We had our doubts when we first approached, but as one of our fortune cookies retrospectively affirmed, “You will continue to take chances and be glad you did.”
It isn’t much to look at from the parking lot—a modest little family-owned restaurant bobbing in the middle of the corporate ocean of the mega-shopping center on the southwest corner of Mae Anne and McCarran avenues. The small “Open” green neon light is more passing acknowledgment of fact than promotion. There is no fancy art on the drab off-white walls. Some of the ceiling panels have seen better days. There is no music. Even the name is understated. But if all you need is great Chinese, go to Taiwan Restaurant.
My husband and I have learned that an empty dining room doesn’t necessarily mean much—especially on a weeknight during a recession—but in combination with the uninspiring initial impression, we entered with subdued expectations. However, a sweet woman I assumed to be “Mom” quickly brightened our outlook by darting to our self-selected table with menus, waters and, shortly thereafter, a bottle of Tsingtao for my husband. A younger member of the family, which is in fact from Taipei, Taiwan, pored over her freshman biology text in the corner. “Dad” and a male sibling managed the kitchen.
We did appetizers, of course. The wonton soup ($2.95) was on par with good Chinese food I’ve had elsewhere, as were the crisp and not-too-oily egg rolls (four for $3.95), although the accompanying sweet sauce was merely satisfactory.
One thing I didn’t like was getting my braised shrimp in hot and spicy sauce ($11.95) a while before my husband received his kung pao squid ($9.95), although this is a minor foible. For all I know, the usual clientele prefer celerity to simultaneity of service. We both found the squid superb but only slightly preferable to the shrimp—for “spicy,” it needed more pepper than I would have hoped. It was braised nicely and finely presented on its bed of perfectly steamed broccoli. Our portions of both steamed and fried rice were ideal accompaniments. We took home generous leftovers. My husband even had two fortunes in his cookie; it seems you consistently get more than you expect at Taiwan Restaurant.
There are too many other options to even think about listing. For example, there are 28 different “All Day Specials,” which for six bucks will get you soup of the day, an egg role, fried wonton, rice and an entrée. There are sundry fowl, chow mein, beef and vegetable dishes, as well as two different categories of combination dinner options: The “Hong Kong” ($10.95) and “Taiwan” ($13.95), depending on how extensive you want to be with appetizers and main course choices.
While I stay out of politics on these pages, I must say that if you’re thinking about Chinese cuisine in Northern Nevada anytime soon do not adopt a “One China” policy because not all options are created equal. Perhaps you require elegant visual and audio stimuli attached to your experience of Asia, in which case I advise you to purchase tickets to Cirque de Soleil. If you just want great Chinese food, maybe it’s time to take a chance with Taiwan Restaurant.