February 16, 2007
rich food overcomes problems in communicating
For 20+ years, the family-owned Chien Dynasty, 9921 W. 87th St., Overland Park, has offered Chinese food in a serene atmosphere that makes diners forget how close they are to strip malls and a massive public library. The current ownership has been there for 10 years.
We joined approximately a dozen other diners on a frigid Saturday evening. With 70-80 entrees on the dinner menu, in categories of beef, pork, shrimp, chicken, vegetarian, fried rice, lo mein and 20 specials that include Governor’s chicken ($9.50), Crystal Shrimp ($11.95), and House Beef ($9.50), making choices is an enjoyable challenge.
We started with Chien Dynasty Appetizer platter for two ($9.50). Served in an elevated round wooden tray, it featured five different appetizers atop a base of freshly shredded green cabbage. Shrimp Toasts were puffy, deep-fried triangles chock full of shrimp that instantly warmed the night.
Crab Rangoon burst with smooth cream cheese and crab bits while crispy egg rolls paired flaky phyllo dough with tasty ground meat, cooked cabbage and a touch of spice. During a second visit both items were equally good.
“Chow Chow” was tender, wafer-thin strips of beef served on wooden skewers, and tenderized further by warming the meat over a tiny burner in the middle of the tray. BBQ ribs delivered a sweet-hot culinary punch, but the sticky sauce stubbornly stuck to our fingers.
We next enjoyed Assorted Vegetable Soup for two ($3.95), a light, delicious chicken broth full of tender-crisp bamboo, water chestnuts, snow peas and broccoli with lightly cooked mushrooms, all served in a silver metal tureen. A few drops of soy sauce totally changed the flavor to something a bit richer.
Good flavor continued with my Chicken Lo Mein ($7.50), which easily could have served two people. Tender chicken chunks and white and green onion slices punctuated a huge pile of savory, thick noodles with just the right amount of saltiness.
Mark’s Chien Dynasty Specialty, Yu-Hsian Scallops ($10.50) featured light, fluffy rice paired with large, plump scallops; and broccoli, celery, onion, baby corn, green pepper, carrots that seemed barely cooked, in a dark brown sauce whose spiciness left our noses running a bit and occasionally hit the throat with high heat in unexpected spots. But the tepid temperature of each dish reduced its appeal slightly.
We split an order of Fried Fresh Apples ($3.95), but were disappointed. Four large apple slices were each encased in an undercooked, doughy batter. A pleasant honey sauce could not lift them out of the doldrums.
High-backed mauve booths, Chinese flute music piped into the dining room, carved Buddhas of all sizes, intricately painted Chinese horses and red silk Chinese lanterns contributed authentic decorator notes to the dining room. But the carpet looked somewhat worn and restrooms appeared to be in the midst of a cosmetic re-do. Mark, who usually is the last person to feel a chill, complained several times about how cold the restaurant was and I sometimes strained to understand what our Chinese waiters said.
However, though a little slow in the evening, service was pleasant during both visits. When Ellen and I arrived for an early lunch, the room warmed up quickly as diners filled the space, conversation picked up and a trail of people headed for the back room.
Although we enjoyed our off-the-menu meal, our waiter never mentioned the 40+-item buffet most people flocked to. For only $5.95 patrons dined on Chinese pancakes, Mongolian Pork, tofu with vegetables and Curry Noodles as well as more familiar dishes.
Ellen and I shared Fried Won Ton (6, $2.95), each of which resembled a three-corner hat and included a small amount of spicy ground meat in the center. Soup arrived before our entrées. Ellen’s Hot & Sour Soup had a rich taste that resembled French onion soup. My egg drop soup was thick with egg that floated in a thoroughly satisfying, thick broth.
My Shrimp with Broccoli ($5.95, lunch) included half a dozen plump, succulent shrimp, with plenty of crisp/tender broccoli in a medium thick and mild pale sauce. A huge pile of exceptional fried rice, on each plate, offered plenty of carrot bits, peas and egg. Ellen’s Moo Goo Gai Pan ($5.75, lunch) featured another mild, pale sauce chock full of crunchy snow peas, large water chestnuts, and carrot and mushroom slices.
With half of our entrees boxed for another meal, we had no room for dessert. But I vowed to return soon, for a pass at the lunch buffet.
Lisa Waterman Gray can be contacted at email@example.com.
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