Monday, February 8, 2010

Pleasing at Pod

Eating at a Stephen Starr-owned restaurant is the dining equivalent of attending a Broadway musical. While both are given to pomp and circumstance, they usually leave one fulfilled, if not a bit lighter in the wallet.

During a recent dinner visit to Pod, Starr's Asian-fusion concept in Philadelphia's University City (3636 Sansom Street, 215-387-1803), we felt like we were attending opening night, as Starr himself ate at a nearby table in the main dining area. Our party of four was too small to be seated at one of the three semi-private illuminated "pods" but not small enough for the two-seaters that line the long exterior wall. With an Asian movie playing on a video screen behind the conveyor-belt sushi bar and techno music piped in from overhead, our kids were duly impressed with the show going on around them.

We started our meal with a selection from the dim sum menu - a finely chopped chicken-vegetable blend served alongside enormous lettuce leaves for wrapping. Although the kitchen had to substitute for the Thai peanut dressing called for in the recipe, the appetizer did not want for flavor. Before the main course, my wife and older son shared a heaping bowl of edamame pods splashed with coarse sea salt.

After a brief intermission, our server brought out my older son's savory gluten-free stir-fry - a plateful of the largest shrimp any of us had ever seen. The crustaceans were sauteed in a mixture of corn starch, spicy Thai chili and a Mandarin orange sesame glaze and tossed with Chinese broccoli. My younger son's garlicky macadamia stir-fry, with glossy chunks of white-meat chicken, was not prepared gluten free but easily could have been modified. While none of us opted for Pod's sushi, it too can be made safe for gluten-free diners.

Our one disappointment was the absence of an appealing dessert to share. Only the restaurant's selection of sorbets are gluten free. A flourless torte would have matched ably with the glutenous options on the menu and would have brought the curtain down fittingly on an otherwise superb performance.

Pod on Urbanspoon
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