At Sakura Mandarin, 8 Treasures is the Perfect Number of Treasures for Lunch
Sakura is one of my favorite places to eat in Philadelphia. Though best known for their xiao long bao (dumplings filled with soup) they offer so many other knock-out dishes. The restaurant is newer and cleaner than many other Chinatown counterparts, so it can appeal to a broader audience and serve as a safe introduction for those nervous about Ctown dining. Sakura serves Japanese food as well as Chinese; I am normally suspicious of combo joints, but Sakura pulls off both rather flawlessly.
Sakura’s lunch specials run during the week starting at $5.50 and come with white or brown rice and a choice of eggdrop, wonton, or hot and sour soup. I highly recommend the “Eight treasures in spicy sauce”, which I mostly ordered because I like the name and with no description of which treasures were involved, I was excited to be surprised.
So turns out the 8 is really a misnomer, 8 is a lucky number in Chinese tradition, but it appears there were less than 8 on my plate. I didn’t feel too misled because the treasures presented were enough for me; edamame, shrimp, pork, tofu, and mushroom are combined in a big pile of yum. (Sorry if I ruined your surprise!) Another misnomer in the name would be the “spicy” part, it wasn’t. But again, not really a problem, the pork flavor stands out and the edamame adds freshness and some snap to the texture. I love this lunch! The hot and sour soup was also good.
Sakura makes one of the best vegetarian appetizers around. You might not be so temped to order a dish with a name like “marinated gluten”, but you should be. Gluten is made from wheat (celiac disease sufferers beware); it can be found as a cold appetizer on authentic Chinese menus. This one came with mushrooms and bamboo shoots, all the components were soaked in brown sauce. The gluten is sweet, savory, and almost meat like. There is something about that saturated gluten that instantly makes my mouth produce more saliva. It is addicting.
Sakura also offers a changing menu of $5 specials. The rock shrimp tempura and basil clams are prepared impeccably. The shrimp is not even a bit greasy and comes with tempurafied vegetables.
And of course, a trip to Sakura should probably include an order of the soup dumplings. These are my favorite in Philadelphia, they have more soup inside then the ones from Dim Sum Garden. Sakura is unique in that they make shrimp and pork dumplings, typically you see pork or crab. The dumpling skins are delicate but hold up well enough to not fall apart after being manipulated by chopsticks. The shrimp adds a lot to the broth, it’s like it is infused with shrimp perfume. The meat inside is tasty, but it is the broth that shines, the kind of broth that makes you close your eyes and nod in appreciation. Get some ginger soy sauce on your spoon, carefully place the dumpling on your spoon, bite a hole in the side and blow to cool off the scalding insides, suck up the soup, and gobble down the rest.
My amazing lunch ended with a curious fortune cookie experience. As I was extracting the fortune from the cookie, it ripped in half, creating a new message. What do you think it means?
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- The 8 treasures is a perfect lunch and is only $5.50
- Arguably the best soup dumplings in the city
- They know how to handle their gluten
- Clean and less scary than other Chinatown restaurants
- Healthy options, vegetarian options, sushi… basically something for everyone
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I only counted 5 treasures!
Sakura, 1038 Race St (@ 11th St.), 215-873-8338