Chin Chin

Montgomery has terrible Chinese food.

A few years ago we went to East China based on the consensus ranking of Grandma Advertiser’s readers. That was when we learned to be suspicious of the “tastes” of our fellow Montgomerians. Also, we felt a little sick. But we were younger then, and more idealistic, and we thought for sure a place next to the “Oriental Food Mart” would be pretty good. Sadly, we discovered that all Number One China should be known for is its flagrant false advertising. It took us a year or so after that to work up the courage to go to Ming’s Garden out on the Boulevard. I think we’d secretly hoped that place would be good and were “saving” it for a pleasant surprise. Hopes were dashed. Our food there was a basically inedible pile of vegetables in cloying sauce, served in a time-warp array of vinyl booths. We were so depressed, readers, that we could not even bear to write the place up.

But then just the other day we saw a notice in the paper that lifted our spirits – Atlanta staple Chin Chin has opened a branch in Montgomery! One of us spent many years living in Atlanta and eating at Chin Chin. This prompted extremely fond memories, so we went that very evening, all the way out to one of the bleakest parts of the Hellscape (Taylor and Vaughn, where culture goes to die and be reborn as artisanal mantle decorations) on a night when the City was screaming about tornadoes on the Facebook. Nothing could stop us.

We were richly rewarded for our knee-jerk decision to drive across town in possibly dangerous weather. The restaurant is beautiful, warm and inviting. There’s a small sushi bar with seating in the back, but the main dining room is divided by a nice installation of several giant ceramic pots that are also fountains. The water’s noise actually makes the large room seem quiet and intimate.

The menu is surprisingly vast, with sushi, Thai dishes, specialties and even hibachi meals. We ordered the seafood hot and sour soup, vegetable spring rolls, a yellowtail roll, the New Zealand mussels with black bean sauce and Crispy Fish Fillets in Hunan Style. Service was impeccable. All the dishes rolled out quickly (but not too fast) and were easy to share. To start, the seafood hot and sour soup (for two) itself may be worth a trip across town. It’s laced with egg and has just the right vinegar-y sour taste. The vegetable spring rolls were not that great – a little slender for the price, served with a giant vat of pink sauce. But the mussels were pretty amazing, each one extremely meaty and glazed with the salty sauce. As we were cooing over the soup, the yellowtail roll appeared. We are sometimes mostly wary of Montgomery sushi (nothing against any particular place but it just isn’t that great in our experience). This was the best roll we’ve had here in town – impeccably fresh fish, well rolled with not too much rice, perfectly served in the true minimalist style.

And then there was the Hunan style fish. It’s plenty for two (we even took some home for lunch the next day), but your willingness to share it with your dining companion is a true testament to your love. The fish is not so much fried as it is crisped, or something similar, so that there’s barely any batter at all, and finished with a great sauce that’s not too sweet or corn starchy. It comes with a small bowl of fried rice that’s loaded with little bits of egg and not at all greasy. Afterward, of course, there were were fortune cookies – except these were more like personal affirmations (“You look happy and proud”). When we extract text from cookie, we want cryptic prognostication, not vapid compliments.

We left so happy and full, only $35 the poorer for our sumptuous meal.

If only it weren’t so FAR AWAY. Seriously, from our house, it takes 25 minutes each way to get there – way too long for a meal if you’re not out in that part of town already. But maybe you’ll start finding reasons to go there once you eat at Chin Chin. We never, ever say this about the Hellscape, but we really should find a way to support this place. Maybe by somehow teleporting it to Fairview.

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25 responses to “Chin Chin

  1. Great review. I’ll try the place. I hope they have decent vegetarian options.

  2. Vonda, they have many amazing tofu dishes – at least the Atlanta branches do. Let us know what you find out.

  3. I can’t remember: have you guys reviewed Asia Bistro? It’s currently our favorite Chinese option in Montgomery, and by a fairly large margin.

  4. Teleport? If it’s that good, get them to set up a branch in Fairview!

  5. Thanks for the review. We will give it a try. I know Green Papaya is not a Chinese restaurant, but you should give it a try.

