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    There's something about an authentic Chinese restaurant that lends itself to good conversation. Maybe that's just a Western perception, but the evening seemed to slip away as we sampled the menu at Chan's Chinese Cuisine. My guest and I were lulled by the languid surroundings and soft music, and rather surprised when we got up to leave and noticed that two full hours had passed.

    In retrospect, I would do a couple of things differently if I revisited Chan's. It would have been better to visit at lunch, when a dim sum service is offered and waiters stroll through the dining room with carts filled with dozens of varieties of dumplings, spring rolls and assorted delicacies. Customers choose and pay by the item, dressing up their selections with hot pastes, warm mustards and sweet sauces.

    In retrospect, I would do a couple of things differently if I revisited Chan's. It would have been better to visit at lunch, when a dim sum service is offered and waiters stroll through the dining room with carts filled with dozens of varieties of dumplings, spring rolls and assorted delicacies. Customers choose and pay by the item, dressing up their selections with hot pastes, warm mustards and sweet sauces.

    We were somewhat disappointed to find that this service isn't offered at dinner. Ordering from the appetizer menu, we were only able to sample a couple of varieties. But we liked what we tried, particularly the steamed dumplings stuffed with pork ($4.95), and dumplings filled with plump shrimp, minced vegetables and nuts ($5.95). They looked mysterious, wrapped in translucent pastry sheets and crimped shut to seal in the savory flavors, almost like a tray full of jellyfish. But they were delicious.

    We were somewhat disappointed to find that this service isn't offered at dinner. Ordering from the appetizer menu, we were only able to sample a couple of varieties. But we liked what we tried, particularly the steamed dumplings stuffed with pork ($4.95), and dumplings filled with plump shrimp, minced vegetables and nuts ($5.95). They looked mysterious, wrapped in translucent pastry sheets and crimped shut to seal in the savory flavors, almost like a tray full of jellyfish. But they were delicious.

    The won ton soups were fairly flavorful as well. My guest had the conventional version ($1.50), a clear brown broth and won ton noodles stuffed with pork. I preferred the "wor won ton" ($4.50), a heartier variety with shrimp, pork, snow peas, water chestnuts and ears of baby corn.

    The won ton soups were fairly flavorful as well. My guest had the conventional version ($1.50), a clear brown broth and won ton noodles stuffed with pork. I preferred the "wor won ton" ($4.50), a heartier variety with shrimp, pork, snow peas, water chestnuts and ears of baby corn.

    After such a promising start, we were somewhat let down by our entrees. Although beautifully presented with bright vegetables, the flavors simply weren't interesting. My guest had Chan's cashew nut chicken ($7.95), served with plenty of nuts and vegetables in a brown sauce that was quite boring. My braised duck with assorted meat and seafood ($12.95) was a disappointing stew with slippery, fatty meats. The crisp, stir-fried broccoli, carrots and mushroom caps served with our entrees were much more appealing.

    After such a promising start, we were somewhat let down by our entrees. Although beautifully presented with bright vegetables, the flavors simply weren't interesting. My guest had Chan's cashew nut chicken ($7.95), served with plenty of nuts and vegetables in a brown sauce that was quite boring. My braised duck with assorted meat and seafood ($12.95) was a disappointing stew with slippery, fatty meats. The crisp, stir-fried broccoli, carrots and mushroom caps served with our entrees were much more appealing.

    Chan's did such a good job with dim sum, they must be doing something right. If you order from the dinner menu, steer away from dishes that involve sauces and gravies. My best advice: Go at lunch, the better to affordably sample a wide range of offerings.

    China and Peru have enjoyed a long-standing diplomatic friendship; now diners can benefit from their culinary partnership. While the traditional Chinese fare is less than remarkable, the flavors of Peru shine. Don’t miss the ceviche mixto, tender citrus-marinated seafood served with a handful of toasted corn nuts. Read Orlando Weekly's full review: http://www2.orlandoweekly.com/dining/review.asp?rid=13329


    Teaser: China and Peru have enjoyed a long-standing diplomatic friendship; now diners can benefit from their culinary partnership. While the traditional Chinese fare is less than remarkable, the flavors of Peru shine. Don't miss the ceviche mixto, tender citrus-marinated seafood served with a handful of toasted corn nuts.

