MR. CHU CHINESE RESTAURANT
Chinese food today is not what we considered Chinese food back in the day. I think its fair to say everyone knows that Chinese food is basically an American interpretation using Asian ingredients to accommodate the American palate. For that reason, its hard to find good Chinese food. If you want authentic, that is fairly easy in this area, you just go into an Asian neighborhood. However, if you want good Chinese food which uses quality ingredients and not just deep frying and dumping corn syrup sauce over everything the way some fast food takeout places do, you do have to look for it.
Mr. Chu is a safe bet. They’ve been there well over 10 years that I can recall, and not only is the place packed for lunch, its good food at a very reasonable price. That being said, its a trend I see that prices don’t increase a great deal over the years.
One example is I was given the basic lunch special menu. Even with takeout, you get an egg roll, main dish and side of rice. On this menu, they offer a cup (not a bowl) of soup, no egg roll, and the quantity of the things you enjoy most is dwindled down to a mere scoop in size. Certainly I don’t need a pint of rice, or even a full 8-ounce cup. But this which you see to the left was barely enough to soak up the excess sauce I often enjoy eating along with the rice.
The free pot of tea is nice, especially on a cold February day, but that only costs them less than a dime. But the fried noodles they bring to the table with the sweet and sour sauce along with the hot mustard is always the first thing I look forward too. This time, no hot mustard, I had to request it. A very small amount was brought out, but I am hoping not because they are being ultra-frugal, but because it was so hot, we didn’t need a lot of it. It was super hot, and just the way I love it, but we ran out only after less than 7-9 pieces of fried noodles.
When you can count the noodles, you know its not like the bowl you used to get. While you don’t need a bowl, and probably want to save room for all the other food, coming, its just interesting how the restaurant business (in general) has cut back by 75% or more on these normally “free” items. No exaggeration, there were only about 7 pieces in the rather small bowl. I admit to sneaking a few since my brother was late. I can’t even blame him. There is more snow on the ground than there has been that I can ever recall, many 2-lane roads are now only 1 because of the snow accumulation. On the highways there are more potholes than you can count. But after 20 mins of waiting, I exercised my right to order an appetizer even if my guest did not like it. I figured he can always order another and I would happily take home the leftovers. The litmus test for any Chinese restaurant is the rice and the ribs in my opinion. So, I get the spare ribs appetizer. They were ver moist, almost wet, very tender, and while they were good, I really like my ribs dry, with less sauce, but very tender. I notice my brother was adding the hot mustard to it. I didn’t think they were tasteless, and they were not especially sweet, but something was lacking, but not the way they were cooked. The were cooked perfectly, and I am not sure if it was the sauce or the fact they were too wet with sauce which detracted from the usual staple of Chinese ribs.
When I was seated, the hostess brought me over the basic lunch specials menu (basically you choseI know my brother loves duck, and it is his birthday, so I suggest he tries one of the duck dishes from the Chef’s Specialty menu. I did not know he would order the Peking Duck (I see this dish often because I shoot a lot of weddings), however, it sounded really good: Peking Duck marinated and roasted until golden brown with crispy skin, sliced into small pieces and served with pancakes with scallions and special Hoi Sin Sauce.
What was great and unexpected, the server brought it to the table and assembled it just before us with great skill and style.
Honestly, I enjoyed the leg pieces much more. A little dry, but I much prefer it. The scallions were too young, lacking flavor, and too crisp to chew through. The skin was perfection, just as I enjoy my whole roasted pig.
The other dish was Crispy Prawns & Scallops with stir-fry with chef’s specially tangy sauce and walnuts. What impressed me was the scallops were more than double that of the shrimp. Usually the shrimp are a cheaper ingredient, however, in this case they had twice as many scallops. They were served on a bed of lettuce and a generous amount of candied walnut halves.
I could not place the taste, it certainly was tangy as was the description. But my brother has a finer palate for Asian than I do and pointed out that you can never get as close to cooking Asian food as you get dining out because they use a lot of ketchup. How ironic that they use the number one condiment to flavor the dishes Americans love most when they think they are experiencing cultural dishes. The fact is, ketchup is made with other than the obvious concentrated tomato, also vinegar and sugar (more commonly corn syrup). I tasted it again and it was obvious this was thinned-out ketchup with extra sugar added which gave it the “tangy” flavor.
When the bill came, it only came to $55 including tip (18%), so no complaints here. So, thats what I basically am finding when it comes to lunch, from pubs to taverns to sushi or whatever, $50 is the average, basic and reasonable price for a lunch unless you settle for a chain or franchise restaurant.
Mr. Chu Chinese Restaurant (Phone: 973-887-7555)
44 Route 10, East Hanover NJ 07936