Those of you who read my blog are familiar with my ranting and my eternal quest to find a decent restaurant in my part of the world. Well my wife and I stumbled upon a Chinese restaurant just around the corner from us and I decided to share it with you, just so you see that I can be happy about things once in a while.
So here it is...
The China Diner is located in the Sand Creek Plaza off of Hwy 10 in Coon Rapids. With only 12,000 square feet of restaurant, it is not really suited for sit down dining with 6 tables inside, so it does most of its business in take out.
Upon entering, you see a counter with the cash register and the door to the kitchen, with all the busy sounds that a kitchen makes, not at all unpleasant if you like kitchens. The staff is all young and full of smiles, and willing to make your stay a happy one. The walls are painted a warm color but lack any art or décor at all. But this place is all about the food.
The menu consists of the standard fare: Ten styles of Chow Mein, appetizers, pork, chicken, beef and seafood listings cooked in various styles of the Chinese provinces. They also have vegetarian and eight diverse ways of cooking Egg Foo Young, and the ubiquitous dinner specials and combo offerings.
Starting with the appetizers, the batter fried shrimp are butter flied (split open length wise) and dipped in a thick batter before fried to a golden brown. The end product resembles a beer battered perch filet, with too much batter to be considered anything oriental.
The egg and spring rolls are light and delicious, lacking the over fried oily taste and pervasive Chinese 5 spices that other places use to ruin the flavor profile of the ingredients inside.
The sweet and sour chicken was stir fried in exceptionally clean oil and simply mouth-watering. The Kung Po shrimp did as it said on the menu-delivering two stars of heat that puts a nice sheen on the forehead-and reaching for the water glass. The Pork Fried Rice had about four layers of flavor to it, making it a welcome complement to the entrees. The Lo Mein was a bit busy. Large cut vegetables and fatty meat took away from the idea of the noodle in the dish, but the flavor was spot on.
When you order $20 or more, you also get a free order of cream cheese wontons that make melted butter jealous.
If you forget about the ambiance and concentrate on the food you will enjoy yourself. The owners have only been open for two months, and barring anything terrible, they will succeed tremendously where the previous owners failed.