Ever taken a trip into outer space?
Philadelphia has been a city of unbeatable charm that blends the bubbly East Coast with Southern hospitality. But with yet another Stephen Starr outpost in University City where I had spent some charming years, I discovered Pod. Futuristic interiors were an understatement, for the lounge was so minimalistic that it had red cubes under neon lights, on day and night while we waited for booths. The booths themselves were ultra white cocoons, tucked within walls or pulsating, color changing spaces, reminding me why the space was called Pod. There was also a conveyor belt delivering precise cuts of sushi, sashimi and nigiri, rotating in alternating hues of orange and green. Tabletops were in circular hypnotic primary colors, and the white meets neon vibe of the space literally transported me to outer space. The cuisines was Japanese based, with hints of China, Vietnam and Korea dispersed amidst the modern take on Asian cuisine.
Across a span of the day, we started with the color coded cocktails, which in itself seemed like an elixir from Mars. The favorite was a white cocktail, named miso soup! With snow pea Sipsmith, cream of coconut, Thai Basil and vermouth, it was a sweet, creamy and illustriously white cocktail, served looking like milk in a cocktail vial! The blue drink was a mellonballer, with Tanqueray, honeydew, calpico and Pernod, a tad tangy to break the otherwise crystalline sweetness. The yellow drink was a Lemon Lotus with Tito’s, sparkling wine and poppy seed tincture, a tad bubbly but undeniably strong due to the generosity of un-muddled vodka. The red drink, one of my favorite colors of course, was a Polynesian pearl with Sailor Jerry, macadamia orgeat and grapefruit, thus making it a summery citrusy cocktail and one of my favorites.
For entrees, I go the vegan Stephen plate of sushi as my comrade ordered a more meaty one. Mine was with tempura zucchini, avocado, kanpyo squash, eggplant and roasted pepper, even with a side of vegan soy and ginger. The taste was immaculate, even down to the scent I could not imagine any finer vegan Japanese cuisine. Plus, the immaculate artsy turns of the well made dish added to the fishy, soy taste.
The signature wasabi vegetable rice dish was undoubtedly spicy, with a heap of sweet corn, cauliflower, carrots and scrambled eggs diabolically mixed into the Asian fried rice. The result was a hearty meal, one that was at home in the peak of Southern Eastside, merging the cultural harmony of Asian food with filling Southern feels.
With a double dose of dessert, we opted for a few drinks to whisk us into a wonderland of our own between the transition of savory to sweet.
I could not fathom what to expect from a futuristic Asian restaurant, and I was elated to find gastronomy taking a forefront. The Yuzu-Miso chocolate cake was unmistakably classic looking, with a dark chocolate scent that was only mildly touched with a taste of a fibrous yuzu, and tasted devoid of any saccharine West-worthy-ness. The sake foam was strong, both scented and taste-wise, adding a punch that was mellowed by the vanilla ice cream ball completely coated in sprinkles that made it akin to a gigantic hard candy, reminding us that this was an adult version of wonderland.
My favorite however was the fluffernutter spring roll dish, paying an homage to a savory favorite, The ‘spring rolls’ were stuffed with toffee and peanut butter, crunchy with an deafeningly sumptuous crackle, and with a gooey, dark chocolate dipping sauce. The combination of savory crackly dough with warm, melting peanut butter and sweet toffee was a blissful balance to the richness of the dark chocolate. Texturally, things were indulgently gooey, almost to a sensual level, offset with the crackle of the peanut brittle. All in all, another saturated marriage of the east and west.
It was almost tragic to walk out of the spaceship and into the real world, but then again, we felt at ease having taken a peak at the future without being abducted by Martians.