A Chinese newspaper, dated Monday, lay nearby.
A bouquet of dead yellow and white mums with a red ribbon, in celebration of the restaurant's opening a week ago, decorated the cashier's counter, along with a pack of Marlboros, a spindle with three receipts and a figure of a gold Chinese god holding an inscription wishing the business owners good luck.
Police were looking for the owners of Min Du - two brothers, 20 and 21, one short, one tall - in connection with the slaying of Hoi ``Shorty'' Yang.
The torso and head of the 27-year-old illegal Chinese immigrant were found Monday in trash bins a mile apart - outside an Acme supermarket and a Rite Aid drugstore in Browns Mills, Pemberton Township, N.J.
The last time anyone saw Yang, who lived on 9th Street near Race, alive was inside the eatery on Sunday night. The victim had a roaring tiger tattoo on his shoulder - a symbol of good luck.
``We're now examining that location for the possibility of a crime scene,'' Capt. James Brady of the Philadelphia Police Homicide Division said.
Police sources said Yang had tried to shake down the new owners. He had refused to pay for his meals and demanded money to keep the business open.
He even spit in a customer's food during an extortion attempt, a police source said.
Between midnight and 1 a.m. Monday, waiters closing the Southeast Chinese Restaurant two doors away at 9th and Arch streets saw three men arguing outside Min Du.
``Two, three guys were pushing each other,'' said a waiter who declined to give his name, saying, ``This is a murder case.''
The waiter said he thought they had been drinking. Outside the door, Heineken and Budweiser boxes were dumped beside a smelly old refrigerator, its door facing the front of building.
By early yesterday, homicide detectives from Philadelphia and Burlington County, N.J., had spent more than eight hours searching the restaurant where they believe Yang was killed.
Yang's body had been stabbed repeatedly. Detectives believe a meat cleaver was used to sever his head while he was still alive.
Crime labs here and in New Jersey obtained blood samples from New Jersey and the restaurant to determine whether Yang was killed in the basement and what weapons were used.
Police believe the killers dumped the body in Pemberton Township, then visited a relative to clean up.
Raymond T. Lau, owner of the building, said he rented the restaurant to Kai Guo Huang on June 15, allowing him two months to renovate the place before collecting $1,400 in rent on Aug. 15.
Lau's wife, Jean Marie, said Huang had a green work permit issued by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, but not a Social Security number.
Lau described Huang as a ``nice guy'' in his 20s, who didn't mention anything about a partner. But he did say he had a sister.
Lau, who comes from Canton, recognized Huang's dialect as Fukinese, from Fuzhou, a coastal province in southeast China - the same area as Yang.
Huang's address is listed on the lease as League Street near 8th, where a Qiujing Huang is listed as having a phone. A person who answered the Huang phone said that no one by either name lived at the address.
Recently, Lau said, he received a notice from the city Department of Licenses and Inspections that interior renovations had been done without a permit. The L&I application listed Lau as the owner of Min Du.
``They used my name on the permit. I talked to them to change the name,'' said Lau, who has owned the building since 1976. ``It's not my business.''
The L&I application listed Lau's address as Orchard Road, not Orchard Way, where he lives in Pennsauken.
Michael Tran, publisher of China-Vietnews, a community newspaper with offices across the street from the restaurant, estimated that more than $20,000 in renovation work was done inside the eight-table eatery.
``The owner of the restaurant was very nice. I ate there three times to help him,'' said Tran. ``When they opened last Friday or Saturday, a lot of Chinese came,'' said Tran.
Yang drifted from job to job in Chinatown, staying from a few days to a couple months before he quit. His last job was with Four Seasons Seafood, Fruit and Vegetable Inc. on 10th near Race, where he worked for about a month and a half before quitting on July 12.
``I know he's a bad guy, not a gangster,'' said the owner's brother, who asked not to be identified.
Police said Yang had been arrested for a home-invasion robbery in 1994, but the charges were dropped.
While police said he arrived in Philadelphia a few months ago from Brooklyn, where he had ties to Asian gangs, storeowners said he's been in Chinatown for at least the past year.
Police are investigating whether Yang had been trying to extort protection money from Chinatown restaurants.
Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took away five frogs, three eels and a fish from a drained tank inside the restaurant.