Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008
Though it’s not new, Fresh China has been flying low on the radar. Headed up by the former owner of China Room, the menu is heavy on organics, seasonal vegetables and advertises its use of local Rocky Range chicken. In the former Mongolian BBQ space in Coddingtown Mall (by Sakura), the restaurant still features an all-you-can-eat BBQ and plenty of familiar
Americanized dishes. But that’s not what you’re here for.
The menu is full of unique and/or (according to my sources) authentic dishes. Some of the highlights: steamed Shanghai dumplings; tea-smoked duck with steamed buns; pine nut seaweed fried rice; Singapore rice noodles with shrimp, pork and curry sauce; fresh watercress & fig soup; Pillow tofu (fried, crushed tofu with shitake mushrooms and cilantro); and on and on. The menu actually lists about 200 items–not including the daily specials–which I recommend trying.
I took my chances with a rather vague sounding shrimp, fresh mint and chilies dish that turned out to be intensely flavorful and aromatic. Aside from arriving in a pie plate (okay, a little weird), you can’t go wrong mixing up fresh herbs, large shrimp and a medley of peppers, onions, squash, zucchini and Portobello mushrooms with a little fish sauce (my tastebuds tell me) for acidity and garlic. Spot on.
After dropping in on Kirin, Royal China and several of your other recommendations (with varying degrees of success, but more on that later), what struck me immediately about Fresh China was the quality of the ingredients, clean flavors, solid service (tea is brought immediately) and personal touch of the chef (he makes the rounds and is clearly concerned with your experience).
Yeah, the digs are pretty lackluster, with the bright orange paint and neon signs serving as more of a deterrent than a welcome, but come on, this is Chinese. You’re not here for the ambiance. And with food this good, I’ll venture to guess you won’t be hungry again in an hour.