Dine another day
China Diner275 West St.
Reno, NV 89501
I just didn’t like it.
There, I said it. In my view, China Diner’s entrees were bland, industrial and unappealing, even at what would normally be regarded as “reasonable” prices for Chinese takeout, although my husband and I dined in on a rainy weeknight after long days at work. We went there famished and therefore inclined toward a positive appraisal, but in the end, honesty requires me to recommend looking elsewhere for budget Chinese cuisine.
The location on West Street and late hours are certainly ideal for downtown denizens, UNR students, or anyone working late and hoping to grab some stir-fry on the way home from the city. The interior is bland and cramped, but the service is instantaneous and ferociously polite. We seated ourselves but were swiftly attended to by our multi-tasking cashier.
It says something about both self image and targeted customer when the host assumes you’re ordering take-out, as ours did. We acquired an awkward sense of holding up the show as he hovered waiting for our selections. We started with the appetizer sampler: fried shrimp, egg rolls and won ton ($6.50)—and while they were promptly served—literally within four minutes of our order—all of these in concert were greasy enough to constitute a new domestic oil reserve. Later, the seafood hotpot ($9.50), with various veggies and tofu simmered with squid, shrimp and an unspecified whitefish, was essentially broth and tossed shrimp salad. Yes, the service was fast, but how helpful is that when you dislike what is served?
However, fairness requires me to report that my opinion was a minority that night. My husband, openly reliving his undergraduate days when Chinese cuisine of this style constituted a tri-weekly ritual, slurped words to the effect of, “We gotta take the rest of this home,” through his seafood noodle soup ($7.75). In fact we did take the rest home—not that I ever touched it. When I mentioned the mediocrity of the food he indicated that I was “missing the point.” Similarly, the half-dozen UNR kids one table away appeared to revel in both cuisine and conversation, treating the whole experience as if it were a formal dinner engagement.
Options for others to brave include various types of rice porridge (sam pan, $5.80; roast duck, $5.80), sesame chicken ($7.50), mandarin pork chop ($8.75), and chef’s special egg foo young with chicken, beef or pork, ($8.75) or shrimp ($9.50).
Perhaps I’m suspicious and the world is not mad. I know it’s poor form, but I cannot help but quote one brief statement posted by an online reviewer of China Diner: “The shrimp fried rice is the best, especially at night when they put the day’s scraps in it!” (The italics are mine.) Perhaps this says it all: Not craving “scraps,” I am simply not China Diner’s target clientele (even if I am married to it).
So take my opinion with a grain of MSG. If you crave basic, predictable Chinese food prepared without pomp or delay—the type engineering students gorge on in the wee hours of the morning when pulling all-nighters to complete term projects—then China Diner might just be for you. If, however, you want authentic and flavorful Chinese, I suggest you can do better elsewhere for the same investment.