Hubby and I decided to hit up Longbranch the other night for an early dinner. We went on the early side because of all the positive write-ups lately, we were worried that we wouldn’t get in. However, this place is a bar and the night we were there (which was a Friday), we didn’t have to wait at all. It didn’t really start to get busy til we left. It’s also a big place, so not as much competition for seats.
They are known for their cocktails, so I felt like I should try one, even though I am typically a wine person. I ordered the “Sayonara” ($9), which had rum, sake and a nice citrus and ginger flavor. Hubby had their version of an Old Fashioned. Both of us enjoyed the drinks—I really liked the pickled ginger garnish in mine.
We started with the Rangoon ($7) and the egg rolls ($8). Both of the dishes were excellent. I liked that the Rangoon had shrimp inside them instead of the tiny little flakes of crab that you usually see. The chunks of shrimp were larger and actually recognizable. The wonton part was super crispy and freshly fried. They were served with their housemade sweet and sour sauce, which is something I don’t typically eat—you know that bright pink sauce that is more sweet than sour…but this one was really good, much more depth to it and much more acidic kick. It was a great match.
The egg rolls were really good as well—they put a nice hunk of monkfish inside theirs, and I really enjoyed this to give them more weight and more complexity than your typical veggie egg roll. It gave a nice silky texture as well. They give you a sampler of three different homemade sauces with the egg rolls and these were tasty too. There was a ginger scallion dashi, a duck sauce, and hot mustard. I liked the ginger scallion sauce the most, although the duck sauce was tasty too. I don’t really go in for hot mustard sauce typically just because it is so overwhelming. They do a very nice job with the sauces here, much more interesting than what you typically see in a Chinese restaurant.
For our main dishes, we got a couple of things to share. I ordered the tofu entrée ($10) and we really enjoyed it as well. It was chunks of tofu that were lightly breaded and fried and mixed with sautéed eggplant and a miso sauce. There was a nice amount of microgreens on top as well as some sesame seeds. I find that tofu dishes often have more flavor and seasoning than some other dishes in general, and this one was no exception. I like the soft texture of the eggplant and tofu and the richer flavor of the sauce on this one. My only complaint was that after it sat for a bit, the stuff on the bottom sort of became a bit greasy.
Hubby ordered the short rib with avocado rice and an egg ($16). This is short rib done in the more Korean style, sliced long-ways and not slow cooked in the way you typically see short rib on menus. I liked the way they made the rice extra creamy by mixing it with the soft avocado, and how it added a richness to the rice. Of course you know I love an egg on top, and the yolk added a nice sauce. I guess my only complaint here would be the pure richness without something to sort of balance it out a bit. We found mixing a little of the tofu into the beef dish made a nice little combo though.
We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves, which led to the decision to order dessert (this most often happens when we’re having a really good meal). There aren’t a lot of options, but we ordered a couple of the cookies offered—the peanut butter version with miso cream and the almond version with matcha cream. Man, that peanut butter one was so, so good. The cookie part was so flaky and buttery. And peanut buttery. The other one was good too, but seriously…that peanut butter version... I have thought about that cookie many many times since then.
All in all, Longbranch is a good addition to our food scene. I am not sure why Chinese food is so lacking downtown, particularly with drinks, but I am glad to see this place open. It’s an adult only place, so you may see that as a positive or negative, and it definitely has a bar vibe. I was impressed with the service and the knowledge of our server, and it was a nice relaxing and tasty meal. I would say give it a go, I am looking forward to tasting more of the dishes when we get a chance. There are a lot of good sounding things on there.
2205 N. Delaware Street
UPDATE: Ok, so I ended up going back before I even posted this first post, and I have to say, the second visit didn't wow me quite as much. We had a couple of the same things, the spring rolls, the shrimp rangoon and the tofu dish as well as some new things. The rangoon is great. I highly recommend. The spring rolls had less fish this time and weren't as memorable. I still liked the tofu. We also had the General Tso's sweetbreads ($15), and although they are marked as spicy, I thought they weren't very spicy, unless you ate one of the chilis on top. They were a little sticky too--the breading didn't seem crispy enough. The hanger steak (for 2)($26) felt like a bunch of disconnected parts. The meat was good, but there were just little piles of other things on the platter and it didn't come together as a cohesive dish. We loved the spare rib appetizers ($12) though--they had a lot of flavor--like Chinese 5 spice flavor and the meat was cooked just right. So if you average out my two visits, there are definitely things worth having, but there is a bit of a one-dimensionality of some of the dishes. I can't say it will be a regular for me, but it is certainly a good choice for a change of pace, and I am glad to see someone focusing on a cuisine that we don't have a lot of in downtown.