Dinner of Contrasts at Fire and Ice Restaurant- Old City (Philadelphia, USA)

I was invited to Fire and Ice to try their new menu created by Chef Chris Nguyen. Driving by to find the restaurant I saw a neon blue sign. My first thought was that it was surely a club with the same name not the restaurant I was searching for. My second thought was that I was going to eat bad bar food. By the end of the night, I had learned an important lesson: never judge a restaurant by it’s kitsch decor.

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The friendly host at the front of the restaurant greeted us and walked us to our table lining against the cushioned white wall shining with dim blue lights across from the long bar. Loud hip hop music bumped through the cushioned walls and we learned that there was a private party in the back lounge area. The ambiance was definitely that of a club, and I’ve never dined in a club before. We were reassured by our server that it was a lounge and not a club, although I’m not sure how to differentiate between the two. The neon blue lights definitely gave it a club feel.

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Our server was attentive and knowledgeable and really went out of his way to accommodate us. Shortly after our drinks were served, the Chef himself came out to tell us about the cuisine and his new menu which is his version of Asian comfort food that he grew up on. He was a very passionate man who through the new menu has implemented a fusion of Thai, Korean, Vietnamese and other Asian flavors. The result: delicious, innovative and unique.

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I was really surprised at how good everything tasted. Every single dish we ordered was perfect and you could see the passion that was put into it. Others who were invited had the same prejudice only to be pleasantly shocked by the dining experience. However, in the end there is a steep contrast between the food served and the decor and ambiance of the restaurant/bar/lounge. Perhaps it compliments the theme of the restaurant, ‘fire’ and ‘ice’. The contrast between amazing cuisine, served in a neon blue disco setting.  I won’t be surprised to hear that he opened his own Asian restaurant in the future, because, Yes- he is that good!

The Food: 

We ordered a little bit of everything including the tom yum soup (Rice noodles and a spiced lemongrass broth), the Shaky Beef (wok seared sirloin, wilted watercress, pickled onions, peppered vinaigrette), Kim Chi Trilogy (cabbage with ginger, marinated crisp tofu and spicy radishes), char-grilled chicken satay served with spiced peanut sauce and a turmeric fried rice, the Char Sui Pork Loin (a deconstructed barbecue pork bun), Kal Bi lettuce wraps, pad Thai and phad kee mao (egg noodles, egg, julienne vegetables, red curry and chicken).

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The tom yum soup was very authentic and tasted like many I had in Thailand- spicy yet simple.

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The Shaky Beef was the chef’s take on the Vietnamese Bo Luc Lac, chopped steak served with watercress with the addition of fries and an egg.

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I love kimchi and loved the Kim Chi Trilogy starter dish. The Chef pickles his own kimchi and and has created a lovely small dish as a result.

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The chargrilled chicken satay reminded me of an Indonesian dish I had not so long ago. Generous portions of grilled chicken were served alongside a tasty turmeric fried rice and peanut sauce.

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The winner had to be the Char Sui Pork Loin, a deconstructed pork bun which was so rich in flavors that we both wanted more (although we resisted the temptation).

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Kal Bi lettuce wraps was the chef’s version of the Korean Kal Bi. I loved his rendition of this dish.

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The shrimp pad Thai was one of the tastiest we’ve had to date. It was very well prepared and was completely authentic and close to those we tasted on the streets and restaurants of Thailand.

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We also really enjoyed the  phad kee mao which was egg noodles mixed with red curry, chicken and vegetables. Hints of spice from the curry were in perfect harmony with the noodles and vegetables.
15-DSC_0182_3 For dessert we had the flan, chocolate cake and fried donuts. The fried donuts were served with a chocolate and orange sauce and were very good. 
17-DSC_0199_3 The Flan was my favorite. It was prepared well and served beautifully.  13-DSC_0176_3

The chocolate cake served in a raspberry sauce was also delicious and was the perfect end to an interesting evening.
Verdict:
While the decor of the restaurant, crowd and decor threw us off, we loved the food so much that we were raving to our friends all weekend and will definitely be back for more of chef Nguyen’s creations.

Fire and Ice Restaurant, Bar and Lounge on Urbanspoon

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