I’m no expert in ethnic food. Try as I may, I just can’t seem to get it all straight. In India there’s Mughlai, Goan, and Kashmiri food. Italy’s offerings include Sicilian, Roman, and Calabrian. Before globalization, it probably took a lifetime to fully understand the nuances of regional food.
Today, the constant barrage of options can leave my taste buds spinning.
So when I first went to China Road I knew it was going to be one of those nights I let my expectations give in to my intrepid dining spirit. It’s not that I was afraid of Chinese food—I’ve eaten more than my share of Foo Young and added “between the sheets” to the fortunes in many a cookie. It’s just that this was…different.
You’ll be seated politely and with class at tables dressed in stark white, dotted with red triangular napkins. This Chinese restaurant is different than many others, in that it has three menus: one traditional, one vegetarian, and one “regular,” or American-style.
Wikipedia tells me that while vegetables are used mostly as a garnish in American Chinese, the traditional dishes feature vegetables right up front. I also learn that the real McCoy is more “pungent,” and that it’s more slowly and delicately cooked. Despite not knowing these things, I was sold on the traditional menu right away.
I had a Tsingtao (their only half-interesting beer), and shared some Szechuan Spicy Dumplings to start (our third pick—they had run out of everything else). Our server delivered tea, spicy marinated radishes, and a plate of these delicious crispy wonton-type snacks with a sweet dipping sauce. I could’ve filled up right there and left happy.
Then came our main course: the market-priced “Crispy Whole Fish in Brown Sauce.” We were told it was sea bass, and it arrived cloaked in breading and still steaming. All around it lay the makings of a perfect Chinese meal — swollen garlic cloves, shitake mushrooms and scallions, suspended in a thick brown pool.
Sautéed Snow Pea Greens made up the vegetable side of an already gluttonous spread. I had asked our server earlier what was in the “Eight Treasure Vegetable” dish. His answer: “some vegetables.” I learned quickly just to trust him and not ask too many questions.
China Road is a lovely little spot. You’ll need to make a reservation, especially if you plan on dining on a weekend. It’s also fun to go “out of town” for an evening, though the drive out to Mattydale is totally manageable. You can even make it a “dinner and a movie” night and see a cheap flick at the Hollywood Theater across the street. The prices, on the traditional menu at least, are reasonable—even for strapped students.
2204 Brewerton Road
~ Jennifer Ward