A Return to Old-School Cantonese

Incredibly, for the second Sunday in a row, my wife asked if I’d like to accompany her on an errand and suggested I pick a place for us to grab a bite to eat in the vicinity of where we’d be. There are few words I enjoy hearing more than any combination that adds up to her saying, “You can pick the restaurant.”

This time around, we were headed to Glen Mills, PA, in western Delaware County. My wife had to return a few items at a store out there. So the goal was to pick a place either right in Glen Mills or something along our route, which took us south on US-1. It was the same route I took to get to Delco’s Original Steaks & Hoagies in Chadds Ford, but we didn’t go quite that far.  

Right before we arrived at our destination, I noticed a sign for a place called the Concordville Inn that included “est. 1777,” give or take a year. I didn’t see the sign until the last second, nor did I get a decent look at the inn itself. But I’ve been into the notion of eating at old inns and taverns lately and looked the place up on my phone while my wife took care of her business. Unfortunately, they only serve brunch on Sundays and close at 2 p.m. It was almost that time already, so they weren’t an option. Hopefully we’ll return there at a later date.

There was also a pizza place that looked very good in Aston, which was along or very close to our route home. But they were takeout only. We gave strong consideration to going there, eating a slice each in the parking lot, and taking the rest home. But while doing additional searching for restaurants in the car, I noticed a Chinese restaurant, also in Aston, that appeared to have some promise as the type of old-School Cantonese Chinese restaurant – with a 70s-80s vibe – that I love

We discovered upon arrival – via a sign on their door – that they are only open for takeout. Foiled again. I’ve already addressed this unwelcome trend; of long-standing Chinese restaurants not returning to dine-in service following Covid’s arrival. 

But all was not lost. There is another Chinese restaurant in the same general vicinity that we had visited for the traditional Christmas Eve Chinese food dinner, probably close to a decade ago. It also has an old-school vibe – and menu. And I was confident they would be open because I had seen an announcement online inviting customers for dine-in service this past Christmas Eve. We didn’t go then, but we returned there today.

Da Shin Bistro of Media, Pennsylvania

Da Shin Bistro is at the western edge of Media, PA, which I complimented last week for its downtown food scene. The restaurant sits in a semi-ancient looking shopping center. But as was the case with a few other places I’ve written about, outside appearances can be deceiving. Da Shin has a beautiful interior with a lot of classic touches all over the place. 

Da Shin’s beautiful interior

They were packed, with people out the door, when we ate there years ago on Christmas Eve. But we were the only dine-in customers at what is probably normally a fairly dead time for them – around 2:30 p.m. on a Sunday when the weather is very nice.

Our table was in a semi-enclosed circular section in the center of the dining room. In classic late Cold War-era style, fried noodles and duck sauce were placed in front of us virtually the instant we sat down.

They use their takeout menus for dine-in service, which I’m not sure I’ve seen before in a fairly nice restaurant. But it probably has something to do with Covid. I appreciate that they’re fully open. It’s not a problem if they feel the need to make minor compromises to do that. 

My entree choice at this type of restaurant usually comes down to Shrimp with Lobster Sauce or Sweet & Sour Shrimp.

My wife and I went our separate ways when it was time to order. She has a healthy palate. I don’t. Although I did partake in some of her steamed edamame. 

I started with something more in my wheelhouse; a perfectly classic egg roll. The crust was excellent and the filling had the right mix of vegetables. The small shrimp seemed to be more abundant than any roast pork that may have been in there. But that wasn’t an issue when the whole package tasted so good. 

My wife’s main course was Bean Curd and Black Mushrooms. I did not partake in that. Although I had my hands full anyway with my Sweet & Sour Shrimp. 

My wife’s Bean Curd with Black Mushrooms

I wish eating Sweet & Sour Shrimp and Pork was a paid endeavor. I’ve had a lot of it, starting over a half-century ago – when I ate the first Chinese meal I remember, at China City, a long-defunct restaurant in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. That meal included Sweet & Sour Barbecued Pork, although it was probably called Sweet & Pungent back then. 

It’s become very common for Sweet & Sour dishes to arrive with the sauce on the side in later years. That wasn’t the case when I was growing up. It always came with the sauce already poured over the shrimp or pork – for whatever reason, we never ordered it with chicken. I understand the logic behind serving the sauce on the side. But I prefer the old-fashioned presentation.

And it did come to the table with the sauce in a dish off to the side of the main plate today.

But I wasted no time in spooning and pouring all of the sauce over the shrimp and rice that accompanied it. I have always put the Sweet & Sour sauce over the rice, whether white or fried. 

It was solid Sweet & Sour Shrimp; certainly not up there with what I used to have at my favorite Chinatown restaurants from way back – or what the last remaining Chinatown restaurant from those days, David’s Mai Lai Wah – still serves. But it definitely hit the spot. The shrimp inside the very crispy fried coating were small, but at least the coating wasn’t puffed out as far as is often the case. So it didn’t feel like I was eating mostly outer coating. 

I enjoyed my dinner at Dim Sum Mania last week, but it felt good to return to the sort of restaurant that has been one of my foremost food loves for almost as far back as my memory goes. 

My next cheesesteak outing is planned for late this week. I’ll be returning to an Italian restaurant I wrote about in early November. As was the case with last week’s stop, this place does a great job with both steaks and pizza. I feel the need to refresh my memory on the steak to accurately rate them and also want to try a regular pizza. I ordered an upside down – sauce on top – pie during my last visit. 

Published by BZ Maestro

I live outside of Philadelphia and have been food-obsessed for as long as I can remember. After toying with the idea of starting a blog for a fairly long time, the extinction of a food-themed message board that I frequented for years prompted me to finally take action. Thank you for taking the time to check out what I've been up to - and eating. If you've enjoyed what you have read and seen, please consider clicking the "like" button and signing up as a follower.

3 thoughts on “A Return to Old-School Cantonese

  1. What a good-looking egg roll! I could make a meal out of just them and skip everything else.

    I’m not much on sweet-and-sour; I tend toward the spicy, garlicky dishes. But since you mentioned it, it *does* seem like it’s more common nowadays to get the sauce on the side with S&S items.

    And while I’m no tofu-head, the pea pods and mushrooms on Mrs. Barry’s plate look quite tasty.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The first Chinese restaurant to open near where I grew up had great egg rolls, ribs and fried rice, but I never thought much of their entrees in general. There was a period when I’d go in there a lot for just ribs and egg rolls.


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