Service at Sang Kee Noodle House is extremely fast. Waiters disappear into the kitchen after taking your order and seem to turn right around on their heels with a plate.
Arriving hungry, my friends and I were thrilled about the pace of the service. Minutes after we walked in, we were fighting over pork chow fun ($8.50), which was so good that chopsticks clashed as people fought to serve themselves off the platter. Charred slices of pork topped flat noodles packed with flavor, and bright green chives added color as well as a sharp bite. The generous portion was gone in a flash.
Next up was the shrimp dumpling noodle soup ($6.50), which had been recommended to us by the owner as a dish many Penn students order at lunchtime. The dish certainly contains a large volume of food. We asked our waiter for sriracha and tried dumping various condiments into the watery chicken broth in an attempt to doctor it up. The dumplings were good, but unless you’re looking to fill up on lackluster liquid, opt for the dumplings in the dim sum sampler ($8.50); you’ll be much happier. The sampler takes extra time to make, as the cooks freshly prepare several different kinds of dumplings and shu mai upon your order — but these dim sum are worth the wait.
Other dishes were similarly hit–or–miss. Stewed tofu and vegetables in a Thai coconut curry broth ($10) surprisingly lacked flavor given such a flavorful–sounding description.
The peking duck, however, was fantastic. The original Sang Kee restaurant in Chinatown is a Peking duck house, and it remains a specialty at the newer Noodle House. The dish is not to be missed — it is perfectly cooked, tender on the bottom and crispy and fatty on top.
The actual pancake was the only element of the dish that could be improved; instead of being warm and soft, the wraps were floury and stiff. But wrap them up with crackling duck, hoisin sauce and green onions, and you’ve got a roll that can compete with the best any other culture has to offer, whether it’s crepe, burrito or blintz.
A single fried vegetable roll ($1.20) was served with mustard so hot it’ll scorch your nostrils. The roll itself was skinny and unremarkable, but for a little over a buck, we weren’t complaining. At Sang Kee, choices range from average to great, so for standard Chinese fare, you really can’t lose.
A long list of fresh fruit smoothies in exotic combinations offers many options to cool your tongue after a spicy meal. The mango–lychee ($3.50) is a refreshing burst of tropical flavor. Or you could finish with some superb ice cream. Don’t bother choosing among juicy purple berry, dense green tea or coconut with chewy flakes sprinkled throughout — order the banana boat ($6), which comes with them all as well as fresh fruit and chocolate sauce.
While we were too stuffed to eat our fortune cookies at the end of the meal, I can guess what mine would have said: “You’ll be coming here again.”
SANG KEE NOODLE HOUSE
3549 Chestnut St.
Don’t Miss: Peking duck
Skip: Noodle soup