Eat and still run

Chef Rong fires up the wok at China Dynasty Bistro.

Chef Rong fires up the wok at China Dynasty Bistro.

Photo By David Robert

Dynasty Restaurant

1185 California Ave.
Reno, NV 89509

(775) 786-5768

My sister, Brenna, has been super-busy here in the final weeks of her penultimate college semester. We’d been planning to go to dinner for a few weeks, and though she had already canceled on me a couple of times, she was finally able to meet me for just an hour and a half before her evening dance class. She wasn’t comfortable with the choice of Chinese food before her class because Chinese can sometimes be too spicy or too greasy or any number of things that might give an athlete tummy troubles. Fortunately, Dynasty China Bistro might be the ideal Chinese restaurant for athletes.

We started out with vegetable egg rolls (four for $4.50). Our server brought out the little bowls of sweet and sour sauce and hot mustard a good five minutes before bringing out the actual egg rolls. Such a tease. The sight of those undisturbed pools of bright red and yellow sauces, ripe for the dipping, was quite appetizing. The rolls, when they did come, were light and crisp, and we enjoyed the wide-eyed, wide-nostriled thrills of the hot mustard.

We ordered three entrees: chicken with cashew nuts ($8.50), the house egg foo yung with beef, chicken and shrimp ($9.50) and shrimp with vegetables ($10.95). All three dishes had a distinctly flavored sauce that complemented but didn’t overwhelm the individual meats and vegetables. Too often, Chinese dishes have a homogeneity of flavor, and, even worse, this flavor is often the apparently-really-bad-for-you “fifth taste,” MSG (a taste I must admit I totally love). At Dynasty, though the shrimp and vegetables had a light, tangy sauce, we could easily discern the seawater taste of the shrimp, the smoky flavor of the shiitake mushrooms and even the crisp, slightly bitter taste of the water chestnuts.

Though everything was good, nothing was dazzling. There aren’t many hidden surprises for diners raised on American versions of classic Chinese dishes. We were, in hindsight, a tad unadventurous in our order choices. My usual modus operandi is to order the strangest or most extravagant thing on a menu. The Peking duck piqued my interest, but it costs $22 and needs to be ordered a day in advance. Still, you can learn a lot about a restaurant by how it handles simpler dishes.

Dynasty doesn’t take many risks, but the results are pleasant meals that won’t turn off diners who don’t like greasy, fatty or spicy food. I do like greasy, fatty and spicy food, but it’s nice to be able to eat a lot of Chinese (and the servings at Dynasty are gargantuan) and, in Brenna’s case, not to feel too full for dance class.

For a restaurant that attempts a fine dining experience and, for some reason, calls itself a “bistro,” Dynasty falls somewhat short of a romantic atmosphere. Luckily, I was dining with a member of my family, and romance was not the order of the day. The prints on the wall have a weird New Age vibe, the acoustics are bad, so you hear the clinking of silverware and bits of conversation from neighboring tables, and the lights are too bright.

Despite a few problems, Dynasty offers good food—and they do take-out, which might actually be the way to go. It’s a good choice for those who like straightforward, healthful Chinese. It’s nice to have big meal and still feel like dancing.