A good restaurant is always about more than just good food. You would think that in a city like Philadelphia this would not be an important distinction to make.
But it’s not always easy to come by a restaurant that takes the time to make its food as appealing to the eye as to the plate, let alone one that has as much taste in atmosphere as in cuisine.
Nestled amid the fishy streets and dusty cocktail lounges of Chinatown shines the neon lights of a new restaurant that is quickly rising above the rest. And although many of Chinatown’s little restaurants and noodle houses have their own romance, this restaurant clearly sets itself apart.
Last October, Michael Ho of Hong Kong opened the restaurant, aptly named Rising Tide, on Race Street just off the corner of 10th Street. The store front was the location of the recently folded ABC Café, a restaurant that has been missed for its late hours and cheap drinks, but Rising Tide soon proved an obvious improvement.
First, the restaurant is very clean – a definite bonus if you want to actually consume the food.
The store front alone, with its bright yellow tiles and new neon sign, stands out from among the surrounding dim, red-bricked restaurants. Inside, the light is bright but warm. The tables are set with festively painted little tea cups, matching plates and neon plastic ash trays.
The cleanliness is given its own sense of class by the friendly and attentive wait staff in their black vests. No table ever seems to have its own waiter, but everyone is always eager to help. Michael Ho himself is often present, mingling with guests and making sure things run smoothly.
An open kitchen at the back of the room allows you to watch the food preparation. A bar in the front, equipped with glasses, blenders and an assortment of larger brightly colored straws, supplies a variety of after-dinner treats, including a long list of bubble teas, fruit and tea smoothies and, a sure favorite, the Hong Kong Coffee & Tea Mix.
Before you have time to absorb the atmosphere, the food has already arrived, the wait staff is eagerly filling water glasses, and checking on the inexhaustible supply of tea and removing empty dishes. The only waiting you might do is for the check, but that can be paid at the front counter.
With over 200 items, the menu offers both Hong Kong style and more familiar Chinese dishes, as well as some rarities such as the braised royal shark fin soup and the braised frog with bitter melon. Other menu items include a surprisingly inexpensive roast duck (half of one), beef with hot garlic sauce, which includes a good assortment of vegetables, and grill whole squid served on a bed of greens with pickled carrots and turnips.
And if it’s liquor you’re looking for, forget happy hour.
Rising Tide has an extensive list of mixed drinks with nothing over $3.50, bottles of Tsing Tao and Heineken at $2.50 and Coronas at $2.75.
For those who have a difficult time knowing what to order, cocktails and highballs are listed in the menu.
Nathan E. Weaver can be reached at email@example.com.