August 28, 2013


Growing up, our family went to the beach at least a dozen times a year.  I mean, we lived in Florida, of course we went to the beach.  Unfortunately, living in what is probably the most "landlocked" city in the state, the closest beach was 90 minutes away.  Of course, since this was the closest, it seemed everyone from our hometown flocked to the exact same ten mile stretch of beach every weekend.  Since moving to Philly, I equate this phenomenon to Atlantic City- it seems it's a weekend extension of Philly- easiest to get to and full of fun stuff.  This extension also relates to restaurants- Philly food writers discuss the eats in AC, and Philly restaurateurs extend their business to the beaches.  Jose Garces has a huge collection of restaurants in Revel, one of the newest casinos on the beach.

Yuboka (sorry, no idea how to put that line over the O) is one of the newest to join the group, as a dim sum and noodle bar adjacent to the casino.  Kind of a great idea- both counter and waiter service are available, making it a quick stop if you're in a hurry to get back to the slots.  We sat at one of the communal tables and started the meal with a few items off the dim sum menu.  The Shanghai soup dumplings come five to an order, with a thick wrapper enrobing a mouthful of broth and some spiced ground meat (pork or chicken?).  At $9, they're about four times the price you'd pay in Chinatown-- and not quite as good.

Chicken dumplings, soup dumplings, half eaten pork ribs
The chieken dumplings (5 for $8) were similar- by no means the worst dumplings I've ever had, but rather middle-of-the-road for the high price.  Sure, we're sitting in a nice, brand new casino, so I expect to pay higher prices, but I also expect high quality eats.  The BBQ pork ribs were by far my favorite of the three items (5 ribs for $9).  Chinese spare ribs tend to be a little dry for me, but these were meaty and heavily sauced.  Just a single rib provided plenty of meat for me, and strongly flavored with Chinese five spice (cinnamon was definitely in there).  Unique and super flavorful- and maybe even worth the price.

We each ordered an "entree," although the noodle based dishes come in various sizes, making it somewhat difficult to determine what you'll get.  I ordered the cold sesame noodles, a small pile of soft, thin noodles in a tahini based sauce ($9).  Shreds of carrot, pepper, cucumber and mint bulked up the bowl and provided some much needed crunch, but also watered down the already muted flavors of the sauce.  A good squirt of sriracha helped, but.. I could easily make this at home.

The biggest bang for your buck come in the form of noodle soups.  We tried the Duck Noodle Soup, a huge bowl of thick udon noodles, roast peking duck (complete with skin), and tons of vegetables- mushrooms, baby bok choy, and cabbage, among others ($15).  I was impressed, but others decided the simple flavors (and larger portions) at Nan Zhou were far superior.

 We also tried the lamb bun (spicy stir fried ground lamb and veggies stuffed in a strange, cracker-like bun), breakfast congee (egg, pork belly, and congee accoutrements over a pile of extremely salty rice porridge), and the "Mouth Watering Cold Chicken."  See.. if you're going to specifically name your menu item "mouth watering," you should probably amp up the flavors.  Instead, the cubed cold chicken was bland, with the suggested side order of white rice obviously offering no support (chicken: $7; rice: $3). It seems Garces may be catering to a different audience in AC, one with much less discerning tastebuds.

With other Garces alternatives of a mini-Distrito cantina, a huge Village Whiskey (that takes reservations!), and a full-sized Amada, all within the same casino, we agreed we wouldn't recommend Yuboka over these other carefully curated options.  As the only spot unique to Atlantic City, his move into the Asian arena doesn't do him too many favors.

500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ

August 7, 2013

CHeU Noodle Bar

Awhile back now (a few weeks?), a friend and I stopped in for dinner at CHeU Noodle Bar.  With a name like that, you might expect a Chinatown location, but this small (read: a handful of tables and a long bar) spot is tucked onto 10th Street within a stones throw of Thomas Jefferson University, amongst good neighbors Kanella and Varga Bar. Although the menu is certainly inspired by Asian cuisine, the "two dudes from Philly" that run the place rely heavily on creative liberties.  Although the space is small, it has lots of personality: plenty of light, wood paneled walls accented by a giant collage, and the bar looks over the cooking space for those who like getting in on the action.

With the relatively small number of seats, service is great- almost everyone working seemed to check in on us from time to time. A large glass vase of chilled water was a nice touch on a hot summer day.  The menu seems to change constantly, and there are also daily specials announced on a chalkboard.  The fried chicken bun-of-the-day was an easy choice to start ($2.50).  Don't expect a traditional pillow-y bun here- they use a thin, English-muffin inspired bread to encase your filling of choice.  In this case, a perfectly breaded and fried puck of juicy chicken was accented by tangy quick pickles and a touch of sweet and spicy BBQ sauce.  Every flavor was perfectly balanced- this actually ended up being the highlight of my meal.

Photos courtesy of my iPhone

We were also enticed by the dumplings in chili oil ($4), a regular on the menu but with rotating fillings.  That particular day was "pork and pickles" so there were a lot of similar flavor nuances there as in the bun.  Although I preferred the crunchy breading of the chicken over the chewier pork, the paper-thin dumpling skins make for a much more exciting delivery vehicle than a thin muffin.  The dipping sauce at the bottom was addicting.

For some reason, we also picked out the BBQ pig tails (apprently going for a southern theme here so far), which looking back was not the best decision after our experience with a similar dish at Alla Spina.  Don't get me wrong- there were some serious deliciousness infused into the crunchy tails.  The peach kimchi had a latent kick that was tempered by the fruit's summer sweetness.  However... it's just not my favorite thing in the world to nibble off little bits of pieces here and there from thick chunks of vertebrae.

It definitely is my thing to eat wings though- the meat to bone ratio is much better.  The black garlic wings ($8) are a commonly raved about item around the internets, and for good reason.  Extra crispy, coated in a mild black garlic puree with a touch of sweetness, and accented by a squeeze of lime juice, sesame sesds, and a few sprigs of cilantro.  The shishito peppers were a bit confusing.. not quite sure how to eat a wing and a pepper at the same time, but maybe that's not the goal here.  The portion size is also quite small- only five wings to an order.  However, the uniqueness of flavors definitely increases the value factor- you're not going to get these anywhere else.

We went a little crazy with the meats, so I needed to balance that out with something green.  A big bowl of broccoli ($7) hit the spot.  Steamed and then sauteed in a soy-based sauce, the broccoli had plenty of crunch and just the right amount of little charred spots.  Crumbled spicy Vietnamese sausage and crushed peanuts rounded out the dish.  This is probably not the most veg-friendly restaurant in town.

Obviously, as per the name, the main fare involves noodles.  I chose the miso cod ($12), a big bowl of onion-based broth, plenty of chewy and pliable noodles, and accents of cilantro and pickled Thai eggplant.  The strip of cod was flaky, soaking up lots of moisture and flavor from the broth, but also standing up well alone with a satisfyingly sweet and salty glaze and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.  The way it was served made it difficult to incorporate the fish into the noodles, but the flavors were all spot on.  Noodle-wise, the pros over at Nan Zhou have 'em beat- these seemed a hair overcooked for my preference- but overall a solid bowl of food.

While our meal was by no means perfect, the guys at CHeU seem to be having a really fun time with flavor combinations, something I appreciate more than any other aspect at a restaurant.  I have to mention the service again because it was great- everyone seemed happy to be working and the vibe was just really upbeat.  I would recommend sitting at the bar if there's just two of you; the interaction with the staff is worth it.  Hope to be back soon (especially now that scrapple is back on the menu..)!

255 S. 10th Street (between Spruce and Locust)