley said.

A large selection of homemade ice cream flavors awaits customers. These ice creams are shipped daily from the Franklin Fountain’s commercial kitchen in Northern Liberties. Sundaes, banana splits for two, sodas, milkshakes and fruit pies also await you at the Franklin Fountain. For the Christmas season, you can order Victorian candy molds already filled both in house and online.

I welcome this concept that two entrepreneur brothers turned into a reality. Besides, it is a sweet treat to see the uniforms that the Temple student staffers wear around the shop. I recommend a cup of the pumpkin ice cream, now on special, drizzled with peanut butter sauce – see how heavenly it makes you feel. 

3. The following night we returned for more Old City yumminess, making our way to Anjou Lounge and Sushi Bar. One might think we would be tired of this food genre, but no – both restaurants provided offerings that were different from each other. Anjou classifies itself as a “contemporary French Asian cuisine.”

We enjoyed a heaping portion of $5 edamame with kosher salt and a $6 cream of carrot soup special that was pleasantly complemented by dried cranberries and soft carrot slices. The soup broth was heavy and the portion was enormous.

As we drank our respective Strawberry Mojitos and Mango Madness Martinis, which were $9 each, I reminisced about the cocktails of the night before – which were stronger and in larger glassware – offering more for your money.

When dinner arrived, I savored a $6 vegetable Maki roll – the way Maki should be done, with cucumber, soft avocado, tender strips of asparagus, rice and sesame seeds in a seaweed roll. Our entrees were once again delightful: the $12 vegetable tempura udon came with a plate full of lightly battered peppers, carrots, onion and asparagus. Then a second large bowl arrived with my udon noodles and vegetables in a smooth dark broth. Dan ordered the $16 grilled chicken breast teriyaki with white rice and mixed vegetables. The chicken breast was moist and Dan claims his entrée was “just right.”

Downstairs was additional seating for the fully staffed sushi bar as well as a separate VIP room. Owner Daniel Kim admits that dinners and late night are the prime business times for Anjou, now open six years. For lunch, they offer a lighter fare menu, adding salads and sandwiches to the mix.

While our server was clearly a new hire, the attractiveness of the crisp white and red linens overtop the tables and the bamboo screen separating the kitchen from the restaurant made Anjou a pleasant dining destination. Be forewarned, though, the music is a blend of pop and rock radio hits that downplayed the snazzy, relaxed atmosphere.

Colleen Dunn can be reached at colleen.dunn@temple.edu.

Swanky Bubbles Restaurant and Champagne Bar
10 S. Front Street
Hours: Open Daily 5 p.m. – 2 p.m. (the kitchen closes at 1 p.m. each night)
215-928-1200
www.swankybubbles.com

The Franklin Fountain
116 Market Street
Hours: Sun. to Thurs. noon – 11 p.m., Fri. and Sat. noon – midnight
215-627-1899
www.franklinfountain.com

Anjou Lounge and Sushi Bar
206-08 Market Street
Hours: Mon. to Sat. 11:30 a.m. – midnight, Sunday 4:30 p.m. – midnight
(Fri. and Sat. sushi is served till 1 a.m.)
215-923-1600
www.anjouphilly.net

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