Pod a piece of sushi heaven

Stephen Starr’s Pod restaurant in University City brings fine dining within the reach of students.

Whether you’re an Asian cuisine aficionado or someone looking for a Stephen Starr restaurant away from Center City, Pod is the place. The contemporary Asian-fusion restaurant by the notorious restaurateur offers an enjoyable dining experience in a futuristic setting.

But that isn’t the only thing dished out by Starr and his hip Pod employees – Pod, which is located at the center of University City, is a hub for college students looking for a good time.

Dan Trotter, a waiter who has worked at Pod for nine months, affirmed this fact.

“We get a lot of college students just being on the campus of Penn and Drexel,” Trotter said. “Otherwise, this is kind of a destination location just because it’s not around all the other bars and restaurants, which is good because it means that everybody who comes here really wanted to be here.”

Any college student would be hard-pressed to find a restaurant like Pod. Upon entry, patrons will be amazed by the trendiness of the all white décor – floors, walls, tables, chairs – and the blast of different colored lights, from blue to orange to green.

At Pod, sushi is served on an oval conveyor belt with colored plates. Chef Hugh Moran said it is among the things that make the restaurant unique (Kriston Bethel/TTN).

Next to the golden-orange bar is Lego land. The red massive, life-like Lego piece is a comfortable waiting area and even substitutes as a gathering place to eat and drink with friends as opposed to waiting for a table.

Pod’s trademarks, as to be expected, are the pods. The restaurant has three pod-dining areas for parties of six or more. There are buttons that control the lighting features in the pods. Each different-colored button changes the lighting inside the pod. The pods, although remarkable, are a bit obnoxious when you change any light color to bright blue — it’s blinding. Nevertheless, the disappointing thing about Pod is that there aren’t enough for everyone.

The modish décor, along with the jazz and indie music, sets the perfect mood for the food.

The appetizers from Pod’s dim sum menu are good buys. The crispy chicken wings platter is a great dish for those looking for familiar-tasting morsels. Cooked with sweet chili sauce and Thai basil, the wings are tender and have a bittersweet kick any wing-lover would enjoy.

The shrimp dumplings are far from ordinary, offering a soft, mild taste not offered by the likes of the typical Asian take-out.

The single most important aspect of Pod is its sushi.

Many customers at Pod are students and faculty of Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania (Kriston Bethel/TTN).

“One thing that makes Pod unique is that we have the modern Japanese food in the hot kitchen, and we have the sushi bar, which [fellow Starr restaurant] Morimoto has the same type of set up as well,” Pod chef Hugh Moran said.

The sushi bar, or Conveyor Sushi as it’s known, is a oval conveyor belt with colored plates of sushi circling at a glacial pace in front of the sushi bar. Depending on the color of the plate, the price range of the sushi on the conveyor belt is $2 to $6.

“The thing that makes us different is that we are at much more approachable price point than Morimoto is,” Moran said. “This is the kind of restaurant you can come to three to four days a week, whereas Morimoto is more of a special occasion-type concept with a much higher check average.”

Spicy tuna, tuna-avacado and the salmon cream cheese rolls are among the best sushi rolls at Pod. The spices in the spicy tuna roll were blended in such a way that is sure satisfy the taste buds.

Vegetarians will be more than thrilled with the inari roll, which is rice wrapped in tofu. The concept may seem bland, but diners will be surprised by the sweet taste of the tofu.

Speaking of desserts, the vanilla bean mousse is highly recommended. The bread pudding and chocolate mousse, caramelized with ginger bananas and avocado honey spread, is a more-than-pleasing blast of chocolate and vanilla and everything in between.

“At Pod, whether it’s our drinks, our meals or our desserts, we strive for the seven m’s from our guests — the mmmmmmm,” manager Stephen Yaeger said.

Temple students need not worry about Pod’s University City location. Starr’s contemporary Asian cuisine is worth any travel distance. Get hopping, start skipping and throw yourselves on that subway ride to sushi bliss.

Joshua Fernandez can be reached at josh.fernandez@temple.edu.

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