“Home-cooked” Chinese food via a Northern Liberties bistro..
“Homecooked” Chinese food is brought to the American public via a Northern Liberties bistro. Michael O’Halloran’s Chinese mother-in-law won’t give him any of her recipes, even though he owns two popular Philadelphia restaurants, including Kong, where he cooks her native food for Americans. Yet somehow he manages to mimic the cooking of her contemporaries who sell their individual brand of comfort food out of stalls on Hong Kong’s streets. With nary an egg roll or fried shrimp dish in sight, what arrives, steaming, to the NoLibs table are mostly small plates and noodles full of typical Chinese fast food, all priced at less than $20. Hanging baskets made to resemble bird cages, a wall-sized photo of a famous Hong Kong slum and a replica of political Chinese graffiti provide an opportunity for O’Halloran to explain the ways in which his food stall draws on his Chinese predecessors’ own surroundings, although it’s unlikely those food stalls have the luxury of decorating themselves with a richly shined reclaimed wood bar, deeply colored exposed brick or a Ralph Lauren-looking shade of ruby paint on their walls.