  6. Thanks for this! I had no idea there was a new Chinese place in town. I shall dine here very soon!

  7. Montgomery Native

    As usual, nothing locally owned is any good, something from Atlanta is much better than anything in Montgomery, even if it is out in the Graham’s cow pasture on Taylor Road, blah, blah, blah.

    • Montgomery Native, this would be considerably more persuasive if you had any examples of decent Chinese food in town. We’ll try Asia Bistro next time we get out to that side of town (2013 or so), but is this really your characterization of our work? All this shows is that you don’t read our writing.

      • Montgomery Native

        No, I don’t read your writing. I don’t know what your work is, either. Someone mentioned this review, so I read it. I didn’t like the term “The Hellscape”. I didn’t like the put-downs of local places in the first sentence and the first paragraph. The review struck me the way I said in my comment.
        My “as usual” lumps you in with others in other forums who describe what’s wrong with Montgomery before they get to what’s right.
        What’s decent food for me would not be decent for another. I have different tastes. I may try Chin Chin sometime. Thank you for that part of the review.
        I will go away now.

      • I’ve read a bit more of your blog than this person and know that you actually yearn for decent locally-owned businesses, but doesn’t it bother you that this is someone’s first impression of your work?

        I will agree that your constant “hellscape” comments are just grating. We get it. You don’t like Eastchase. Obviously I’m not in your target market seeing as I live out east, and I understand your feelings about urban sprawl (or whatever label you want to put on it), but come on.

        Also, how FAR AWAY is it really? It takes me about 25 minutes on a busy weekday morning to get from clear out past the Mitylene exit to downtown for work. What are you looking at, 10 miles tops? Plus, you know that in a larger city like Atlanta which you speak of it easily takes 25 minutes to get ANYWHERE, and then when you do get where you’re going and are fortunate enough to find a parking space, you’re in for at least a 30-45 minute wait to get seated because it’s so busy. While I wish that Montgomery had a larger variety of quality restaurants, I appreciate that it doesn’t take very long to get anywhere, and there’s usually not much of a wait.

    • I won’t respond to Montgomery Native’s comment because there’s no substance to it. Our review of a restaurant is similar to other things that unnamed other people sometimes say about Montgomery? Oh. OK. Thanks for that. But as for Nateekin’s question about whether we are “bothered” by someone’s stupid Internet comment? The answer is no. The world is full of people who can’t back up what they say. They are welcome to screech and skitter back to their holes, just as we are free to fire away at their poorly-supported opinions.

      We are glad that you continue to check in on LiM, even though you don’t think you are in our “target market.” Fact is, we don’t have a market. If you like to eat food, you might want to read our reviews. Or maybe you just want to read them because they contain interesting writing. But maybe you hate our taste in food and our writing. That’s OK too. You’re welcome to muster a defense of the soul-crushing, environment-damaging urban sprawl fueled by racism and explain why that part of town shouldn’t be called the Hellscape. I’d love to hear your robust defense of your “neighborhood,” if you even have one of those. But just saying “don’t call it that” makes me think we should have named it the Whine-scape.

      • I agree with what you say about random comments on a blog not getting to you. If you’re going to put your words out in a public forum such as this you should have a thick skin. That’s a good attitude to have overall, but I also hope that you would keep an open mind and look for the constructive part of the criticism. That is of course if there is any to be found. Not all criticism is constructive. Blah blah blah.

        I don’t have a defense of urban sprawl in general, but I can tell you my personal reasons for living east of town if you’re interested at all.

        We moved to Montgomery a little over two years ago. Before we made the move, we were told by people we trusted that the best public school was Blount Elementary, so we looked for houses in that school district. We also looked at crime maps, and even though some people had advised we look in the Cloverdale area, the crime rate is simply too high there for us to feel safe (you’ve mentioned being awoken by gunshots in the night on several occasions, which is something I can honestly say I’ve never experienced living in the Hellscape.). As for my neighborhood, we enjoy the fact that there’s a nice public swimming pool with lifeguards and safe places for our children to ride their bicycles, two things we would not have in certain areas closer to downtown.

