Updated: Jul 24, 2021
The Duck showdown begins
A challenger appears in Logan Square! My quest for the best Chinese food continues! Is it “Tasty Chinese Food” (great trick to manipulate search results lol) in name only?
Prices are pretty standard for low-end Chinese fast food joints which is surprising because of the location. The prices themselves are either the same or lower than pretty much all the other Chinese restaurants in the area. On the menu I spot a nice surprise…Peking Duck! They also have actual fish here too which other restaurants like China Fast Wok for some odd don’t have. I order my “Chinese Try-Out Package” which consist of staples like Orange Chicken & Mongolian Beef lunch specials (a try-out package isn’t complete without a helping of egg rolls & fried rice.) I also ordered the fried chicken wings & duck lunch specials with a side of crab Rangoon. The lunch specials are $6.95 from 11am-3pm & 7.95 after 3pm which is a great deal. Even the duck lunch special was only $1 more than the rest (whether that is good or bad we’ll find out…)
The food arrived packaged nicely in a brown bag. The lunch specials themselves were wrapped in thin recycled plastic bags to catch any juice spills. This was good since all the specials that contained sauce leaked into the bags. My suggestion next time would be to just have the sauce in a separate container from the dish itself like other restaurants started doing.
Everything looks great aside from the orange chicken which just looks like “sponge balls,” a way of preparing orange chicken that I’m not a fan of. The fried rice is packed nicely into each container and there’s hardly any spillage from the main course into the rice. The crab Rangoon & egg rolls are a perfect golden brown.
First up is the duck of course! Now Peking duck this cheap is alarming, but I’m willing to give it a chance. From the looks of things they give you half a bird which in itself is $15 on the menu so it’s a steal here. It doesn’t however look to be prepared Peking style, it’s just normal roasted duck, not even thinly sliced. To be fair the lunch special doesn’t say it’s “Peking” duck, just that it’s duck. All other pictures of duck dishes the restaurant advertises show a traditional “Peking Duck” though. The duck is obviously cheap meat, but decent. The skin was nicely roasted albeit it is a bit over seasoned (too much salt.) If you’re looking for a quick fix this seems to be the place. The meat was tender as well. Hardly any fat was on the duck too which was nice.
Ah, next is my nemesis the “orange sponge” (and no I’m not talking about a certain U.S. president.) A quick taste of the orange sauce brings me hope. The sauce is traditional orange sauce that is sweet, but not too sweet. I bit into the sponge…yep it’s spongy. The chicken is not fried long enough & stayed too long in the sauce so what you have is a spongy mess, albeit a tasty one. The sauce compliments the middle tier chicken well & other than the texture I have no complaints. Although fair warning the sauce might be a little too sweet for some.
A quick detour into sides we have the fried rice, egg rolls, & crab Rangoon. The fried rice has all the makings of a great fried rice, but falls just short when it comes to flavor. It features eggs, scallions & bean sprouts, all hallmarks of great fried rice. The meat however is a mid-tier quality and overall the dish doesn’t have the vibrant flavor that great fried rice has as if they missed that one seasoning that would’ve changed it from a fine dish to godlike status. This works out though since it forces you to focus on the main dish & not the rice itself. The egg rolls are your standard frozen ones that have been reheated. They were nice enough to throw in an extra veggie egg roll to.
The crab Rangoon was a perfect golden brown & looked absolutely appetizing. My initial bite was greeting with mostly air & bread though. The second bite proved fruitful as the mine of crab mix started flowing into my mouth. It was tasty indeed, although they could fix them up with a lot more mix. I’ve seen places packed their crab Rangoon to the brim, but I guess this isn’t one of those places.
Rounding the corner we have the fried chicken. The fried chicken is your standard Chinese fried chicken with it’s very thin breading (if any at all.) This is definitely not KFC, Popeyes or the like. They hard fried the chicken as the skin is very tough. There’s no seasoning at all as well, not even a hint of salt or pepper. The quality of the chicken itself is serviceable, it’s not super juicy yet not dry either, it’s actually perfectly cooked just the meat is pretty average & they just threw the naked chicken in the fryer for 15 or so minutes. 6 pieces (3 wings & 3 drums) with a mountain of fried rice & egg roll for $6.95 is a deal hard to beat though. As far as Chinese chicken, I’ve definitely had better, but that’s mainly because the other chicken was seasoned. If this chicken was seasoned it would be up there. Would I order it again? Probably not since I’d rather have Southern fried chicken anyway.
I bet you’re wondering if I saved the best for last? Is the Mongolian Beef the best of the bunch? No. The dish was mostly comprised of onions, peppers & scallions with a few strips of beef peppered here & there. The gravy or sauce couldn’t even be called either as it was clearly syrup. I wonder if they mixed up the sauce for the General Tso’s chicken with the Mongolian gravy as this gravy was so sweet it was off putting. I don’t know what the though process here was since they deviated from any Mongolian beef dish I’ve ever tasted. The beef itself is pretty lackluster. It seemed like a monstrous hybrid between skirt steak & ground beef, but you can’t clearly tell what it is. Scraping the sauce away from a piece you can taste some beef & it’s alright despite the texture, but a far cry from decent steak.
Overall, despite it’s misses this place is still up there with the best of the low-end Chinese joints. It can’t compete with the likes of an actual restaurant like Silom 12, but for a quick cheap place for lunch this is hard to beat. You get the standard massive deals that are the lunch specials & special surprises like duck that are on the menu. If sweet sauces aren’t your thing stay away from the Mongolian Beef. The fried rice just misses the plateau to be great by an inch, but is good nonetheless. A solid 4 star restaurant that with a few recipe tweaks could make a major difference.
4 out of 5 stars
Tasty Chinese Food
3051 N California Ave
Chicago, IL 60618