Bai Wei: Sakura Mandarin gets an extreme makeover

Business was fine for Jack Chen at Sakura Mandarin, his Chinese/Japanese restaurant at 11th and Race Streets. But he said he believed that things were getting stale.

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Braised pork at Bai Wei.

A trip in June to China, Hong Kong, and Japan convinced him that the Hunan and Szechuan cooking in Philadelphia’s Chinatown needed a boost.

He decided, right then, to close Sakura Mandarin for not only a menu change but a month-long renovation.

It also needed a new name: Bai Wei.

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Jack Chen in the dining room of Bai Wei, 11th and Race Streets.

Gone are the lime green walls, white tablecloths beneath glass, and ’90s-era dropped ceiling — as well as the sushi.

Now it boasts a sleeker, more modern look, with wood-topped tables, white banquettes, color accent lighting, and suspended light fixtures.

Bai Wei retained some Sakura Mandarin favorites while adding such Hunan and Szechuan dishes as clam with bean paste, live tilapia in spicy peppercorn sauce, and hot and sour gizzards.

Desserts, including salt-foam teas and creamy smoothies, are provided by À La Mousse, wife Anna Chen’s nearby bakery.

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Mango smoothie at Bai Wei, 1038 Race St.

Chen says he is also tinkering with the menu at Yamitsuki, his Japanese restaurant at 1028 Arch St. Stay tuned.

Camera icon MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
Bai Wei, 1038 Race St.
Camera icon MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
A second dining room at Bai Wei, 1038 Race St.