Movable Feast: Pod

For all of West Philly’s food charms—from great hoagie shops to authentic corner taverns, superb ethnic dining to convenient food trucks—it was only when Pod arrived in 2001 that University City finally had a cutting-edge eatery to call its own. And Pod certainly fills that niche.

Like Starr’s other Philadelphia hits, Pod opened to strong reviews and has been drawing well ever since, as diners can’t seem to get enough of its minimalist décor and Asian fusion cuisine. But maybe the nicest surprise about Pod is that, while the experience is among the best you’ll find in Philadelphia, the cost is completely reasonable.

When the Current staff made the short trip across Sansom Street recently for a Pod lunch, we found the menu interesting enough for those seeking a full-on culinary adventure (the Deluxe Sushi Combination runs $22) and reasonable enough for the diner in search of an inexpensive treat (the Panko pork sandwich is just $9). Starr has even taken into consideration the time-tight schedules of students and staffers who can’t linger over lunch. Pod’s “Kaiseki Express” menu promises a “complete meal to your table in 15 minutes.” The dishes on this menu—ranging from Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass ($14) to a Shrimp Stir Fry with lobster sauce ($13)—come with miso soup, Japanese house salad and white rice.

Fortunately, we were in no rush—and so had time to sample more of what the restaurant had to offer. Taking our seats at the sushi bar we watched as dishes of sushi rolled by on the restaurant’s quirky “sushi conveyer belt.” The different colored plates, we were told, indicated the cost of each dish. We only saw white- and yellow-dish varieties during our hour at the bar, and all of the choices seemed disappointingly similar. Our “yellow” dish ($3) of tuna and avocado norimaki rolls wrapped in dried seaweed was flavorful, light and fresh.
While waiting for our entrees, we ordered up two vegetable sides that, surprisingly, stole the show. Served with a tangy garlic sauce, the Wok Roasted Bok Choy ($6) was flawlessly flavored, but substantial, too—more than enough for three people to share. Alongside the bok choy, we ordered up a bowl of Salted Edamame Pods ($6), which, like the sauteed greens, was both generous and tasty.

Our entrees were visually stunning, though less consistent. While we found the Tuna Hand Roll 3-Ways ($12)—spicy tuna, tuna-cucumber and tuna-avocado—to be comparatively bland, the BBQ Eel Wrap ($12.50) was savory and satisfying. The Pod Lobster Roll, meanwhile, was rich and flavorful—so filling, in fact, you might consider sharing it with a friend.
Not quite ready to leave, we spoiled ourselves with the Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate dessert, a trifecta of chocolate that included bittersweet chocolate mousse, chocolate pot de crème and warm chocolate-toffee bread pudding.

Like the rest of our meal, the dessert was true to the Pod concept—generously portioned and aesthetically pleasing.

Pod is located at 3636 Sansom Street. The restaurant can be reached at 215-387-1803.

Originally published on February 9, 2006