The word “bistro” is so often used and abused by food writers and marketing hacks that it’s sometimes confusing as to what the term actually means. Expensive but cozy? Hostile service but good, rare wine? Cheap, unsturdy tables and a menu written on an outside chalkboard? Something with a fireplace?
A “bistro” is literally a small, informal restaurant that serves wine. Suffice it to say that Dynasty China Bistro, located in the Shops at the Village on California Ave., is an authentic Chinese bistro.
The place is small in a self-conscious but blushingly cute way, perfect for a first date or an intimate family meal. The cozy banquettes and dim lights create a comfortable setting, and the attentive service warmly welcomes guests inside. Water, hot tea and menus arrive almost instantaneously with smiles.
The food at Dynasty China Bistro appeals to the American palate. It’s a balance of salty, sour and sweet with a variety of texture, from soft-steamed pork dumplings to crisp, stuffed eggplant in Szechuan sauce.
All the Chinese take-out favorites are here: sweet and sour chicken, kung pao shrimp, mu shu pork and General Tso’s chicken are on the menu.
My girlfriend, Chérie, and I hadn’t eaten anything all day, so we ordered a lot of food.
First, we went with the $7.95 steamed-pork dumplings. This was almost enough for a meal by itself.
Eighteen dumplings, each the size of golf balls, are accompanied by a sweet, soy-vinegar dipping sauce. The dumplings were fresh, and the light sauce was a perfect match for the salty pork filling. They could be the best dumplings I’ve ever eaten in Reno.
Next, we went with the luncheon combination for $7.75, both of us substituting chicken chow mein for the fried rice. The switch cost a bit extra but was worth it.
Chérie ordered her combo with walnut shrimp. Mine came with stuffed eggplant in Szechuan sauce. The combinations came with a choice of soup—egg drop or hot and sour. We both had the hot and sour soup and a fried egg-roll.
The soup was a bit wimpy and could’ve been a spiced-up a notch.
The sweet walnut shrimp were tender and rich. Glazed walnuts not only give the shellfish an attractive presentation but also a pleasant crunch to every bite.
My eggplant, stuffed with ground pork, was crisp and draped with a sweeter Szechuan sauce than with which I was familiar. It hinted of an oyster sauce.
The egg rolls were a fresh bonus. Made from scratch, they added a little Cantonese dim-sum style to the meal.
I’ve heard good things about Dynasty’s mu shu pork and will have to come back again for that. But for the first trip, we left feeling pretty good—without that hard-swallowed feel, as though we had been sitting around eating take-out.