Forever foo young
A reader asked me to try Soochow, since he considers it the best Chinese restaurant in the area, and wanted my thoughts. I’m always willing to oblige. Tucked away in a strip mall at Prater Way and McCarran Boulevard in Sparks, you walk into a neat, simple establishment with faux wood planked floors, hanging oriental lanterns, booths and tables with red tablecloths, yellow cloth napkins and a classic glass-atop-the-linen table covering.
The menu ($5.95-$11.95) is big and has all the traditional and typical dishes that you order a la carte with dinner specials: “A” ($10.95) served with soup of the day, egg roll, crab cheese puff, and fried wonton. There’s a choice of fried rice or steamed rice, sweet and sour pork, or Kung Pao chicken for two people. For three people, combination chow mein. For four people, broccoli beef. For five people, cashew shrimp.
The “B” ($12.95) dinner special is served with fried prawn, pot sticker and cheese puff. Choice of fried rice or steamed rice, sweet and sour shrimp, or chicken with mushroom for two people. For three people, beef with vegetables. For four people, Peking pork. For five people, honey walnut prawns. All the servings are generous.
I went a la carte. The Westlake beef soup ($7.95) caught my eye. A very popular soup from the Zhejiang Province, it’s a type of egg drop soup. It is very light with a silky texture nuanced with cilantro and white pepper. Its flavor was a harmony of citrus with a slight bite and a thick, savory finish.
Next, my eyes saw egg foo young and that was a must. This is truly one of my favorite Chinese dishes. Egg foo young is an omelet dish found in Chinese, Indonesian, British and Chinese American cuisine. The name comes from the Cantonese language. Literally meaning “lotus egg,” this dish is prepared with beaten eggs and meat or seafood is often mixed in with the gravy. I had the house special ($8.95).
I was amazed to be presented with such an elegant dish. It was a lacy golden omelet with an elaborate filling mixed in with bean sprouts and minced water chestnuts, bits of roast pork, chicken and fresh shrimp, and chopped scallions. Pillowy and punctuated with crunchy vegetables, it was bronzed at its edges from frying. But it is the brown gravy, which was thick and savory, a little bit sweet and a little bit salty, that brings it all together. One big pie-like presentation covering the entire plate and beneath its silken wash of gravy, it’s indeed an amazing egg foo young.
I wanted to try one of the chef’s specials, so the Dragon and Phoenix ($10.95) was my choice. Sautéed shrimp with vegetables shared the plate with general’s chicken. Chef Jack Luony has been cooking for 30 plus years and learned his craft in Taiwan and the Bay Area. He told me that everything is made to order using fresh, seasonal vegetables. This is Luony’s own recipe for the Phoenix using a traditional Chinese brown wine, scallions, garlic. It’s thickened with corn starch and a few spices and nice, fresh vegetables, and large shrimp.
This was side-by-side with the chicken. It was sweet and slightly spicy. I like how light the batter was, since this is deep-fried and then coated with the sauce. You bite almost directly into the chicken—the batter barely covering the meat and not dominating the mouthful, as is often the case with this dish. The house fried rice ($6.50) was more than enough with pork, chicken and shrimp still fluffy, fresh with a modest amount of veggies. There were was even chop suey ($7.95-$8.95), an American-Chinese cuisine—next time. What I found was freshness, simplicity and flavor. That’s the quintessential recipe for a restaurant’s success.