Sakura Mandarin

Duck Tongue

Claire and I have been trying our best to accommodate her chaotic schedule; booking time with a graduate student who also works several days a week can be a difficult task, but we do our best to find little holes in her schedule and usually end up spending the found time at one of Philadelphia’s many amazing restaurants.

We’ve passed Sakura a few times with the intention of trying it out, but when we realize how close we are to one of our standards, we pass it by with a “next time” promise which we never seemed to keep. So when we found a few hours together this past Saturday, we went for broke and headed in for a quick dinner. The location itself used to be one of my favorite Chinatown noodle houses and has changed hands and concepts several time since my last visit.

I was initially leery about Sakura because it seemed to be a hodge-podge concept; Mandarin specialties, Sushi, Noodle Soup are all offered on their menu and I worried that they’d be a little too homogenized for our taste. Turns out I was totally wrong.

The menu offered quite a few “adventurous” appetizer options including tripe, jellyfish and my appetizer this visit, cooked duck tongues. Unlike the wait staff at Chinatown’s PENANG, our waitress didn’t react when I ordered the plate of tongues; I expected a “you know that the duck tongues are duck tongues, yes?” warning. But she just took the order with a smile.

They came out in no time at all, and there I was sitting in front of a plate full of them. I dove right in, popping the tongue into my mouth and biting down. Bad call. Turns out they have either a bone or a lump of cartilage at the base of the tongue, which you have to eat around. I found the best technique was to bite off the tip of the tongue and pull the meat from the bone with your teeth. Strips the meat off fairly well though it’s a bit disconcerting at first. My only complaint was a lack of a dipping sauce. The wine they were cooked in was good, but something a little salty would have been good for dipping.

For our entrees, Claire went with a Mapo Tofu and I had the Salt Baked Squid. The tofu dish was good; very spicy and well balanced. I’m not a fan of tofu that soft, but Claire loved it. My squid was good. Salty, not overcooked and plated on shrimp puffs. Claire finished her meal off with an avocado roll. The price was decent for the amount of food we got; the service was good (she forgot Claire’s diet coke, but remembered to charge us for it) and the menu had enough interesting offerings to tempt us back for a second visit.

Sakura Mandarin.
1038 Race Street

Appetizer: 9/10
Entrees: 8/10
Price: $