915 Arch Street (Chinatown)
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Although Han is certainly the most famous Szechuan restaurant in the city, E Mei is probably number two.
Located in Chinatown, E Mei offers a great selection of lunch options to get your spice on a budget.
When you sit down, the give you some hot tea, salted peanuts, and some spicy pickled greens. The greens are absolutely addictive. Spicy, crunchy, and tart, they keep you coming back for more.
On the lunch menu, they offer a variety of dishes for $6-7, and they all come with rice and a side. I went with a hot and sour soup, which was subtle, yet rich. I could not stop eating it.
My other side (I had two meals) was the egg roll. Not bad, just not great. I had a couple of bites, and focused my attention to other items.
For the main courses, I went with one sliced beef with hot and spicy sauce (left), and one shredded pork with long hot pepper (right). I also got one white rice, one fried rice.
The beef was tasty enough, with tender meat, but the sauce was a bit oily, and could have benefited from more flavor. It had a thick, gelatinous consistency that was pretty bland. Some acid would likely have greatly lifted this one, but it was not bad, just not all that good.
The shredded pork with long hot peppers was another story all together. This was terrific. It was reminiscent of the double cooked style pork at Handy-nasty, and I could not stop eating it. Spicy, with just a hint of Szechuan peppercorn, for that hollow, numbing sensation that is so common in Szechuan cooking.
The fortune cookie must know how much I love Philly Phoodie. As it told me I was friends with myself.
This meal cost $13 before tip. Seriously one of the best deals around. I would recommend going, skip the beef, get the pork, and experiment with the menu a bit. I was recommended these two, but will be going back to try some of the more interesting varieties next time.