Business was fine for Jack Chen at Sakura Mandarin, his Chinese/Japanese restaurant at 11th and Race Streets. But he said he believed that things were getting stale.
A trip in June to China, Hong Kong, and Japan convinced him that the Hunan and Szechuan cooking in Philadelphia's Chinatown needed a boost.
He decided, right then, to close Sakura Mandarin for not only a menu change but a month-long renovation.
It also needed a new name: Bai Wei ("100 flavors").
Gone are the lime green walls, white tablecloths beneath glass, and '90s-era dropped ceiling — as well as the sushi.
Now it boasts a sleeker, more modern look, with wood-topped tables, white banquettes, color accent lighting, and suspended light fixtures.
Bai Wei retained some Sakura Mandarin favorites while adding such Hunan and Szechuan dishes as clam with bean paste, live tilapia in spicy peppercorn sauce, and hot and sour gizzards.
Desserts, including salt-foam teas and creamy smoothies, are provided by À La Mousse, wife Anna Chen's nearby bakery.
Chen says he is also tinkering with the menu at Yamitsuki, his Japanese restaurant at 1028 Arch St. Stay tuned.