NEXT WEEK: 5 FUSION & SUSHI BAR
In a town without much authentic Chinese cuisine, Chan’s of Bend has a lot to recommend it.
For one, the portions are more than generous. For another, its cooks understand the balancing concepts of “fan” and “tsai,” which together are said to bring harmony and taste to any meal.
NEXT WEEK: 5 FUSION & SUSHI BAR
“Fan” comprises starches and grains — carbohydrates, if you will. White rice is most common in southern China, while noodles and dumplings dominate the cuisine of the north where wheat is commonly grown.
“Tsai” includes vegetables and proteins — meats, poultry, seafood — prepared in a multitude of styles and sauces. At Chan’s, these methods come from all over the world’s third-largest country.
Cantonese features black bean sauce; Szechuan offers hot bean paste and Kung Pao chilies and peanuts; Hunan is home to a sweet-and-spicy stir-fry recipe. Northern cuisine is heartier, as represented by a Beijing-style sauce of soy, ginger and garlic or a Mongolian brown sauce of soy, hoisin and chilies.
The restaurant prides itself on using fresh ingredients and no monosodium glutamate (MSG) in its cooking. And it may be the only Chinese restaurant in Central Oregon that has neither Americanized chop suey nor egg foo young on the menu.
Chan’s south-side restaurant, a short hike north of Reed Market Road on Third Street, has been a part of the local landscape since 1986. Owned for three decades by Lap Chan, who rebuilt and renovated after a major kitchen fire in August 2011, it was purchased a couple of years ago by a relative, Zi Zhang, with partner Grace Parker.
One of my previous complaints about Chan’s was that service was brusque. Based upon two recent visits, that is no longer true. Two servers made my lunch and dinner stops pleasant indeed. Orders were taken quickly and efficiently, water and tea were immediately delivered, and we didn’t have to wait for take-home boxes to package our leftovers.
Chopsticks, of course, had to be requested. I find it curious that they are part of the place setting at every Japanese restaurant in Central Oregon, but at only one Chinese restaurant: Chi, which also has a sushi bar.
Lap Chan’s 2010-11 makeover of the restaurant still looks great. The ceiling of the main dining room was raised to afford a sense of greater spaciousness. Precious porcelain vases and other works of art stand behind glass in a gallery-like room divider. A once-obscure lounge has a prominent place near the entry.
Lunches offer the day’s best bargain. Twenty main courses are served with rice and soup for $7.50, and other combos are even larger. I had an $8.50 special that included lightly breaded, sweet-and-sour chicken with pork fried rice, crispy vegetable spring rolls and an ample serving of tender and delicious baby bok choy.
The meal began with my choice of peppery hot-and-sour soup. Although it could have done with a little less vinegar, the combination of wood-ear fungus with tomatoes, bamboo shoots, tofu and lily flowers made an excellent potage.
Egg flower soup — with droplets of egg with vegetables and minced pork in a meat broth — is another fine choice.
When my dining companion joined me for an evening meal a few days later, we wound up with enough take-home boxes to feed her son and provide lunches for the rest of the week.
We began with a chicken lettuce wraps appetizer ($10.95). The poultry was finely chopped and wok-seared with water chestnuts and green onions in a light sauce, then served with hoisin and four large, crispy leaves of iceberg lettuce. I might suggest that cabbage be considered as another good option for wrapping.
The main dish we liked best was filet of sole with green beans ($12.95). The fish was sauteed in an egg batter that went perfectly with the legumes and the Cantonese black bean sauce in which it was prepared and served.
The Sizzling House Special ($13.95) was a stir-fry of beef, pork, chicken, shrimp and scallops with a variety of vegetables in a house ginger sauce. It was still cooking when it was delivered straight from the kitchen on a hot platter.
Mu shu pork ($10.95) was seared in a wok with shredded green cabbage, onions and finely sliced carrots. Served with four, paper-thin Chinese pancakes, this is a perennial favorite of mine; I spread hoisin on the flatbread, roll it up with the pork mix and eat.
A favorite dish from previous visits is the three-flavor Chinese eggplant. I was glad to see that it’s still on the menu. Long strips of eggplant are stewed in a clay pot with a garlic ginger sauce; beef, chicken and shrimp were added to the medley before serving. It is a delicious concoction.
— John Gottberg Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .