Underground treasure

Delicious Chinese food in a downtown basement

A cozy and tasty Chinese-food hideaway just steps from campus.

A cozy and tasty Chinese-food hideaway just steps from campus.

PHOTO by Brittany Waterstradt

Peking Chinese Restaurant
243 W. Second St., Ste. 4
Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Closed Sundays.

It had been years since I walked down the stairs past the cigar shop on Second Street and entered the underground world that is Peking Chinese Restaurant. But no fewer than two friends in the past month had told me that this was their favorite Chinese food in Chico. I had to get reacquainted. So, with one of those friends in tow, I recently moseyed on down for dinner.

“Their special chow mein is amazing,” my companion gushed. Obviously, we ordered that ($8). We also opted for the cream cheese fried wontons (a steal at $5.75 for eight) and the sesame chicken ($8.25). We washed it all down with some sake ($3.25 for a bottle—about four servings).

The interior of the restaurant is traditional, but its location in the basement makes for a more cozy atmosphere than most eateries enjoy. The dining room wasn’t too crowded that night, though a large group of college-age patrons sat behind us, and they seemed to either be celebrating something or really enjoying their meals.

Before long, our waitress brought out the wontons and sweet and sour sauce. Perfectly crispy, with plenty of delicious crab-and-cream-cheese filling, they started the meal off with a bang (and a crunch).

The entrees weren’t far behind, and I admit I gawked a little at the portion sizes. It was enough food to at least serve as a decent lunch the next day as well. And let me just say, the chow mein lived up to the hype—steaming hot, thick noodles, mixed with shrimp, chicken, pork and beef. Simply delicious. The sesame chicken was awesome, too. Smothered in a slightly sweet sauce, the hunks of fried chicken stayed crunchy even when I opened the to-go box later that night for a snack.

As we were preparing to leave, I noticed they were setting up for the late-night Bassmint dance party in Peking’s adjoining bar. The idea of turning the traditional Chinese restaurant into an electronic dance club had always intrigued me, and the intimate locale has a reputation for being fun, late-night hotspot. If I enjoyed that type of music, I might have stuck around long enough to see for myself.

My first visit clearly was successful. I needed to go back, though, to try a few more things before my mind was made up. This time I ordered to go—online, so simple!—and my food was ready when I arrived to pick it up (they also deliver). I opted for the special fried rice ($8) and the teriyaki chicken ($8.25), along with an appetizer of meat (they also offer veggie) pot stickers ($6).

Upon arrival home, I had to fight the dogs off before I could dig in to the once again huge portions of food. My second visit, however, wasn’t quite as impressive as my first. The rice, while including a good amount of the various meats, was a little dry and bland. The chicken was good, though, and once I poured a few heaping spoonfuls of the flavorful—but not too sweet—teriyaki sauce onto the rice, it was an awesome dish. The pot stickers were large and tasty.

I’ll definitely be going back to Peking, for the chow mein and cream cheese wontons at the very least, and for the cozy ambiance. The downtown location also is convenient—especially for students or before a night out on the town—they have a huge menu from which to choose, and you can’t ask for much more bang for your buck.