One of the joys of dining out is that, apart from chain restaurants, every eatery has its own twist on things. Not every roux is as dark as others. Spice amounts and mixtures vary. Cooking techniques make familiar cuts of meat seem like something else.
Sometimes, though, one has to look really, really hard to find the nuance. Case in point: New China.
Let’s face facts. Except for trendier places like P.F. Chang’s, you pretty much know what to expect in a Chinese restaurant — the rice (fried or otherwise), the noodles, the stir-fried meat, all served in generous portions. Sometimes, you’ll discover a surprise hidden among the 100-plus menu items, but that requires some serious searching, if only because the options are so numerous.
And so it is with New China, tucked into a fairly new strip mall across Acadian Thruway from the Baton Rouge General Mid-City parking garage. It’s set up mainly for takeout, with a small dining area, and a menu that touches all the usual bases.
New China’s version of Singapore chicken ($4.99 lunch special) features fried chunks of breast meat in a peppery sauce with onions, green onion and mushrooms over pork fried rice. The attendant described it as both sweet and spicy (as opposed to the next menu item, “Amazing Chicken,” which we were told was spicier). On first bite, we wondered if there was a mix-up in the order, because the spice really got our attention. Yet, though pepper often builds to overpowering levels the more one eats a highly seasoned dish, the underlying sweetness began to kick in, and we enjoyed it quite a bit.
The opposite end of the spectrum was the shrimp with mixed vegetables ($5.99 pint, $8.95 quart). We liked the fact that the vegetables had an al dente quality instead of being cooked to mush, but there was little apparent seasoning in this dish. We don’t mind splashing on some soy sauce, but that should be an accent, not the only source of flavor.
The moo shu pork ($7.99 quart) was somewhere in between, with thin strips of stir-fried pork along with shredded cabbage and onions. It was mild and pleasant.
Similarly, the pepper steak and onion ($4.99 pint, $8.25 quart) had tender beef along with chunks of green bell pepper and onions lightly sauteed and crunchy.
All of our orders came out hot and quickly. But that doesn’t surprise you, does it?