Reader: My friends and I had an excellent dinner at the renewed Twenty Manning. Sadly, they were out of the lobster potpie special, but the pork chop was delicious. Our evening concluded with drinks at "Bar2L" which wasn't too bad either.
C.L.: It's good to hear you enjoyed your visit to the new Twenty Manning - a spot that needed a revamp. I'm hoping it turns into the kind of neighborhood restaurant that Carolina's was...
Reader: Have you tried bahn mi (aka Vietnamese hoagies)? If so, where's the best place to try them for the first time?
C.L.: Banh Mi - the Viet hoagie - is a favorite chat room nibble. I just had several last week from one of my favorites, Cafe Nhuy in the Italian Market at 8th and Christian. The place is so tiny - it's amazing they produce such fresh and tasty food. Love the vegetarian, but also the pork original, full of lots of crunchy, translucent headcheese threads. Also, try QT in Chinatown, on 10th just north of the bus station. Their 'bbq pork' banh mi is fantastic.
Reader: Banh mi has become the new hot food (like fancy hamburgers and foie gras have in the past). My favorite banh mi is the "special" at Ba Le Bakery.
C.L.: I like Ba Le's chicken banh mi, too ... love it with the spicy jalapeno rounds..
Reader: I respect your opinion on pizza (we are both Lombardi's fans), but I disagree with your opinion of Stella. I think the margherita at Zavino is far superior. The Stella version is FAR too salty and oily.
C.L.: I think Zavino certainly has the potential to make a better margherita than Stella's, but it didn't during my review meals. Either way, that's not Stella's best pie (I preferred the all-tomato Marinara). I think Osteria is still the best margherita in town.
Reader: Had a fairly uneven dinner at Han Dynasty Saturday. The garlic sauce tofu was great, the home style tofu bland, the dry pot pork was full of flavor, the hot sauce pork underspiced and bland. The two dishes that were good were really good, but I left a little disappointed (as did my friend who was told she couldn't order the salt-and-pepper style tofu because it "wasn't good.")
C.L.: Sorry to hear about the disappointing meal at Han. It's been one of my favorite restaurants this year. That sounds like Han, though, steering diners away from some of his least favorite dishes (why does he even have them on the menu?). Still, the description of anything dressed in Han's hot sauce as "bland" or "underspiced" strikes me as odd. This place isn't for everyone - but a lack of flavor has never been one of this kitchen's issues....
Reader: Restaurant reviews of the Shore were very good. We went to Mildred's last weekend and really enjoyed it. Was not there for a decade. We love La Fontina in Strathmere. Also Black Duck in Cape May.
C.L.: I'm sure glad the articles got you to go back to Mildred's, which is a true classic of Italian roadhouse cooking, dating to the '50s. Some of the best prime rib I've had that side of the Prime Rib in Philly, with homemade pastas (and slow-steeped tomato gravy), old-school folksy service, and the history of the old Llanerch Diner car - just a dune away from the beach.
Reader: Saffron in Ambler has wonderful Indian food, incredibly reasonable and BYO.
C.L.: I've been to the ever-growing Indian chain empires of Ekta and Tiffin, but Saffron is one I still need to get to. It's on the list.
Reader: I've been following news on Agiato and Agiato bread in Manayunk, the bread company just opened; I tried the chocolate croissants and the herbed foccia bread, both very good, well made. The foccaia had a soy-based glaze that worked well with the herb flavors, can't wait for the restaurant to open too.
C.L.: Thanks for the report on this long-awaited, much-delayed Manayunk project. I'm looking forward to going.
Reader: Anywhere near the Camden Riversharks to recommend for great food that is kid-friendly?
C.L.: This depends on your aptitude and interest in adventure dining - not to mention timing - but my two favorite stops in Camden are worthwhile if the circumstances are right: Corinne's Place (at 1254 Haddon Ave.), a no-frills soul-food joint that still makes some of the best cast-iron fried chicken anywhere. The other is Mexico Lindo, at 3521 Federal St. (near the Route 130 border with Pennsauken), one of many good Camden taquerias, but makes the best mole poblano in the region.