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Yangming
1051 Conestoga Road
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
(610) 527-3200
www.yangmingrestaurant.com

"For remarkably-presented nouvelle Chinese and high style elegance, head to Yangming," Philadelphia Magazine;Stunning... a distinctive menu filled with delights...Philadelphia Inquirer; Best restaurant on the Main line... Exotic and flavorful entrées, plush décor, superior management and service,Main Line Today; "America's Top Tables," Gourmet; "One of the top 100 Chinese restaurants," Chinese Restaurant News... The accolades, apparently, could go on forever... ad infinitum... ad nauseam, as they say.

I must confess, however, that I am significantly less than enamored with this highly touted culinary hot spot. Not that the food is "bad" by any stretch of the imagination... It's just that the supposedly superlative Chinese fusion fare does not, in my opinion, live up to the hype. One expects a good deal more than this establishment is apparently able to deliver.

Appetizers are the pick of the litter, clearly demonstrating that the kitchen is capable of a decidedly subtle approach. The steamed pork dumplings ($6.95), for example, are just the right texture; the grilled Thai chicken ($6.75) is also quite good and perfectly complemented by an excellent spicy peanut vinaigrette --although the strips of grilled chicken exhibit a rather strange consistency. The angel hair pasta finds a perfect companion in a tantalizing sesame sauce ($5.50); and the minced chicken served in lettuce cups ($8.95) is more generic in scope but still quite acceptable.

The real difficulties, however, lie with the entrées. The veal escallops in a rice wine-black bean sauce ($15.50) exhibit a strange, fatty texture. The spicy tarragon chicken with shiitake mushrooms ($14.95) has a similarly odd consistency and suffers from herbaceous overkill. The grilled Norwegian salmon ($18.95) is drowned in a black bean sauce but still manages to manifest an off-putting fishy taste. By far, the best main course sampled was the pan-roasted Alaskan halibut ($22.95). But, even here, a supposedly light cream sauce proved all too heavy handed.

A side of mixed sautéed vegetables ($9.95) proved no better than standard Chinese takeout and the fried banana dessert ($5.50) was positively leaden.

But there are other issues involved... Like the rather large insect crawling unmolested on the wine list we were handed... like a similar beastie that alighted on a young hostess's hair and sent her screaming-giggling into the kitchen... like a bartender who is none too careful about the way he sloshes wine into your glass... like the boxes and assorted junk clearly visible through the open door of the coat room... like the food stains on the wallpaper or the windows sorely in need of cleaning. Individually, these happenstances may be easily dismissed... collectively, however, they bring up a host of intriguing questions.

 

Then, of course, there's the clientele. And a comment in the Zagat Survey's assessment of Yangming is most instructive: P.S. flip-flop fans should note that this is a 'dress-up' affair. I'd just love to know who's responsible for this bit of fiction. The human flora and fauna that piles in here is a far cry from dressed up. Indeed, it runs the gamut: from, yes, flip-flops... to bare midriffs... to shorts... to assorted body piercing... to vintage Salvation Army Thrift Store sartorial finery.

Bottom line: The patrons I observed here are NOT sophisticated foodies; no, this is, in my opinion, strictly the grab n' growl crowd. And that, in itself, says a great deal about the establishment in question.

The Artful Diner
July 2008

The Artful Diner is an independent, freelance food writer.  His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.

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