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Recently Visited: Sampan

January 23, 2011
Restroom at Sampan

A table that runs the length of the restroom. How novel.

A little over a month ago, Meg and I were invited by a friend to a local ad agency’s holiday party in Center City. Good fun was had by all, the alcohol was flowing, the music was booming, and we had the opportunity to see a lot of friends we hadn’t  in a while.

(It’s funny that the way I can determine how long it’s been since I’ve seen someone is via three variables: PW, W, and AW — pre-wedding, wedding, and after-wedding. PW, obviously, would be someone I haven’t seen since before Meg and I got married in October. W includes all the guests from said wedding. AW are the people I’ve seen since. Everyone I knew at the party fit into the “PW” category, so it was good to catch up with them.)

After the festivities, Meg and I decided to take a walk down to 13th Street to see where we’d want to go for dinner, since all we had at the party were soft pretzels and a variety of beers, and came across Sampan, located, as the restaurant’s site says, in the “hot Midtown Village dining zone.”

We didn’t have reservations, so we had a short wait for a seat at the bar area. It was in front of an open kitchen, where we got to watch the whole production of our (and everyone else’s) dinner take place. (Strange side note: Not a single Asian chef in the kitchen. Everyone was of the Caucasian or Hispanic persuasion.)

We looked at the menu and placed our orders. (Think Asian tapas, with lots of small-portioned items, divided into “Small,” “Cold & Hot,” “Meat & Fish” and “Sides” categories. It was recommended that, for two adults, as we are, three small dishes and two entrees should do the trick, so that’s what we ordered.

With dinner ordered, off to the restroom I went, and, let me tell you, it was heaven for a diabetic. As you can see from the photo above, there was a table built into the wall running the length of the room, from next to the sink right by the door all the way down the wall. Plenty of room for insulin pens, alcohol swab, test meter and test strip, as well as the handy carrying bag I keep my supplies in.

I was thrilled, and I told Meg so when I got back to my seat.

And then the food started coming. For our apps, Meg ordered edamame dumplings, I got Korean beef BBQ satay, and we both decided on the Philly cheese steak bao bun. (When I learned about the bao bun, and, specifically, it’s more famous cousin the pork bun, I couldn’t stop laughing. You know how it goes: “Pork bun. Hehehehehehehehehehehehehehe. Pork bun. Hehehehehehehehehehehehehehe.” Yes, Meg must be so proud.)

Lovely. The dumplings were great. Tasty, and delicious. The satay was delicious, very tender and great. The bao bun was OK, but it wasn’t what Meg was expecting. “It wasn’t what I know as ‘bao,'” is how she elegantly put it. Fair enough.

For our entrees, I ordered the Korean fried chicken, served with biscuits, and Meg got an order of roasted broccoli. (The pretzels were sitting in her stomach a bit, and she’s a big fan of broccoli.)

The broccoli was incredible. I think we both agreed it was our favorite item we got.  It was prepared with pine nuts, white soy and garlic, and the order tasted extraordinary.

The chicken, unfortunately, was so heavily salted, I kept thinking of the old Looney Tunes cartoons where a character would eat alum and their mouth would start to collapse on itself. This is how I felt. There wasn’t enough water or diet Coke in the world to sate my thirst after eating the chicken. It’s really a shame, too, since I love fried chicken. Meg’s piece wasn’t quite so heavily salted, and the biscuits were great. I just wish the chef had had a slightly less-heavy hand with the condiments.

For desert we had mini ice cream cones. The waitress (who was very helpful and checked up on us suitably, as well as offering her opinions on the menu) told us the chef has a soft-serve ice cream machine in the back, making standard chocolate and vanilla flavors. However, he also does something special with them each day, so we had Fruit Loop-infused vanilla, and Kit Kat-infused chocolate. Fun, delicious, and the couple sitting next to us saw us enjoying them so much they got them, too.

All this being said, though, both Meg and I would definitely go back, and the bathroom was fantastic for the diabetic diner. On my completely random scale, I give Sampan a Rated A1C rating. Good food, great accommodations, and be sure to bring your appetite (and, if they salt the food the way they did for us, lots and lots of water, too).

Coming up next: The promised review of Mercato, which comes later this week.

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