Adams Street, Milton
East Milton Square
Pork Strips, Chicken Fingers, Crab Rangoons
Beef Lo Mein
Chicken & Shrimp Pad Thai
General Gau’s Chicken
Crispy chunks of chicken sautéed with our master chef’s special spicy sauce garnished with broccoli
A bad day in the office is usually what drives us to order Chinese for take-home. We both had rather blah days, so we decided to buoy our spirits and commemorate the President’s first annual message to the joint session of Congress with culinary indulgence. We could have gone to our default place at the bottom of the hill, but I felt like something new was in order. A little bit of online research returned consistent good review for Mr. Chan’s in East Milton Square, not too far from where we live, and their website, www.mrchans.net, showed a wide menu with many standard, and a few non-standard, selections. We were excited to try someplace new, especially if it came with good recommendations from the people at Yelp and Chow, but the website doesn’t list prices, so we weren’t sure we wanted to order from there (we’re trying to be cash-conscious even when we’re indulging in take-away).
It looks like Mr. Chan’s has on-street parking only, but luckily we found a space only a couple of storefronts down from the restaurant. The interior of the restaurant is decorated in warm colors: subdued orange on the walls, creamy tan tile flooring, warm wood accents, and fabrics in a lush plum. There is a small eat-in seating area to one side that is modest but very clean, a row of bar-style seating along the window front, a small couch for sitting on while waiting for your order, and the counter itself is large, clean, clutter free, and inviting. The staff was also friendly, polite, and well-dressed. If I could only use two words to describe the interior of Mr. Chan’s, they would be “posh” and “welcoming.” It doesn’t seem like those two words go together, but at Mr. Chan’s, they do.
And behind that promising façade? The prices on the extensive menu are slightly higher than your local corner Chinese restaurant, but when you factor in the ambiance, the quality of service, and the quality of the food, what you get in return for the price you pay is actually a steal.
We aren’t sure how they do it, but Mr. Chan’s food actually tastes like food. You know how after a while, Chinese take-away can become sort of homogenous? How no flavours really stand out in the egg rolls, the crab rangoons don’t taste very crabby, the lo mein noodles taste the same as all the other ingredients? Well, not at Mr. Chan’s. They worked some sort of magic back in the kitchen, because each item had a distinct flavour, and the flavours in each item worked together or pulled against each other on the palate. The egg rolls tasted like dough, cabbage, and seasoned pork, not a homogenous mixture of shredded filling. The crab rangoons tasted like seafood — !! – with a little crisp texture from the scallion surrounded by smooth creamy filling. Usually I couldn’t blind-taste-test the difference between crab rangoons and cream cheese wontons.
I had two of the smallish chicken fingers. The meat was more moist than chicken fingers tend to be, which was rewarding, but there was a slight bitterness to the fried batter that marred the experience.
I did not try any of the pork strips, that’s all DH. They aren’t strips so much as they appear to be slices from a pork roast, about the size of a man’s palm. What DH actually wanted, in his mind, was boneless spare ribs, and pork strips could conceivably be a way of describing what he was after. I do think that the pork will make a good open-faced sandwich, if I also had leftover bread stuffing and cranberry sauce on hand.
I only tried a piece of beef from the beef lo mein, lo mein noodles being DH’s special love. It was tender and lightly seasoned and in perfect, chopstick friendly, bite-size chunks (not long strips of grayish meat, which I sometimes see in other lo meins).
The chicken & shrimp pad thai was not as sweet as the pad thai that I reviewed in an earlier entry from Lucky Dragon, but it had a more subtle flavor. The small pieces of chicken and shrimp had not absorbed the full effect of the pad thai sauce, so the flavour was more subtle, and built in complexity in the mouth over time. Occasional bursts of sweet flavour would explode on the tongue, and sometimes a mouthful would be more savory than sweet. The scallions and carrots were still firm, however, and scallion- and carrot-flavoured, respectively. The noodles also did not glob together, but cohered – and yes, I am going to describe pad thai this way – elegantly. But not persistently; a little shaking freed them and made them more manageable (for me – I use chopsticks, DH uses a fork).
Usually a Chinese restaurant will have either General Gau’s chicken or orange chicken, very rarely both. Mr. Chan’s listed both on the menu, and in retrospect I realise we should have ordered a small orange chicken for comparison. Usually we can’t tell the difference between one restaurant’s orange chicken and another’s General Gau’s, except that one often has pieces of orange peel in the sauce. They are usually both a little spicy, and they are usually dished up or garnished with broccoli. Some restaurants put whole chilis in the sauce, some use only small pieces. Usually the chicken is heavily breaded and sautéed prior to saucing. Only once before our visit to Mr. Chan’s had I had General Gau’s chicken that didn’t taste the same as orange chicken, at Quincy Dynasty in North Quincy. Like the General Gau’s chicken at Quincy Dynasty, Mr. Chan’s General Gau’s has a savory, distinctly-not-orange flavour – and Mr. Chan’s General Gau does pack some heat. Not a lot, just a little, and it creeps up on you after you’ve popped a few of their tender, lightly breaded, perfectly sautéed morsels in to your mouth. DH needed a glass of milk to cut the heat, I just kept a few pad thai noodles on my plate to eat when the spice started to become too much, and kept the heat at bay that way.
The big test for take-away: How good are the reheated leftovers? DH and I buy more Chinese than we know we can eat in one sitting, and it actually lasts us three or four servings a day for a few days. The General Gau’s chicken became one solid tray of refrigerated goodness – exploratory surgery followed by a few sharp jabs with the chopsticks were required to separate the chicken pieces, so the breaded and sautéed outer layer suffered a little, but the flavours held up. The pad thai dried out a little in the refrigerator, but reheated nicely, maintaining its taste and texture. Extra crab rangoons are always eaten cold out of the refrigerator, never reheated, and the filling remained moist and flavourful (it firmed up a little, but that was expected from an overnight in the fridge).