Authentic Chinese at “Mr. Chen’s”
Posted by bhamfoodscoop on July 26, 2010
Can’t afford to go to China right now, but want the good authentic food that it’s known for? No need to worry, I’ve got the solution for you. “Mr. Chen’s”, located in the Hoover Court Shopping Center (next to Green Valley Drugstore), is the perfect place to visit. It is a small family owned restaurant that specializes in authentic Taiwanese and regional Chinese dishes. This was unlike any other Chinese restaurant that I have ever been to.
Last week I visited “Mr. Chen’s” and automatically saw and felt how different it is, compared to other Chinese restaurants in the area. It started with me seeing the waitresses wear their authentic colorful Chinese gowns, and the waiter wearing his white dress shirt and black pants. The inside of the restaurant is nice, modern, quaint, and has just been newly remodeled. We went after lunch time, so we had just missed the crowd.
The only male waiter took us to our table which was located next to the cash register and the television. “Mr. Chen’s” is so authentic that the television only showed Chinese channels; how awesome! Even though I couldn’t understand what the people on TV were saying, I was amazed because I had never seen Chinese TV before.
After I got over the television, the waiter brought us the menus to look over. The menu was like a mini book, it was divided into different sections, such as Lunch Specials, Cold Plate/ Appetizer, Chicken/Beef, Seafood/Tofu, Pork/Noodle/Rice, Specialty Drinks, Specialty Dessert, and Beer. Whew, that’s a lot, but you definitely have many options to choose from. I like options!
During our visit to “Mr. Chen’s”, we wanted to be adventurous and eat like we were in Taiwan or China. Furthermore, we wanted all aspects of our meal to be exotic, even the drinks. So my friend, Stefan, ordered the “Honey Green Tea” and it was served cold. My cousin, Ryan, and I ordered the “Peach Flower Slush” and this drink was perfect for the hot weather. It was freshly made while we waited.
After we got our drinks, we ordered appetizers that we all shared with each other. I got a large bowl of the “Seafood Hot & Sour Soup” and it consisted of a tasty, almost sour and spicy soup broth. And some of the other obvious items in it were pieces of octopus, large shrimp, radish, scallions, and mushrooms. This soup had a taste that I had to get used to, but after repeated sips, it grew on me. It also came with crisp won-tons, but I didn’t really enjoy them because I’m used to the excellent won-tons at “PF Chang’s”, and these won-tons didn’t taste fresh; they didn’t have any salt and they were cold. Overall, we enjoyed the unique flavor of the soup, just not the crisp won-tons that came with it.
Stefan ordered the “Steamed Dumplings” as an appetizer. This dish consisted of eight steamed dumplings that were stuffed with shrimp and ground pork. The dumplings were served with a ginger dipping sauce. I believe that you must have an acquired taste for these dumplings because the outside dough creates a slimy feel in your mouth, and it tastes almost like dough. However, the stuffing was awesome and if you dip the entire dumpling into the ginger dipping sauce, it has an excellent taste. Furthermore, I enjoyed the dumplings. I just couldn’t eat them too often.
While we were waiting on our entrees, our waiter was very informative about many of the dishes that the restaurant serves. I wanted to learn as much as I could about this genuine Asian cuisine.
After about 15 minutes of waiting, which wasn’t long, our entrees came out. Ryan and I ordered something that many Americans know about, from other Chinese restaurants, and that is the “Kung Pao Chicken”. However, before I ordered this dish, I told the waiter what I wanted and this was his recommendation. He told me that their “Kung Pao Chicken” is unlike any other Chinese restaurant in the Birmingham area and with that being said, I decided to order it. This dish consisted of chopped pieces of actual chicken breast that was mixed with pieces of zucchini, onion, and peanuts, in a sweet & spicy sauce. The sauce was sweeter than other “Kung Pao Chicken” dishes that I’ve had. It also came with fried rice, and an egg roll. I really enjoyed this dish, it was very good and honestly it is the best “Kung Pao Chicken” that I’ve ever had; you should know that it takes a lot for me to say that!
Stefan was a little more adventurous and ordered the “Braised Beef Belly in Hot Pot”. We were all amazed when this dish came out because it was served in a big, round silver pot that had a flame inside of it, and the flame was used to keep the beef belly broth sizzling. This dish consisted of the beef belly, a dark broth, potatoes, green bell peppers, and some type of green leaf. I sampled this dish and it was excellent. The beef belly and its broth had the taste and flavor of “ox tails”. Stefan enjoyed this dish, as well!
Our Chinese adventure was capped off with the fortune cookie tradition. And I’m sad to say that the fortune cookies didn’t taste good to me, at all. They had a stale taste to them, so I never want those again. Other than that, our experience was tasty and unique. I pushed myself to try new authentic flavors and dishes; I’m very proud of that!
Keep in mind that my American perspective, of this food, played a big part in the way I felt about it. There are many people who might enjoy every aspect of what I ate, or the whole menu at “Mr. Chen’s”; it’s just gonna take more experience with authentic Chinese food, for me to make it to that point. “Mr. Chen’s” is the best place for people who want authentic Taiwanese and Chinese food. They have reasonable prices, and numerous dishes that allow you to gradually get your palate used to their exotic cuisine.