Bai Wei (previously Sakura Mandarin) has several things going for it during COVID times, it is spacious and airy and the tables are reasonably far apart, but the staff is lackadaisical about checking vaccination status. I have been there twice and ordered several dishes each time. The cold sesame noodles were good and reminded me of the old-school NYC sesame noodles that used to come for free if you ordered $20 or more for delivery. The pancakes stuffed with chives and egg were also very good, but the scallion pancakes were a disappointment; they seemed to have been deep fried.
The Dumplings: The dumplings were quite disappointing. The first time there, I had the steamed veggie dumplings they were really good but the second time around they were way over cooked, to the point where the green dough was washed out and had turned pale. The Pork Wontons in Chili Oil were another fail. The wontons themselves were under stuffed with measly amounts of filling and were served lukewarm. Probably because they were under cooked, the wrappers were stiff and chewy. In addition they were not even served in chili oil, but rather they were served in a mixture of soy sauce and the same sesame sauce that came with the noodles. There might have been a little chili oil mixed in, but there was no chili spice heat..
Lastly the Pan Fried Pork Soup Dumplings (Sheng Jian Bao) were weak. The pork filling tasted pretty good, but there was no soup and the bottoms of the bao were not nearly fried enough, plus the bottoms of the bao were quite oily. It is hard to do fried soup dumplings right, so that the bottom of the bao is seared dark brown and there is still liquid soup inside of the bao. In the US you can usually expect the bottom of the bao to be seared but I have rarely been served this dish with liquid soup inside the bao. I order this dish because I enjoy the contrast of the crispy texture of the fried part of the bao and soft texture of the steamed part of the bao and the umami flavor from the Maillard reaction that occurs when the bottom of the bao is seared. If there is soup inside then that is a bonus. But no searing on the bottom of the bao and no soup inside makes for a weak pan fried pork soup dumpling.
The Location: Bai Wei is on the corner of 11th street and Race street at the edge of Philadelphia’s Chinatown. But my recommendation is that you head deeper into Chinatown and try one of the many other options available there.