    I'll admit it: I'm not thrilled by Chinese food, at least not the overly greasy and sodium-filled kind that dominates the American foodscape. If I'm going to eat Chinese, I want it to be from some back alley in Chinatown where the menu barely taps the English language. I've always said that you should dine with someone Chinese who can show you the ropes about the good stuff. But when I walked into China in College Park with two of my least Asian girlfriends, I learned a thing or two about the validity of the Chinese-American hybrid – Chimerican, one of my friends called it.

    China in CP has one of those menus that numbers everything because there are so many items, all familiar and safe. Who hasn't heard of sesame chicken? Vegetable fried rice? Egg foo young? These dishes are so embedded in the American culture that they've almost become clichés of themselves. But what would a neighborhood be without Chinese takeout? People describe vapid districts of town, lacking culture, as places that "don't even have a Chinese restaurant." So China in CP not only fills a gap, but fills it well in its small spot on Edgewater Drive.

    We walked up at night, the bright interior beckoning. As we stepped inside, we were awash in familiar Chimerican smells – vegetable oil, sesame, shrimp and steamed rice. This truly felt like an urban Chinese takeout, with people popping in and out for paper bags brimming with red-and-white paper boxes, plastic soup containers and fortune cookies.

    I must mention the service, which was so friendly that it had the feel of a corner diner, the kind of place you go by yourself on a rainy night and pour out your sorrows while drinking hot tea and catching up on gossip. Every dish we ordered generated our server's excitement, along with a story about who else eats it or why she thought we'd like it spicier.

    Shrimp fried rice ($6.95) was an enormous dish of tender rice stir-fried with a plethora of diced vegetables and shrimp pieces. It was exactly what it promised, except it was three times larger. For value, you can't go wrong at China in CP. A family of four could feast for under $20 if they put their minds to it.

    Because it fit the atmosphere so well, we ordered crab Rangoon ($3.95), six pieces of deep-fried wonton filled with crab and cream cheese. These antiquated party appetizers originated at Trader Vic's, the legendary 1950s tiki hideaway. Even though crab Rangoon has filtered down from the days of groovy gastronomy, they are still satisfying to the American palate.

    One of my friends ordered chicken with lemon sauce ($7.95), which was more like chicken with lemon curd. The chicken was battered and deep-fried, and from the looks of the heaping plate, there was again enough for three portions. Alongside it, a bowl of bright yellow sauce was goopy-sweet. It tasted just right with chicken, but my friend admitted that she could eat the sauce on ice cream.

    My other friend ordered an appetizer of sushi. Now that grocery stores sell sushi, places like China in CP feel free to do so, too. The sushi bar that fills the back of the restaurant serves decent sushi and sashimi. My friend got the sashimi sampler ($7.95) with great toro, mediocre tuna flank and flavorless yellowtail. For her entree, she chose something that wasn't on the menu, Singapore noodles – one of those ubiquitous dishes – and they had no problems accommodating her request. They make it all the time, they told her. Her plate was a huge mound of wok-fried rice noodles with spicy, curry-flecked vegetables and seafood.

    I zeroed in on Peking duck ($15). I love this Beijing specialty that involves a process of glazing and drying to produce a succulent bird with a crispy skin atop a layer of delicious fat. It had been sliced into manageable portions and was served with thin pancakes to wrap around it and hoisin sauce for dipping.

    Although China in College Park is a far cry from authentic Chinese, it is firmly filling its small place in its neighborhood.

    Colonialtown’s Chuan Lu Garden employs plenty of fiery stimulants in their authentic, real-deal Sichuan fare. Must-try dishes: cumin lamb, laced with aromatic and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns, and Lanzhou-style beef soup with hand-pulled noodles.

