Hours: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, noon to 10:30 p.m. Sunday. Reservations suggested. Prices: Most dinner entrees $7 to $8. Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.
We lucky suburbanites live in a buyers' market when it comes to Chinese restaurants. There are so many good ones around, we can afford to be choosy. But even against stiff competition, the China Village stands up pretty well.
The food, although perhaps not the best in the area, is generally well prepared, liberally portioned, very reasonably priced (even by Chinese restaurant standards), and served in an attractive dining room. This is a busy place -- those big portions and low prices draw the crowds, even on week nights -- but it's a convivial kind of hustle and bustle.
The frying at China Village is particularly skillful, so it's no surprise that the sesame shrimp appetizer is excellent: a kind of shrimp toast minus the bread, with a thin, crisp batter and a velvety filling. Although the ginger and garlic-flavored pork filling the steamed dumplings is very good, the wrappers have been gummy. The fried version probably would be better.
"Hacked" cabbage, cold and crisp with palate-freshening vinegar-and-ginger sauce, is a wonderful appetizer and a good dish to nibble all through dinner. Among the soups, the one called "My Own" is a subtle gem, with a rich chicken broth, tomato chunks, egg, spinach, bean curd and seaweed, with each flavor, color and texture retaining its own identity.
If bargains are your bag, look for the $7.95 san shein wor bar, a big platter of chicken, beef and shrimp. It is all nicely succulent and tender, with reasonably lively vegetables in a mild if slightly overthickened sauce. A fancier mixture with roast pork and crab meat, served in a taro nest, is available at $11.95.
Another bargain at $7.50: yuling chicken -- a whole, big, beautiful bird, very lightly fried so it's crackly, cut up for relatively easy eating, and served in an excellent sauce that is tart, sweet and salty.
Another good chicken choice: lemon chicken, beautifully fried and not oversweetened. For something more robust, kang pao chicken is very well done here, with nicely trimmed chicken cubes, a generous proportion of peanuts, and a well-balanced hot-sweet salt sauce. The last time we tried it, crispy duck was a bust, however -- far too fatty. Peking duck would be a better choice.
Shrimp have been very good at China Village lately, plump, sweet and tender. Green pepper shrimp, with big chunks of onion and pepper in a mildly spicy sauce, is a good selection. So is shrimp with hot garlic sauce, the best sauce in the house, slightly sweet and tart, and also available with beef, chicken, pork or broccoli.
Another good sauce appears on the sacha beef, the meat well marinated and well trimmed, and the flavor smoky and permeated with anise. If you like the touch of anise, consider the "yellow birds," thin sheets of bean curd rolled around strips of scallion, bean curd and mushroom and braised in a rich, brown sauce.