Finally, Good Chinese Food
Having worked in Boston for the last ten years prior to our arrival into Charleston in June, I am no stranger to Chinese take-out. The weather can be so inclement that you don’t dare venture out for lunch during many months of the year.
When in the office I resorted to our “menu file”, a place where take-out menus were stored. “Good” Chinese was an oxymoron. We ranked our selections by speed of delivery and “not as bad as others”.
I am not that big of a fan of Chinese food and can honestly say that I’ve avoided it here. I’ve only seen Chinese take-out places that have not interested me. So when a recommendation came for Red Orchids, I was the first to say, “I’m in.” I needed to eat lunch anyway.
First, let me say it is located in the oddest of strip malls, but easy enough to find in the Ashley Plaza Mall. Typical of most Chinese restaurants that I’ve frequented, it was sparsely decorated with red lanterns and a few black and white pictures. About a dozen Christmas ornaments were also suspended from the ceiling to compliment the lanterns. But what was most prominent were the many awards recognizing Red Orchids as the “Best Chinese Restaurant” from many sources. I was intrigued and excited to have lunch.
Our waiter, Will, could not have been better. He was helpful, informative and in no way intrusive. This was very impressive as there were about 8 tables off and on in the restaurant and as a server – what do you do to keep busy during a slow lunch?
We ordered an appetizer - “Money Bags” because they looked interesting. They were described as tender pork meatballs wrapped in a crispy Chinese spring roll. They arrived and were very eye appealing. They did look just like a money bag. The tie for the bag we found out later was a scallion. It was a creative dish and served as a very clean presentation with ginger sauce and a lone broccoli floret. They were terrific. They did, however take well over 10+ minutes to arrive, which I thought was a long time to wait for an appetizer considering the low volume of customers.
|Kung Po Chicken|
As we waited for our lunch a very tall gentleman walked around the restaurant. It would be my guess that he may have been the manager. He was also the person that seated us. EVERY time he walked by me he bumped my chair, which caused me to move my chair in a bit, by the time lunch was served I was squished and had to move the table as he had bumped me so frequently. Remember that there are 8 tables seated – could a different path not have been taken…
Lunch, when served (which also took some time), was off the hook. At first I thought the Kung Po (as in Pao?) Chicken wasn’t that warm, but moving it around a bit made me realize it was piping hot. There was a heaping serving of white, steamed rice and a light dipping sauce. Although I had asked for it “extra spicy”, it wasn’t and Will quickly brought us some chili sauce that accented it perfectly. And although very, very flavorful it was more chopped green bell peppers than chicken. But in the end the flavor won out.
The Hunan Beef was served piping hot with its order of “plain” fried rice. This was new to me. “Fried Rice” usually has eggs, peas and a few other ingredients, but this one was plain but tasty.
When we were presented with our check a basket of fortune cookies for our own personal selection, which I thought was a nice touch. All ‘n all Red Orchids has erased the “bad Chinese food” stigma that I’ve had and I am certain that we will be back. I am psyched we received the suggestion as I would never have found this place. And this little gem, is not one to miss.
The only improvement I would make would be to the ladies room. An exposed, not so clean drain and an overall very dirty restroom was my last impression, unfortunately.
We gave Red Orchid's Chinese Bistro 4 out of 5 possible plates