Sampan is one of those Chinese restaurants that want to please American diners — and I mean that in the best possible way.
Besides shrimp, there's no seafood on this menu. There's no offal and nothing glutinous and nothing that's been buried for 100 days.
The absence of these "authentic" Chinese touches isn't surprising; I doubt many people would order them. The menu has a few nods to the evolution of diners' tastes in Asian food — Vietnamese-style egg rolls with vermicelli, lettuce wraps, pad Thai — but by and large, this is traditional American Chinese done well.
Sampan is a good place to take the family, though there were plenty of adults-only tables on the recent weekend that we visited for lunch.
Besides the natural attractions of Chinese food, with its kid-friendly noodles, rice and bite-size pieces, the staff was hospitable to our little ones, supplying a high chair, lidded cups and friendly conversation.
They also started us off with bowls of crispy fried wonton strips and pots of bright-red sweet-and-sour sauce for dipping.
But we really got going when the sizzling bo bo platter, complete with flaming pot, tiny grill and four dipping sauces, arrived on the table.
The menu says this mixed appetizer is for two, but it did nicely for our party of two adults and four kids.
The kids pounced on the cream-cheese wontons, which I avoid unless they're the kind with crab, and the simple sheets of fried wonton skin.
However, tantalizing smells soon led the kids to the slightly more exotic delights of the juicy and beautifully seasoned paper-wrapped chicken and the chewy, red-rubbed barbecue pork.
They also loved heating the savory, sesame-sprinkled beef on a stick over the little grill, though their dad and I got to eat most of it, as well as the shrimp and the crispy egg rolls.
I had a cup of peppery, complex hot-and-sour soup with tofu, bamboo shoots and egg, and my 8- and 6-year-old daughters ordered Asian noodle soup with chicken.
They were delighted when a huge, steaming bowl piled with chicken and veggies was set in front of them. They used chopsticks to dig down to the chewy golden noodles steeped in strong, savory broth.
Eventually, all the kids were clustered around that soup.
That was OK with my husband and me, because it meant more almond chicken, snowball shrimp and ham-fried rice for us.
The rice was fresh, lightly oiled and full of ham and egg, and the almond chicken reminded me a bit of chow mein with its chopped mix of chicken, carrots, celery, onions and almonds in brown gravy.
The snowball shrimp, presented prettily on a large platter surrounded by steamed broccoli, featured juicy shrimp with wonderfully crispy breading ladled with sweet, snow-white sauce and studded with crunchy walnut halves.
Appetizers $3.25-$12.75, soup and salad $1.95-$7.25, rice and noodles $1.65-$9.55, lunch combo plates $6.75-$6.95, entrees $7.55-$12.95.
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News.
Where: 675 E. 2100 South (other locations in Sandy and West Jordan)
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturday, noon-11 p.m.; Sunday, noon-9:30 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards accepted; no checks
Wheelchair access: Easy
Also: Reservations accepted; online ordering; delivery available with minimum $12 purchase
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