I'd heard a while back, that China Chef 2 had changed management, and also retooled the menu. So after waiting a good long while, we finally decided to drop by one evening.....
Anyway, the place looks basically the same. One half does some kinda terrible looking Chinese fast-food, the other side is a restaurant that serves more traditional regional Chinese dishes.
Then of course, all the changes kicked in...... I noticed that on some of the menus it says China Chef, on others Best Taste of China. Then there are all the specials......
Late night specials, weekend special menu, weeknight evening specials.... and just for "Faye" all you can eat hot pot for $16.99!
According to this, they've hired another chef who specializes on more "Northern/Jiangsu" style dishes.
Geeez, everything from Sichuan Hot Pot and Wuxi Spareribs, to Niu Rou Chuan (only on the weekends), and even "Hunan" Style Chicken....sheesh. There ain't no way a restaurant could do all these items well.
Then of course, are the interesting English translations on the menu......
Ever had Yam with napkin? Lots of roughage there.....
Anyway, we ended up returning a couple of times, just for this dish which the Missus loves. It's called Fish Prepared with White Egg (I think they mean egg white - $9.95). A dish that is described as being "better then crab" on the menu. A Jiangsu styled preparation that the Missus loved.
Flavors associated with eating fresh crab; a good amount of thin sliced ginger along with a good amount of black vinegar, tends to bring out the sweetness of crab, gave this dish a nice one-two punch. The look of the dish was meant to mimick crab. The egg whites on two occasions were soft, almost like bean curd as was the fish. On one occasion it was fairly dry and under flavored. Overall a nice dish full of comfort flavors for the Missus.
The other dish that stood out in our visits was the Pork Intestines with Dry Red Pepper ($9.95).
I'd recommend this dish as good for a "intestine beginner" so long that you could take a little heat. In spite of the chilies this wasn't especially spicy. I was surprised at the nice "ma" (numbing) in this. One of the problems with the previous China Chef was the lack of Sichuan Peppercorns. The intestines were very well fried, crisp on the outside, a bit spongy in the interior. My only complaint would be that the dish was a bit too salty. I saved the remainder and had it later that evening with a cold one!
The Spicy Sichuan Hot Pot ($12.95) was ok.
This was a "good cop", "bad cop" dish. "Good cop" served up a good amount of intestine and tripe. "Bad cop" tried to bring the heat, which was very one dimensional, and lacked any real complex flavors from herbs or seasonings.
One evening the Missus ordered the Beijing Style Lamb Hot Pot ($12.95):
Frankly, in spite of a decent amount of fairly tender lamb, this would be nothing without the fermented bean curd dipping sauce. The Missus was wishing for some leek sauce. The plain water "broth" also got pretty scummy.....
The tripe was good, crunchy, yet not hard. The fish balls and surimi really didn't add much.
The worst dish we had, used to be our favorite at the old China Chef.... the Spicy Tea Smoked Duck ($12.95). Just compare this photo.....
With the one here.... Waxy, with a strange almost artificial taste, much like bad so-called "smoked meat" you'd buy at 99 Ranch Market, this wasn't very good at all.
The last two dishes are dinner "specials" that are quite cheap. You'll need to buy at least one dish at regular price to qualify. Every night there's a special; one Monday it's some very ghastly looking Lion's Head. On another day it's Salt and Pepper Prawns for $3.99. Which, in spite of being burned by discounted dishes before, we just had to try. We were surprised.....
This was pretty well prepared; the shrimp wasn't overcooked, but was soft and moist. The flavor was quite good. And did I mention nine good sized prawns for $3.99? I'd perhaps not order this at regular price; but for under four bucks, it's a deal.
The Missus enjoyed the Friday night special; the Fish Gluten, Shrimp, Squid, and Chicken for $4.99. This seemed like a regular sized portion.
Everything was cooked adequately, the vegetables crisp..... but this was much too salty for me.
Overall, whether the name of the place is still China Chef 2.... or Best Taste of China, or perhaps both, it seems to us, that there are at least a couple of good dishes on the menu which seems much too ambitious. Looking at what other folks were eating and the cold dishes, the Sichuan dishes seems to not be as good as before. Oh, and if you do order that Fish and Egg White Dish, don't order anything with Sichuan Peppercorn, talk about clashing flavors.... And then there are all the specials.... The service was decent, about average for this type of restaurant. There's one young lady who really gets a kick out of explaining the dishes, the other woman could care less if you choked to death on a fish bone; but isn't that how it always is?
China Chef 2 - Best Taste of China
9225 Mira Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92126
And Faye! They've got all you can eat Hot Pot for $16.99! he-he-he......