Atmosphere: Rejuvenated hotel lobby.
Price range: Family dinners for three start at $17.15 and fo to $73.95 for six; most a la carte entrees are $3.25 to $6.95.
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Credit cards: Accepts major credit cards.
SPecial facilities: Parking garage next to building; acessible to patrons in wheelchairs. Extensive carry-out menu with home delivery to six surrounding apartment buildings.
Reservations: Recommended on weekends.
We were looking for a quiet place where we could sit down to a bowl of won ton soup, fried rice and another Chinese dish or two and be back home in an hour. It had been a Sunday of swim meets, gymnastic meets and other assorted child-oriented activites, and while we all felt like eating out, none of us in the mood for elegant, drawn out service or a lavish meal.
My husband and I had had a quick Chinese dinner two years ago at the Phoenix and since it was close to home, we thought it might be the right place for the four of us. The Phoenix, when we last saw it, had the ambiance of an aging hotel lobby, and we were surprised to see it had changed. It's still in what appears to be the lobby of an apartment building, but it's been filled with plants, rock gardens and lovely Chinese water color paintings.
Although the restaurant was almost empty at 7 p.m., we were seated next to a party of 13 birthday celebrants - at least that's what we assumed the cake and line-up of presents meant. They proved to be fairly quiet neighbors, considering the oaccasion, and we went on to the business of ordering. We by-passed cocktails in the interest of time and the a la carte menu, also, for the same reason.
There were family dinners for two, three and so on up to six, but the choices were a nice surprise; Mongolian beef, sizzling shrimp, mooshu pork, almond chicken. There were no chow meins or chop sueys, only dishes that sounded wildly interesting. Since the dinners included soup, egg roll, rice and tea, we decided that the four of us would have plenty to eat with a dinner for three and an extra order of spare ribs. Also, since the dinners offered egg drop or hot and sour soup, we changed to three won ton soups. Our daughter volunteered to try the hot and sour soup. With a healthy seasoning of salt, the won ton soup was delicious. Our daughter, who likes spicy foods, loved the hot and sour and, even those of us with tamer palattes thought it was pretty good.
The spare ribs weren't anything special. For $2.95 there were four to the order which was just right for us. The three eggs rolls that came with our dinner were so good we were sorry we didn't ordered an extra. We requested duck sauce and mustard to accompany the egg rolls and when they appeared they were in tiny clear packettes. Not our favorite way of having duck sauce, but a reminder that Phoenix does a large carry-out trade in the large apartment buildings near it.
Our main courses were in highlight of our meal. The sweet and sour pork was as good as sweet and sour pork can be, and the sizzling shrimp and mongolian beef were memorable. THe beef was in a light brown sauce with lots of green spring onion tops. The shrimp was on the sweet side with a nice assortment of Chinese vegetables as well as plenty of shrimp.
For the first time in a long while, we were able to finish all the food we were served. Dinner for three, rather than four, was just the right size, even though we were quite hungry.
Fortune cookies ended the meal and our son was visibly disappointed when his fortune came up blank. Mine wasn't so terrific either. "Be sincere, whether you mean it or not," it read.
On the way out, while were telling each other that we had really lucked into a delicious chinese restaurant, the owner came by and presented our children with chocolate mints.
Not only did the Phoenix have good food and a kind heart for children, the price was right, too. The family dinner we chose was $18.29. With the extra order of spare ribs and won ton soups, the bill came to $23.20.