Friday, October 2, 2009

Tofu in a Pod at Penn

Last week, I found myself at UPenn midweek for a recruiting trip for my "real" job. Since I had to stay overnight, I met up with my friend JR from college, who's in his third year of law school at Penn, for dinner on Wednesday night. We made our way to Pod, an Asian fusion restaurant attached to the Inn at Penn, where I was staying.

Pod is a weird, weird place. It's all futuristic plastic surfaces, primary colors, and shades of white. Our two-person "booth" was basically a niche carved into the wall under a recessed window that made me feel as though I was eating in a dungeon. There was anime playing on a flat-screen TV over the sushi bar, which (of course) had a conveyor belt. It was that kind of place.

Pod is actually relatively expensive, even compared to Manhattan prices, which surprised me. And the vegetarian options were somewhat limited. But I decided to go for the tofu lettuce wraps with Thai peanut sauce-- what could go wrong? Well, when the plate arrived, I was startled to find that the tofu in question was deep-fried. Oy. I tried to eat as much as I could, but the sauce's spices weren't that tasty and the whole thing was just clumsy and heavy, and with every bite I was sure the dish would make me feel miserably sick. I ended up primarily picking out the bean threads and scallions and eating them with the lettuce and the peanut sauce. Oh well. Fortunately, I actually felt okay afterwards-- score one for my stomach!

Regrettable lettuce wraps

JR went with a Pod Caesar salad, which was both ample and delicious (according to him). Special points for the black sesame seeds, which always add dramatic flair. To the salad, JR added an order of Tempura rock shrimp, which he also enjoyed. The candied walnuts that came in the mixture looked tempting, but I was dissuaded from trying one by the mysterious heavy mayonnaise-y sauce coating them. This dish also included grilled pineapple, which JR spoke highly about, but I can't for the life of me find it in the picture below. I suppose we will just have to trust.

Asian Caesar

Fried tiny shrimp

Overall, Pod was... weird, and kind of cool. It was clearly more a scene than a value- or high-dining destination; they had interesting-looking cocktails and a lounge area that I could tell could be an on-campus hot spot if they play their cards right. JR and I definitely had fun, but as a vegetarian who doesn't eat much sushi, I don't think I'd return to Pod for the food alone. It's a two Offset Spatula destination, by Philly or New York standards, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't be back for a cocktail or two...

3636 Sansom Street

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