Monday, October 22, 2012
Asia on the Parkway, Philadelphia PA
During a business trip to Philadelphia, I happened upon a restaurant that had a nearly ideal location. It was situated on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, sandwiched right between several large hotels, a bustling business district. It sits almost exactly between theparks at Logan Square and at JFK Plaza (aka LOVE park). The front of the restaurant has a good amount of outdoor seating with a great view of the Basilica of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. It's the kind of location that guarantees plenty of foot traffic, plenty of business lunches, and plenty of tourists. A restaurant almost CAN'T fail at a location like this one.
On the other side of the coin, a restaurant in such a location can get complacent, and let the location bring people and let the food quality drop, or become mediocre. You don't have to try as hard to make money in such a great location, so medicority can rear it's not-quite-ugly-but-not-quite-pretty-either head.
That's where I am with Asia on the Parkway. Their menu claims to be "Pan Asian" - and is- it has a laundry list of dishes from a number of Asian cultures- Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc... The menu is acutally failry huge- each culture has about 20 or so dishes in it- basically a menu appropriate for a small restaurant in each section. An overly long menu is usually a warning sign that the place may by trying to please everyone rather than focusing on a smaller menu at a high quality level.
But, hey, I like Asian food, and it was a nice day, so I grabbed an outdoor seat and ave it a try.
I decided to start with something simple- an appetizer from the Japanese portion of the menu- the California Rolls (ok so Claifornia Rolls aren't exactly traditional asian... eget off my case!). The rolls were just OK- not bad, but not anything special- I just didn't get the sense that these were much better in quality than what you coul find at most higher end grocery stores. The rolls themselves were rolled in a somewhat sloppy fashion- they held together, but just barely. I doubt that a serious sushi chef would allow a loose roll to leave his cutting board, ever.
For my entree, I went with something from the Chinese menu- Beef with Shitakke Mushrooms. This dish, also adorned with snow pea pods, was actually fairly nice. The mushrooms tasted good and full of earthiness, and the snow pease had a nice fresh snap. The beef was tender and the sauce was tasty. All in all, a reasonably successful dish that worked, but didn't overly impress me either.
Good but not great. My overall opinion of the restaurant would be much better though if the service was on-point. It did not look like the dining room was especially crowded, and only about half of the outdoor tables were occupied. Two people from the wait staff were working the area, but you would think the place was packed to the gills because the wait staff simply seemed to vanish for long periods of time. They were slow- abysmally, mind numbingly slow. It was a long wait for my drink order, a long wait for my drink, then an even longer wait for the rest of the meal. I probably lost about 40 minutes of my life waiting for the check to arrive, then be processed, and to have the reciept handed back to me. That is, to me, the bigger, and more inexcusable failure.
A perfect location like this should be going out of it's way to offer great service to the tourists, business people, and young adults constantly moving around and through the location. Great service in a near perfect location, can more than make up for food that is pretty good, but not great. The food part of the equation is very fixable, the service, however, just leaves a lot to be desired.