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I Pod

Earlier this week, my brother hosted a celebratory dinner at Pod in honor of my nephew’s birthday. Anne had mentioned Pod (a restaurant in the heart of the Penn campus) to me a while ago because she learned they serve a “lobster roll.” I knew it wasn’t a real Maine lobster roll, but I was eager to try it nevertheless. Lobster is lobster after all. It’s all good.

I’m not a habitué of stylish, trendy restaurants, but I think I know one when I see one. Pod’s look has been compared to the set design of Sleeper or 2001: A Space Odyssey. Pod does feature the ubiquitous whiteness of those movies, but it’s not as harsh or sterile, although it is unabashedly artificial. Populating this shiny environment was a lively crowd. Most were young, although there were plenty of people there my age, including one gentleman radiating a Quentin Crisp aura. He was absorbed in a crossword puzzle while waiting for his party.

Pod has a nice scene, if you’re into scenes. I felt surprisingly comfortable there even though I’m more the Irish pub tweed jacket type. But enough about the atmosphere, let’s talk about the food. It’s very good and, even though most of it was unfamiliar, every new flavor was a delightful surprise. Pod can stand on its food alone.

The featured cocktails are charmingly named by their color, although I tried something simpler, a sake mojito. We ordered three or four appetizers to share and an entree apiece. Dishes arrived willy-nilly, so we always had something to pass around. I don’t know how to label the cuisine, but it’s Japanese in spirit. I ordered the lobster roll, which was delicious, and my brother ordered the lobster stir fry, which was even better! The sushi sampler was much fresher and tastier than the supermarket sushi we usually eat. Service was attentive and friendly. I liked everything I tried and so many items on the menu sounded so good that I’m really looking forward to heading back there.

Comments

When my wife and I checked out Pod a few years ago, we thought it was overpriced and overrated. But this is the second time of late that I've heard credible acquaintances talking about having a good dining experience there. Maybe things have improved.

will have to schedule a trip out there to try their goods

I like Pod. I especially like going as a party of 5 or 6 because then it's Pod City. My favorite part is adjusting the lights. I like the food, and I have gotten used to the Stephen Starr approach to food delivery as the years have progressed. Glad you liked it there. And great title for the piece, btw.

Frank, there were six in our party, but all the pods were occupied. That would have been fun. Some people changed the lights; others left them alone. My mother always said, "Don't play with your food," but there's no harm in having a little play with your food.
Albert and Tom, I really enjoyed our meal, but don't want you to be disappointed. Pod is not up to the same standard as, for example, Susanna Foo (I haven't been to enough good restaurants to make any other comparisons). Maybe that will help calibrate my opinion of the place. It was a fun time.

Of all the Stephen Starr restaurants I've been to (admittedly, on someone else's dime), I like Pod the least. I wasn't impressed with their sushi the last time I went. I've always wanted to try one of their colorful drinks, though.

Yoko, that's good to know. I know nothing, really, having only eaten supermarket sushi, and this was way better than that. Can you recommend some places? Unlike the typical trend at many restaurants, maybe Pod has gone “uphill” recently.

I'm not a huge fan of the sushi at Pod, mostly because I've had the sushi at Morimoto's, and it's light-years away. Tony, if you want your sushi-mind blown, you've got to check out Morimoto's. If you stick to the sushi, it's really not even all that expensive.

Places I recommend:
1. Sagami, in Collingswood, NJ. It's just over the Ben Franklin Bridge, so it's not too far.
2. Genji, 17th and Sansom. Although they seem to be concentrating more on the supermarkets and less on the restaurant, the restaurant sushi is still pretty good.
3. Fuji Mountain, 20th & Chestnut. I've just recently tried this place, and it was tasty.
4. Shiroi Hana, 15th and Walnut. This place gets overlooked, but their food is impeccable.

Yoko, great list, thanks! As much as I am drawn to sushi, I may never pluck up the nerve to go to a fine sushi restaurant. It’s the intimidation factor. Silly, I realize. However while this article I read yesterday promised guidance, it only scared me more: How to Eat Sushi. :-)

Egads! Sure, there is an etiquette for eating sushi, but honestly, I think these rules get broken all the time, and the Japanese waitstaff know that and are mostly gracious about it, as well as very willing to give advice if you're not sure what to get or how to order it. It can be intimidating to eat at the sushi bar if you're not used to it, but there's no shame in sitting at a regular table and ordering sushi.

Go for it! Your taste buds will thank you. ;)

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