Here we are with some more Chinese and Asian takeout reviews. The last column was very well-read, showing just how important takeout and delivery are to our busy lives. I love going to a restaurant, but sometimes the sheer convenience of these places makes them necessary. Also, remember that places like these are often graded on a different scale and standard. That being said, while it is possible one could achieve a 5-star rating, it would be nearly impossible. But anyway, it’s not the number that matters, just the food. And when it comes to this kind of eating, the simple attribute of not being greasy goes a long way in my eyes.
Review #152: Ming Chu (Atlantic Highlands)
How many Chinese takeout joints can the small hamlet of Atlantic Highlands possibly contain? Three, to be precise, and I have ordered from all of them. The first was written about in the last edition of this column, while this and the next are coming right up. Ming Chu was an accident. We were stuck late at the Strauss Manson Museum for an event one night in October. Our friend was ordering food for us workers. None of us like Cheng’s Garden (below), and New Beijing which we love was having a problem with their phones. Someone suggested Ming Chu. I didn’t even know where it was. He called and placed the order. The food arrived promptly at the time he specified, in between stints of free time we had.
What did he order? Every kind of deep-fried, unhealthy thing you could imagine. Now, when I order Chinese food for myself, I try to be healthy. I’m talking curry chicken, broccoli and garlic sauce, maybe some steamed vegetable dumplings. Those are my go-to’s. The food which came consisted of two Pu Pu platters, containers of fried dumplings, ribs, soups, sauces. Anything and everything that could send you into a coma was there. And what did I do? I dove right in. There I was, staring down all the glorious coronary-inducing grub I had denied myself for years. Fried cheese wontons drenched in soy sauce? Sure. Chicken wings, chicken on a stick, egg rolls, and fried shrimp? Why not, and hey, pass the spare ribs while you’re at it.
I was in a type of deep-fried heaven. I hit the bike extra hard the next morning and forced myself into a day of veganism to make up for it. It was so worth it. Anyway, none of the food was greasy whatsoever. It was crisp, flavorful, and somewhat addictive. My stomach was never once uneasy. The dumplings, which came highly recommended, were delicious—maybe the best I’ve ever gotten through takeout. This was far from cuisine, but more than satisfying. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Review #151: Bei Jing II (Cliffwood)
It had been two weeks since the food from Ming Chu. I was craving those fried cheese wontons, of all things. So a friend and I grabbed the menu of Bei Jing II at work and called in an order. In addition to those fried morsels, we added a pint of sliced roasted pork (which almost no places around here have), she got the sweet and sour chicken, and lastly—get this!—a pint of steamed broccoli with garlic sauce on the side...and brown rice! I had to do that so I could sleep at night. There. Something healthy. Let’s go through this order one item at a time.
The wontons were actually better than Ming Chu’s— larger, more stuffing, and not greasy at all. The roast pork was delicious. The closest that restaurants around here do is offer boneless spare ribs. Those are usually thick, fatty, and chewy. This pork was sliced thin and in a container with what appeared to be its own juices. No oils. No frying here. The flavor was delicious; the meat tender. Next we move on to sweet and sour chicken, which I detest. Not only is it the most un-Chinese thing you can order, but most places usually use the scraps leftover from the good chicken to prepare this. It ends up being nothing more than battered, deep-fried balls of fat which you can then dunk into whatever the hell that red shit is. But here, this chicken seemed to be actual chicken. I had a few pieces just to try them. The flavor was minimal (a waste of calories to me) but at least it was edible. The broccoli was steamed just right, and I was so glad the sauce came on the side. Delicious as it was, the sauce was laden with salt. A little spicy, which I enjoyed, but it was better to dip the broccoli than have it covered. Overall, this was a great experience and they offer a larger section on the menu than other places for healthy/vegetarian options where the sauces come on the side. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Review #150: Cheng’s Garden
“It was a dark and stormy night…” Well, actually, it was. I was with a few friends wandering back from a night of walking on the beaches of Sandy Hook when a thunderstorm broke out and we fled for our lives. Someone asked if we could head over to the museum to do some ghost hunting rather than cut our night short. We were hungry and had to stop somewhere. I hadn’t been to New Beijing yet, so we traveled a little farther down First Avenue to Cheng’s Garden. Out of the monsoon I walked in to place our order. All I remember is that no one (out of five of us) enjoyed what we had. The dumplings were slimy and gross. There was no flavor to be had. The soup was incredibly salty. My broccoli and garlic sauce over fried rice tasted pretty good but was ruined by the fact it was sitting in a layer of grease. My stomach never forgave me for such a punishment and I never returned. No ghosts that night, just some pretty scary food! 2 out of 5 stars.