L-S grad puts a fresh twist to Asian cuisine, makes an impact on the community in the progress

Some people like to go back to their roots, while others like to expand and do something new. For 2003 Lampeter-Strasburg graduate Sam Guo; however, he was able to do both when he and his wife opened up the restaurant Silantra in Downtown Lancaster over a year ago.
image courtesy of visitlancastercity.com
Being involved with his parents’ Chinese restaurant while he was growing up, Sam Guo took a break during college and the following few years before returning to the business and opening a restaurant of his own. However, instead of adhering to the typical Chinese restaurant image, they decided to approach Silantra with a more modernized style in mind: The street kitchen set-up allows people to make their own bowls and wraps.
The other week, a friend and I decided to take a visit, try the food, and ask the grad himself a couple questions:

What inspired you and co-owner Cindy Lam to open this restaurant?
My wife and I both grew up in the Chinese restaurant background. During college, Cindy and I would always frequent Panda Express and Chipotle, which were right next to each other. We wondered, “Why isn’t there an Asian version of Chipotle? Can’t we combine the two?” and thus the idea for Silantra was born.

Why did you two decide to make Silantra a non-traditional Asian restaurant?
We really liked the idea of fresh and quick, something that’s kind of nonexistent in the Asian restaurant business. We wanted to change that because there’s been a trend in today’s population for food to be more convenient and healthy.

What’s the mission that Silantra strives to accomplish?
Six words: Do good, eat good, feel good. Our purpose is to give back to the community. So many companies say that a “portion” of their revenue will be donated to a good cause, but I’ve always hated how vague that was, and I wanted our intentions to be transparent. That’s why we’re committed to donating 100% of our monthly tips to a different local charity each month. We also wanted to make sure people were putting only good things into their bodies.
As for the food itself? It’s fantastic.
Chinese restaurants hold the common image of greasy, unhealthy food and we wanted to contribute a new perspective. Whenever possible, we use only local, organic produce and antibiotic/hormone-free meats. All of our disposable goods are eco-friendly and biodegradable. At the end of the day, it feels good: feels good to eat healthy food, feels good to provide these ingredients, and feels good to help the community.

What did you learn from L-S that has helped you in opening and growing the restaurant?
The biggest thing at L-S that impacted me was the strong community. It’s a small school, everyone is well-connected, and people always try to help each other out. I especially remember when we did Mini-THON, which was all about being there for one another. Going to L-S has really instilled in me a strong sense of community, which largely drives my work. We want to be part of the larger whole. This is also a big reason why we haven’t spent any money on advertising—by simply giving to the community, they give back to us.

I basically got a chicken bowl with coconut-infused rice, an array of vegetables, and teriyaki ginger sauce. All of the ingredients tasted fresh, and the bowl was at a very reasonable price. Other fans of Silantra include Mrs. McConnell (“I love it! I’ve only been there once and I’m already hooked!”) and Camille Holzbauer (“Dude, the food here is so good. I’ve got to tell my family about this place and come back again.”)

Long story short. Do you want to grab a healthy Asian meal without emptying your wallet, support an L-S alum, and help the community all at the same time? Silantra Asian Street Kitchen is definitely your go-to.

--By Sam Tran, LS News reporter

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