Sunday, June 26, 2011

On "Chinese menus" in NOLA

Posted By on Sun, Jun 26, 2011 at 9:00 AM

jungs_bill.jpg

This week’s review of Jung’s Golden Dragon is really about this recently relocated restaurant’s “Chinese menu” — that is, its menu of regional Chinese specialties as opposed to its regular, and much more familiar, menu.

With this, Jung’s Golden Dragon is part of a low-key but gradually expanding circuit of local restaurants serving Chinese food of the sort you might actually encounter in China. I’ve been on the hunt for such places for several years now, and it’s been surprising and gratifying to discover the wide range available, mostly spread across Jefferson Parish.

See a list and more after the jump. . .

People sometimes call these “secret menus,” and while there’s nothing speakeasy about them it’s true that they typically are not well promoted even within the dining room. I learned to look for specials boards listing unfamiliar dishes. Also, signs from management posted around a dining room in Chinese lettering prove a helpful clue that the restaurant has a contingent of native-speaking customers and is a candidate for keeping a Chinese menu in circulation.

This Chinese menu hunt actually began for me back in 2007 at the original Jung’s Golden Dragon in Metairie. This is where I stumbled upon the “Chinese breakfast” of traditional dishes that owner Jung Tan served there on weekends for a brief time. Alas, that service didn’t catch on, and Tan told me during our most recent interview that it was disheartening to have to toss out so much freshly-prepped food during lackluster Chinese breakfast days. But now, in her new Magazine Street location, she serves a more fully-realized Chinese menu everyday and it seems that more people are giving it a shake.

What follows is a little primer to Chinese menus and other such specials I’ve found around town so far, with links to my reviews of each where available. And remember, my standard advice for anyone curious but unconvinced about trying such menus is to simply order the dumplings — they’re familiar enough from Americanized Chinese restaurant menus but when ordered off Chinese menus they’re typically handmade and far better eating. If you like what you get, keep exploring.


China Rose
3501 N. Arnoult St., Metairie, 887-3295
One of my favorites, China Rose was open for decades in Lakeview. When it reopened after Katrina at its current Fat City address it did so with the addition of a long and particularly robust Chinese menu with many Szechuan dishes. Be sure not to miss the entirely separate menu of soups and noodle dishes. I'd visited and eaten from the Chinese menu three times before I learned of this even more obscure roster of dishes. Here’s my review.
* The menu is so large, varied and interesting that I was compelled to go on about it in quite a bit more detail in this earlier Blog of New Orleans post.


Little Chinatown
3800 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 305-0580
A relative newcomer, the owners come from Hong Kong by way of New York City. The cooking is milder and less spicy than Szechuan dishes, but no less complex or interesting. Here’s my review from earlier this year.


Imperial Garden
3331 Williams Blvd., Kenner, 443-5691
This one is very easy to miss. It’s a small, run-down place in a strip mall along Williams Boulevard. But again, here you’ll find all kinds of dishes that go way beyond the conventional take-out stuff you might expect. I reviewed this place around Christmas time in 2008.


Three Happiness
1900 Lafayette St., Gretna, 368-1355
This big restaurant, which looks ready for a wedding reception to break out at any moment, follows the example of other Vietnamese restaurants that split their menus between Vietnamese dishes and Americanized Chinese fare (Kim Son and Nine Roses being two others). The difference here is that the kitchen does a large dim sum service on weekends, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Here’s the review.


Panda King Fine Dining
925 Behrman Hwy., Gretna, 433-0388
From the name above the door to the all-you-can-eat buffet dominating the main dining room, Panda King seems like one of those cheap, often-derided but undeniably popular Asian eateries you find all over the place. That certainly seems to be its central business. But on the weekends, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Panda King Fine Dining serves dim sum from carts in a much nicer side dining room. My review is here.


Royal China
600 Veterans Blvd., Metairie, 831-9633
The senior senator of this list, Royal China has been holding down the fort along the first few blocks of Vets for years and dim sum has long been part of the program. I’ve been a few times and like it, but haven’t reviewed it yet. Here’s its dim sum menu.

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