Joy Luck Restaurant in Sandy is proof that you can't judge things by a first glance.
Seen driving by on State Street, Joy Luck's gray cinderblock exterior blends in with the play equipment dealer next door, looking like another warehouse-type business.
But go around to park in what seems like the back, and you'll realize it's actually the front. Go in for dinner, and you'll enjoy a menu of the kind of stuff you expect to see in a Chinese restaurant, and quite a lot of stuff you wouldn't.
We took the kids to Joy Luck for an early weekend dinner, and that's a tip for you families: try eating out in the late afternoon instead of regular dinner hours. If you're lucky, hardly anyone will be there and you'll have a better shot at enjoying your family meal without fear of bothering the adults-only parties.
But if Joy Luck's serene, modern, discreetly lit interior said "adults only," the staff's efficient service said something different, welcoming the little ones with booster chairs and lidded cups of soda and hustling out our appetizers as if they fully understood the kids' need for regular diversions.
We started with my daughters' favorite, cream cheese wontons. This particular order of 10 was cooked just right, so they were crisp but not hard, with the standard bright-red sweet-and-sour sauce. We also had potstickers, which almost seemed deep-fried but were delicious, chewily browned outside and savory with ground pork, chicken and veggies inside. They were served with a delicious, housemade hoisin sauce.
We also tried a third appetizer, the lettuce wraps. The flavorful pile of chicken and minced vegetables was nicely browned and tasted both fresh and well-seasoned. They came with a big wedge of iceberg for wrapping, and I enjoyed its crisp coolness with the warm filling more than I expected to, though its firm leaves were a little hard to roll up.
My husband was happy to see almond chicken on Joy Luck's menu. It was a fine example of its kind, mildly flavored with lots of peas, water chestnuts, celery and almonds complementing the lean, juicy chicken.
At the kids' request, we tried the romantically named "Seven Star With Moon," an order of the classic Happy Family with seven breaded butterflied shrimp on top. I had to laugh at the notion of adding fried shrimp to the Happy Family, which has about a million ingredients as it is: plump stir-fried shrimp, chicken, sliced beef, red-rubbed char sil pork, broccoli, snow peas, zucchini, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrots, baby corn and fresh mushrooms, all in a fragrant garlic sauce. The shrimp on top were dry but had strong oceany flavor and crisp, delicate breading.
We also had beef with lots of bright-green snow peas, also in garlic sauce and also featuring lots of extra veggies. I'd have liked to try one of the more spicy dishes, like curry chicken or twice-cooked pork, and Joy Luck has lots of dishes I've rarely (or never) seen on another Chinese menu: chicken in strawberry puree sauce topped with fresh strawberries, battered chicken tossed with fresh mango, salmon topped with "caramelized Thai sauce" over asparagus.
But my adventurous side had to be content with the delicious fruit salad, organic baby greens with pert grape tomatoes and shredded carrots, topped generously with fresh sliced mangoes, strawberries and pineapple and served with a sweet, gingery dressing studded with sesame seeds.
Not exactly a dessert (we relied on our fortune cookies for that), but a sweet addition to any meal.Appetizers $1-$10, soup and salad $1.75-$6.75, noodles and rice $5.25-$8.75, lunch special $5.75-6.25, entrees $7.25-$12.95, combination style dinners start at $16 per person for appetizer, soup or salad and entree.
Where: 10745 S. State, Sandy (also at 566 W. 1350 South, Woods Cross)
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sunday, noon-8 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards accepted
Phone: 501-0388 (298-0388 in Woods Cross)
Wheelchair access: EasyAlso: Takeout, catering, banquet facilities available
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: email@example.com