Let’s Hear it One More Time: Haaaappy Rabbit!
By Antoinette May Herndon
Hippity hop. It’s the Year of the Rabbit! Maybe the advent of this auspicious cycle escaped you. Perhaps you missed the welcoming festivities because crummy weather or a nagging cold kept you indoors. Or maybe it was a bad case of the blahs brought on by all the hoop-de- doo surrounding more familiar holidays.
But now, with the Caucasian New Year safely into training pants, how about belated homage to the Chinese Year of the Rabbit? What better time to celebrate the diverse traditions of good food introduced to the foothills some 160 years ago?
Now as then, noodles— symbolizing long life and good health—are a mainstay. Rice is also popular—a perfect foil to the chilli and spices, garlic and shallots that contribute to the distinction of Chinese cuisine. The cooking style is based on opposites—hot balances cold, pickled counters fresh and spicy defies mild.
Food is generally prepared in bite -sized pieces. In traditional Chinese cultures, chopsticks are used, but local restaurants are forgiving with always a fork handy.
There are those who see something dark about Chinese restaurants, a little odd or mystifying. Along with the colors, the symbols, the strange language, they pick up a sense of subtle intrigue.
I couldn’t tell you about that. I’m always too busy just picking up on the food. Here are a few favourite Chinese eateries:
DRAGON PALACE— As you enter, Su Kong’s lovely face lights up in a warm, welcoming smile. No matter how long it’s been since the last visit, she knows you and remembers what you like.
The San Andreas bistro has a secret treasure, a side dish that’s not on the menu. Ask for the Hot and Spicy Eggplant. ($6.50). It’s delicious. Cheese Wonton ($5.25) is good too. The cheese is lush and rich with a warm, crispy casing.
Mu Shu Pork ($6.95) and Broccoli and Beef ($7.25) are excellent entrees, but my special favourite is Shrimp With Cashews. I’ve relished this dish at Shanghai 1930 in the City
and the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong but San Andreas’s Dragon Palace out -does them both.
I like the restaurant’s ambience too. The décor has that traditional Chinese grace and subtle excitement enhanced by exotic hanging lanterns. Dragons, dragons everywhere. And you know how lucky they are.
GOOD FRIENDS RESTAURANT—has a Shanghai 1930s ambience that’s pleasant, inviting and just a little mysterious. Here’s the exotic East right in Valley Springs.
The menu at Good Friends is complex. The more people, the more food, as in many Chinese restaurants; it all looks and tastes good and the price is surely right. They must do it on volume because there’s no skimping on portions.
Charles especially digs the crab legs. They’re enormous, easy to crack and succulent. I love the tender fresh shrimp; and, though not very exotic, the fried chicken.
The buffet is $7.60 for lunch, $11.75 for dinner. The other night we had glasses of the house white, ($4.50) the best chardonnay I’ve had in a long time—not too dry, not to sweet with a crisp, fruity flavor.
PANDA— The Chinese décor at Panda is engaging with dark lacquered tables, paper lantern chandeliers and oriental artwork. Service in the Martell eatery is immediately attentive.
Though the food is authentic Chinese—don’t go there if you don’t want Chinese because there’s nothing else on the menu—the management caters to a Caucasian clientele. There’s nary a chopstick in sight.
Fried won ton with cheese is a good appetizer choice. Twelve of them for $3.25, crisp and cheesy-rich, are more than enough to share. Charles and I also enjoyed a side of snow peas with mushrooms and water chestnuts ($6.60) with steamed rice ($1).
The chef’s special I chose—beef and scallops in sizzling sauce ($10.95)--was short on beef and scallops but the sauce and crisp vegetables were tasty. Charles was pleased with his Mu Shu Shrimp ($8.95).
Our wait person, Jenny Ye, was pretty and pleasant. Fast, friendly and efficient service is definitely a plus at Panda. Price is another consideration,
THE GOLDEN WOK—has a pleasantly low-keyed ambience. The lighting is dim, classical music plays softly in the background. Goldfish glide about a large fish tank, pausing often to look out quizzically.
Though there’s an extensive menu, most opt for the buffet. ($10.50) I found the bacon wrapped in sausage a highlight also zucchini fried in batter. An excellent won ton soup is offered with the buffet. Don’t miss it.
Steamed dumplings are popular, also sweet and sour pork and chicken with garlic sauce. Tsingtao beer ($3.50) is a good complement.
I found the noodles awfully chewy on my last visit. In fact, everything tasted a little warmed over. My feeling is that the Gold Wok is at its best at lunch.
VITALS: ` The Dragon Palace is located at 314 East St. Charles St., San Andreas. Phone: 754-3867. Both mandarin and szechuan food are served from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day but Monday. Credit cards accepted.
Good Friends Restaurant is at the corner of highways 12 and 26, but the official address is 9 California St., Valley Springs. Phone: 772-0888. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Credit cards accepted.
Panda, 12300 Martell Rd., Martell. Phone: 223-3474.. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for lunch. Dinner is from 5 to 9 p.m. Credit cards accepted.
Golden Wok—11984 Hwy. 88, Jackson. Phone; 223-1476. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Closed Monday. Credit cards accepted.
PICTURES Dragon Palace
The interior conveys Far Eastern charm
Su Kong welcome guests in her Dragon Palace. Su Kong serves patrons Marion and Bryan Lauter.
Pictures, Good Friends
There’s lots to choose from at Good Friends in Valley Springs.
Valley Spring’s landmark restaurant, Good Friends, has an inviting interior.
Jenny Ye brings a sizzling plate of beef and scallops.
Panda’s exterior is serene and inviting.
Panda is a beacon in Martell
The Gold Wok
It’s everyone for themselves at the Gold Wok.