        If my wife and I did not have children, we would probably be living in a loft downtown. We actually prefer a more urban environment. If there was a more active city center with acceptable public schools and safe public parks, we would probably live downtown even with the kids. In the time we’ve been here, I’m already seeing positive change, and I certainly hope that in time downtown Montgomery can be revitalized and become a modern city, but we’re only here temporarily with my job and we admittedly took the easy way out.

        There you go. I’m not sure how “robust” that was, but that’s what I’ve got.

      • Thanks for your reasonable follow-up Nateekins.

  8. BTW, we went to Chin Chin last night and rated it “pretty good”. As a vegetarian who doesn’t eat seafood, my rating of of any particular restaurant may be somewhat lower, given that my choices will typically constrained to just a few items on the menu. In any case, I had the vegetable spring rolls and then split the moo shi vegetable and the general tso’s tofu with someone. While the spring rolls and tofu dish were okay, he moo shi vegetable was a clear winner: unlike most restaurants, it had not just cabbage, but also snap peas, carrots, broccoli, and other stuff, and it wasn’t drowning in soy sauce. I also give Chin Chin high marks for ambiance, way better than any other Chinese restaurant in Montgomery.

  9. If you’d lived in Montgomery more than two years, you’d know about Ming’s Garden.

  10. Then that’s your fault, snobs.

  11. Ming’s Garden? No thanks. Tried it once or twice and I agree with the review. Bad, dated and predictable.

    One test of an oriental restaurant is to look around and observe how many customers are eating with chopsticks. None? That says something.

    I think my worse Chinese restaurant experience was back in 1979. We were hungry for Chinese food and found a place in West St. Paul MN. Full of elderly people devouring the special for that evening–SPAGHETTI! We just couldn’t bring ourselves to eat there.

  12. Read the review of this restaurant in the Montgomery Advertiser.

    The reviewer ate stuff with sticky sweet sauces. Urg.

    She lists one of the specialties as chow mein. Urg.

    And they give it a rare Four Forks. Double Urg.

  13. MEOW!! Pull the claws in, for heaven’s sake! I don’t live in Montgomery anymore, visit usually once a year. I saw this review referenced in a comment to a friend so thought I’d read your thoughts on the restaurant. I certainly didn’t expect to end up reading snide, snarky, catty, rude, condescending remarks about ‘neighborhoods’ and ‘urban sprawl’ that don’t meet your personal preferences and seem beneath consideration. More than once you comment ‘out to that side of town’ as if it were beneath consideration for anything – where do you shop?? Let’s face it — there aren’t that many options that aren’t on the east side of town. Or do you bypass it altogether for trips (back) to the urban sprawl of Atlanta where you probably can’t get much of anywhere in 25 minutes?

    Not all neighborhoods have to have tree-lined streets with 100-year-old homes. I have friends and family who have lived for several years in the quiet, well-developed, safe neighborhoods of the general area you so scathingly refer to as “Hellscape”. Apparently, you have used that term often enough that frequent readers find it ‘grating’ – maybe you should stop.

    • Anyone who says there aren’t options outside of the greater white flight co-prosperity zone is either not looking or measuring prosperity by the ever-popular PTBGI (Proximity to Bonefish Grill Index). Mirolex, you’re right to observe that frequent readers may find the term “hellscape” to be grating. We find ourselves wondering why those readers are frequent. Or, frankly, readers. Lost in Montgomery has clear views about the east side, and most of them are less than positive. Sometimes we have to go of necessity (for comic books, mostly, and sometimes trips to the DMZ Boulevard) – like Orpheus into the underworld. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it. And we certainly want to avoid looking back.

      • With the river, farm/dairy land, and the airport, there aren’t a lot of options for expansion. What is it about the east side that so obviously rubs you the wrong way?

  14. Where do I shop? Except for groceries at the Zelda Rd. Publix, , basically I don’t.

    I have clothes of various sizes to last me the rest of my life.

    Ah, yes, once in a great while I have to buy paper or ink at Office Depot. (I refuse to enter a Wal-Mart.) My bank is on Zelda Rd. Restaurants are there, too, just up from Publix. Of course, there are the Old Cloverdale restaurants.

    I’m happy to avoid the Hellscape as well as Eastdale Mall. Doubly happy that Fresh Market has moved to Perry Hill.

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