I once lived near a Chinese take-out restaurant that wasn’t great but could feed a family of six for cheap, and another, fancier joint that cost twice as much. Siu Asian Express at first appeared to be more like the former, but the food was way above par. The seating was comfortable, the decor pleasant, and the service attentive.
An order of fried wontons stuffed with ground pork and shrimp ($1 for five pieces) was hot and crispy, served with a housemade sweet and sour sauce that was darker and richer than the fluorescent goop so many places serve. Cups of hot and sour, and egg flower soup ($1.99 each) were so piping hot I actually scalded the roof of my mouth in my haste to taste them—totally worth it. The spicy sour concoction had a silky mouth feel, tons of veggies and plenty of kick. The egg, tofu and mushroom combination was delicate, with a notable essence of chicken completing the cup.
We chose to sample one item from each section of the menu, starting with Shang Hai bok choy sauteed in fresh chopped garlic ($7.99). The baby cabbages were cooked just right, with enough garlic to ward off a platoon of vampires.
All of the stir-fried meats possessed the unique tenderness that results from “velveting,” a process of marinating thin slices of meat in a mixture of liquid, salt and cornstarch and sauteeing them twice with expert timing. This chef has that process down pat. Speaking of, Chef Da’s special chicken with yellow onion and fried shallot hoisin sauce ($8.50) is a must-order item. The sauce has a lot going on, though ginger and garlicky shallot are the most prominent flavors. There may even be a bit of Chinese five spice; it was just about as complex and delicious a sauce as you’ll find. Hats off to the chef.
Continuing on, a plate of Mongolian beef with onion, mushroom and spicy hoisin sauce ($9.50) held its own on flavor and texture ($9.50). The heat was of the sneaky sort. The salty and sweet principal notes are familiar and comforting, then your tongue says, “Wait a minute … wow!” The sliced mushrooms added a lot of earthy goodness to the dish, and there were plenty of ’em.
There was nothing sneaky about the lightly battered kung pao shrimp, with celery, water chestnut, carrot and peanut ($10.50). The veggies had plenty of crunch; the shrimp was tender, and the spicy, fiery sauce was a knockout. I’ve long been a fan of kung pao chicken and beef, but this shellfish rendition might be the best Sichuan dish I’ve tasted. It was so damn good.
The one meat dish that might not have been marinated was Peking pork chop ($9.99). It featured a breaded and fried chop that had been cut into smaller bone-in bites and tossed in house plum sauce with sauteed onion and bell pepper. The meat was noticeably firmer than the others sampled, which offered a nice contrast. Nibbling around the bone wasn’t an issue. The fresh ginger in this dish was noticeable, and the veggies were excellent.
We rounded things out with a combo chow mein ($8.50), including chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, bean sprout, bell pepper, scallion and a sauce that was a bit understated but perfectly fine. The noodles were neither starchy nor greasy, and all the ingredients were fresh and tender. We left knowing exactly where to head the next time we’ve got a craving for Chinese food.