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.