So I have to say I sort of have a bad habit of judging Chinese restaurants by their “cover.” Well, by the way they look outside. Happy Dragon is a place I drive by at least once, if not twice every day, and I often shop at the Kroger next door. Honestly, I never thought I would step foot inside.
I was having lunch with a friend on a very limited time frame in the area, and for whatever reason, we decided to try it. It is a small place, with maybe 6-8 booths and a little counter where you order. Interestingly they bring you your food served in take out containers, even if you are eating there, which I guess is convenient if you are going to take the leftovers home, and saves them from having a dishwasher I guess, but I tend to prefer to sit and eat a meal on actual dishes. But maybe I am too high maintenance.
The prices are reasonable for lunch. For around $5, you get the entrée and either fried or steamed rice and a choice of soup, egg roll, or a can of soda. I splurged and got the soup and a can of soda (my meal was $4.95 plus the soda). I started with the hot and sour soup because I had just had such a good one at Sesame the other day, and was in the mood. So the thing about the soup, there was lots of good stuff in it, tofu, wood ear mushrooms, button mushrooms and bamboo shoots. It certainly had the distinct sour flavor and a little bit of the heat. But my problem was that it was really over-starched for me. It came across as too gelatinous which is something I really don’t care for. For me, I like this kind of soup to be…well, soupy. A thinner broth, rather than something this thickened.
As for my entrée, I went with one of my standbys, garlic chicken, because I am now determined to find a really good one. And it is sort of nice to compare the same dish from place to place sometimes. Unfortunately, this is not going to be a repeat dish (or most likely a repeat restaurant). There was a generous amount of chicken and veggies (a lot of broccoli, some mini corn, green bell pepper, and water chestnuts). Again, though, my biggest problem was with the overwhelming amount of starch in the sauce (and maybe even corn syrup?). It was sticky and gloppy, and this is not how I like my Chinese food (or anything else). It reminded me of the stuff you can buy in a bottle that is supposed to replicate Chinese food at home. You needed a wet wipe after you ate it. The chicken was all white, and while not exceedingly tender, wasn’t bad. The veggies were certainly on the crisp side, but everything was so coated with the sauce, that honestly, I didn’t eat that much of it. And, hello, can I please get a garlic chicken with some garlic in it?
So, I guess maybe I should listen to my instinct more about judging a place by its appearance. At least in this case, anyway, because it turns out I was right. And when I compare this meal to my recent pretty much identical one at least in name at Sesame (which wasn’t perfect), but was so much better, I know I will not be walking through the door of this place again. So, come on people, let’s hear your suggestions. Who has the best Chinese in town?
5868 E. 71st Street