PROVO With its sunny yellow walls and sleek and sophisticated decor, Shoots, Utah Valley's newest restaurant for high-end Chinese dining, is inviting as soon as one enters the door. Happily it remains appealing with a generous selection of entrees that are delectable and many appetizers that really are appealing.
Like P.F. Chang's in Orem, one of its specialties is the lettuce wrap featuring minced chicken, but unlike Chang's mixture of hot, medium or mild liquid options, these wraps come with a plum paste called hoisin. They are delicious, and when you order them at night, they are double the price but more than double the pleasure. During the evening they are made with minced prawns sauteed with onion and bamboo shoots and topped with peanuts and noodles. As I nibbled on them slowly in an effort to prolong the pleasure, I briefly thought I might be in heaven.
If you dine during lunch, you get the soup of the day, which alternates from day to day between hot and sour and egg drop. Both are good, but my dining friends were disappointed the day we were there because they prefer a milder egg drop to the decidedly full-bodied hot and sour which I devoured.
Most of the lunch specials are $7.50 and come with fried won ton, egg roll, soup and rice. The mu shu crepe, which features a paper thin pancake that holds a generous mixture of pork, chicken or vegetables, is delicious, as is the lemon chicken, with its crispy exterior and abundant lemon flavor. Less satisfying is the Mongolian beef, which is loaded with vegetables but lacking a strong, distinctive flavor, and the tangerine beef, a marinated dish with a sauce that seemed a little bitter. These are mere quibbles, however, when you can select blissful honey roasted walnut prawns with a sophisticated sauce and crunchy nuts or the hot and spicy Szechwan eggplant with prawns.
It's always a good idea to try what the chef considers his or her trademark dishes, and Shoots has several of them, ranging from a hot garlic chicken, the Kung Pao three fairy tales (a happily ever after mixture of shrimp, chicken and beef sauteed with vegetables and peanuts in a chili pepper sauce) to the before mentioned wraps and walnut prawns. I suspect it will be worth returning to try all his specialties.
Soy sauce is nowhere to be seen on the tables, but if you ask for it, the server will gladly provide it. Perhaps it's insulting to add sauce to dishes already prepared with their own subtle or not so subtle sauces. It might be the equivalent to asking for ketchup to smother on a tender fillet cooked to perfection.
While Chinese restaurants are not generally known for their desserts, it might be worth trying a Shoots exclusive that begins with shaved ice and tops off with a combination of fresh fruits and cream.
Rating: *** 1/2
Address: 4801 N. University No. 820, Provo
Hours: Monday-Saturday, lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m., dinner: 5-9:30 p.m.
Entrees: lunch, $7.50-9.95, dinner, $8.95-$12.95, $15.95 for special dinner for two or more
Charlene Winters is a freelance writer, former food editor and food judge who when she's not in the kitchen works as the director of communications and marketing for Brigham Young University alumni. Contact her at email@example.com.