Philly food and drink scene

This might be the best place for BYOB karaoke in Philly

Especially if you like great seafood.

Ocean Harmony

Karaoke with a side of lobster, anyone?

There are lots of places to do karaoke in Chinatown. Only some can be counted on for clean rooms and good service. Even fewer allow you to bring your own booze. And only a couple of those BYOBs have a tank full of live lobsters so you can nibble on ultra-fresh seafood between belting out songs.

Newly open at 937 Race St. is Ocean Harmony, which checks all those boxes and more.

The space used to be Rising Tide, but never got much notice. When the owner disappeared (“gambling debts” is the rumor going around), restaurateurs Stephanie Zhang and Bruce Lin decided to take it over and give it an revamp.

First on their list was giving the food an upgrade.

Stir-fried lobster at Ocean Harmony

Stir-fried lobster at Ocean Harmony

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Zhang and Lin cleaned out the big fish tanks; moved them to the back of the dining room; and stocked them with lobsters, crabs, bass and other delicacies from the sea. They hired an experienced chef from Taiwan and gave him free rein — to cook dishes both traditional and not, and to order top-notch ingredients, both seafood and not.

A recent off-menu special was high-quality beef short rib, for example, prepared on the bone and sliced into thick slabs of juicy steak. If you call in advance, you can get a giant king crab, and whole fish is always available. In general, the dishes are much less greasy than many other Chinatown establishments.

Ocean Harmony’s new menu isn’t yet posted online, but another specialty is live shrimp soup in an aromatic herbal broth, served in a traditional wooden column that keeps the liquid hot and the shrimp sweet.

Shrimp soup at Ocean Harmony

Shrimp soup at Ocean Harmony

Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

That soup is great for warming up in this weather, and it works especially well if you want something to dip into for restorative sips during karaoke sessions.

The karaoke rooms, which come in various sizes for groups from eight to double that many, are free if you order a certain amount of food during your stay. Zhang said they’re flexible on weekdays as far as the minimum order, and on weekends it starts at $150.

At that rate, if you bring at least three other friends to croon with, you’ll each be spending less than $40 for the food and entertainment. Bring seven others and the night of fun and snacks is less than $20 a person.

And because you can bring your own beer, wine or spirits, you can add a tipsy touch to your tunes without depending on watered-down cocktails (definitely an issue with several other karaoke venues).

It’s all tied together in the new restaurant’s name, said Zhang.

“We chose ‘Ocean’ for the seafood,” she said, “and ‘Harmony’ because of the music — but also because we want people to relax and have fun.”

Want some more? Explore other Philly food and drink scene stories.

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Food, Chinatown