WEST JORDAN — There are so many things I like about American Chinese restaurants.
There are the fulsome, sometimes slightly fractured descriptions on the menu ("shrimp prepare in an exquisite sauce worthy of an emperor or empress"). The massive number of choices. The chance to try both old favorites and promising new foods.
But there's one thing I often don't like: the food. As good as a Chinese restaurant meal can be, there's hardly anything worse than a bad one, where all the sauces taste the same, the "meat" can barely be chewed and the veggies are all limp, brownish and tasting of the can they came from.
That's why I'm often hesitant to try new Chinese places, let alone review them. I've been disappointed more often than I've been pleased.
But I was pleased last weekend, when after a day of holiday shopping, we stopped at West Jordan's China House for dinner. The place is clean, pretty and has excellent service, and the food is good.
We started with the pot stickers and crab and cream cheese wontons, both family favorites when they're done right.
These starters were more than right, the pot stickers chewy and just-crisped outside, with a delicious savory filling, and the wontons prettily folded and crispy outside and filled with a mellow, simply flavored blend of crab and cream cheese. There was the standard dark, pungent sauce for the pot stickers and that bright-red sweet stuff for the wontons.
China House offers kids' meals, but another of my favorite things about Chinese restaurants is eating family-style. In other words, we all shared everything, so we had to order a lot.
Almond chicken is a must at our table when we can find it, and this version was nice, a gently savory sauce that showed off the flavors of tender chicken, water chestnuts, carrots, celery, zucchini, onions and those cute baby corns that my kids fight over every time we have Chinese food.
We also usually order beef with broccoli and enjoyed China House's version. It tasted fresher than the average, with nice strong garlic flavors, plenty of meat (though some of it was a bit too chewy) and crisp-tender broccoli and carrots.
Our kids wouldn't let us get away with skipping ham-fried rice, which in this case was nearly as much salty diced ham as seasoned rice, with egg, peas, carrots and onions. My second daughter, a meat lover, picked every bit of ham out of her portion, and it was still tasty meatless.
Because I was missing my mom, we had one of her favorites, the vegetable lo mein. She would like the lo mein at China House, as the tender sauced noodles were bursting with scallions, carrots, corn, bok choy, onions and bean sprouts.
But the star of the meal, for me, was the walnut shrimp, as good a rendering as I've had anywhere with huge, sweet and crispy breaded shrimp in a sweet white sauce with loads of candied walnuts sprinkled on top. At other places in the valley, you'll pay a lot more for walnut shrimp that's not this good. It was nicely presented, too, in a carefully piled-up mound surrounded by a wreath of fresh, emerald-green broccoli.
There's sushi on offer at China House, and a special sushi chef all ready to make some, but I'll save that for another visit. Luckily for me, I've found another Chinese place good enough that I actually want to come back.
Lunch specials $5.95-$6.95, appetizers $2.25-$7.95, soup $1.50-$7.95, noodles and rice $5.55-$7.95, entrees $7.95-$13.95, kids' meals $3.55-$4.50.
Where: 1573 W. 9000 South, West Jordan
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon-9 p.m.
Payment: Major credit cards accepted
Wheelchair access: Easy
Also: Lunch served Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; takeout and catering available
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer for the Deseret News. E-mail: [email protected]