    We all know what image the word "buffet" conjures up, and it's not a complimentary one if you're looking for a fine meal. Add "crazy" to that, all sorts of pictures spring to mind that would make the late eccentric filmmaker Ed Wood blush.

    So my problem is in finding an alternative phrase for a place called "Crazy Buffet" to describe how impressive it is. Part of a small chain, this location (open since October 2001) has a giant pink facade with a pagoda on top and "gee whiz" decor inside: The black-marble entry, bubbling streams and many dining rooms will make your mouth fall open.

    So my problem is in finding an alternative phrase for a place called "Crazy Buffet" to describe how impressive it is. Part of a small chain, this location (open since October 2001) has a giant pink facade with a pagoda on top and "gee whiz" decor inside: The black-marble entry, bubbling streams and many dining rooms will make your mouth fall open.

    Called an "upscale Japanese" restaurant, many of the offerings are Chinese, including a not-too-sweet honey chicken, tofu-laden hot-and-sour soup, and crunchy, shell-on salt-and-pepper shrimp. Lo mein fans won't be disappointed; neither will seekers of peppery Szechuan beef.

    Called an "upscale Japanese" restaurant, many of the offerings are Chinese, including a not-too-sweet honey chicken, tofu-laden hot-and-sour soup, and crunchy, shell-on salt-and-pepper shrimp. Lo mein fans won't be disappointed; neither will seekers of peppery Szechuan beef.

    It's when you find bowls of Japanese udon noodles and crabmeat waiting for a ladle of rich broth, or sweet black-hijiki-seaweed salad, or rich and comforting miso soup, that things become interesting.

    It's when you find bowls of Japanese udon noodles and crabmeat waiting for a ladle of rich broth, or sweet black-hijiki-seaweed salad, or rich and comforting miso soup, that things become interesting.

    I have had sushi made with higher grade fish locally, but I've also had a lot worse and paid a lot more. The best part for sushi lovers is that you can choose your favorite and eat all you want. Toasted salmon-skin rolls, California rolls, the interestingly different "house" roll that's fried on the outside with moist fish within, broiled unagi (eel), a refreshing, spicy chopped octopus, sweet red tuna -- the assortment changes with supply, but it's all worth a try.

    I have had sushi made with higher grade fish locally, but I've also had a lot worse and paid a lot more. The best part for sushi lovers is that you can choose your favorite and eat all you want. Toasted salmon-skin rolls, California rolls, the interestingly different "house" roll that's fried on the outside with moist fish within, broiled unagi (eel), a refreshing, spicy chopped octopus, sweet red tuna -- the assortment changes with supply, but it's all worth a try.

    Desserts, particularly the green-tea cake, are a step above the ordinary, and the bread -- always my first indicator of how much a restaurant cares about its food -- is superb.

    Desserts, particularly the green-tea cake, are a step above the ordinary, and the bread -- always my first indicator of how much a restaurant cares about its food -- is superb.

    Service (yes, there are servers who bring drinks and clear used plates) is attentive and polite. Lunch ($9.95, or $15.95 for weekend brunch) is a great deal for sushi fanatics, and dinner ($18.95 to $21.95, depending on the day) features a one-shot hibachi counter: Pick some vegetables, your meat of choice (chicken, beef, pork or seafood) and a sauce, and it will appear at your table.

    Service (yes, there are servers who bring drinks and clear used plates) is attentive and polite. Lunch ($9.95, or $15.95 for weekend brunch) is a great deal for sushi fanatics, and dinner ($18.95 to $21.95, depending on the day) features a one-shot hibachi counter: Pick some vegetables, your meat of choice (chicken, beef, pork or seafood) and a sauce, and it will appear at your table.

    Think of it more as Asian communal eating rather than a buffet. And since there are Japanese creatures akin to foxes running wild in their native country, I'll coin a new phrase and say, "Crazy Buffet is crazy like a kitsune."

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