Whenever we select a restaurant I’ve never been to, I am eager to go online and see the reviews.
Thanks to Michelle’s winning entry of Yen Ching (Adam also picked it), I found mixed results of a curious, unsurprising variety. I saw claims that Yen Ching is the best Chinese in Milwaukee. I saw that Yen Ching was featured on Dirty Dining.
I was eager to form my own opinion, so on a sunny Friday evening in early June, we made the half-hour trek from Bay View to Brown Deer and pulled up in front of a restaurant festooned with life-size golden lions, red siding, green shingles and large Chinese characters.
The interior carried the theme further. The large dining space was decorated with items meant to evoke ancient China, and they looked like they had been in place for about as long. Adam said:
I loved the gold Buddha statue and paper-style lantern light fixtures.
The mostly windowless dining area was maybe a third full on a Friday night–no reservations necessary. Although, Cindi notes: “I noticed a lot of people picking up their take-out.”
We were put in the front room, and had it all to ourselves. Adam said:
Yen Ching reminded me of every stereotypical Chinese sit-down restaurant you see in action movies–one where all the bad dudes have a meeting interrupted by the good guys that breaks into a huge fight and someone ends up getting knocked out with a gong. In other words, it was awesome.
I loved the decor. Never having been to a sit-down Chinese restaurant, it was what I hoped for and better than I expected.
Our waitress quickly fulfilled our drink order… some Tsingtao beers, cocktails and waters and then took our appetizer and dinner orders.
We selected a double order of the sampler platter, which consisted of egg rolls, pot stickers, shrimp chips, sweet and sour ribs and crab rangoon. Shannon said:
The two appetizer platters were huge and enough to feed all of us. I liked the crab rangoon the best but also liked the pot stickers.
I thought the platter was plentiful for the price. It offered items I normally wouldn’t try, like shrimp chips. I really liked the egg rolls which were loaded with veggies and not at all greasy. Crab rangoon was tasty too.
Personally, I didn’t really like any of the appetizers. The pot sticker was full of a glob of meat that didn’t look good, the ribs were rubbery and there was nothing special about the egg rolls. I wish I had opted to get a soup instead; there were many options that looked good.
Shortly after we finished off the sampler platter, our food was coming out. Cindi said:
Our server was friendly and delivered a well-paced meal which is what you hope for when you bring a two-year-old out to eat.
TJ ordered the sweet and sour chicken. He said:
It was enough to feed two people. It was good, what else can I say about it? I took the leftovers home and ate those as well.
Michelle ordered another vegetarian dish. She said:
For my entrée I chose Buddha’s delight, which was deep fried tofu and vegetables with a garlic sauce. I really liked it and would order it again. The tofu was a nice alternative to chicken. I later regretted my decision not to take home my leftovers!
Shannon also went the veggie route. She said:
It was great. It was full of the veggies I was looking for. The rice was sticky and perfect. I also really enjoyed TJ’s sweet and sour chicken and Cindi’s dish.
Cindi and Adam both had the lo mein. Cindi said:
It was the best lo mein I’ve had in a long time. Well-seasoned without being over salted, full of chicken and veggies, and a healthy portion size. Marilyn loved it too.
It was some of the best lo mein I’ve had–not greasy, with ample chicken and veggies. Although not exotic, I order this meal probably 90 percent of the time when we get Chinese, and this was one of the best I can remember.
Like Adam and Cindi, I chose my go-to Chinese dish–General Tso’s Chicken, as did Mike. The dish is exactly what I expected, the chicken appeared to be all white meat and the sauce was flavorful, although it could have been more plentiful. Broccoli would have been a better addition than the green peppers that were included. I love how broccoli soaks up the sauce. It wasn’t tremendously spicy, unless you ate the dried peppers that are included—are you supposed to eat those?
Mike didn’t eat the dried peppers but agreed about the broccoli. He said:
It was very good. The chicken was flavored well and it came with peppers and little corn stalk-looking things. I really think General Tso’s goes great with broccoli and that is what another Chinese place I frequent serves it with.
Our only dessert was fortune cookies with a series of strange, cryptic “fortunes.” It was fitting. Cindi said:
We spent about an hour and a half there without it feeling that long.
There is something satisfying about getting exactly what you expect–in that sense, Yen Ching delivered: The service was adequate, the food was average and the cost was in line with what you’d pay at other Chinese places.
If I lived near Yen Ching, I wouldn’t have a problem going there, but you can find average Chinese restaurants anywhere. Best Chinese? Maybe by an absolutely tiny percentage. Mike said:
It’s probably like every other Chinese restaurant you’ve had–which isn’t a bad thing.
There were other good things about Yen Ching. TJ said:
With a decor straight out of the Chinese restaurant from A Christmas Story, the experience was basically what I expected it to be: Heaping portions, quick service and few surprises.
After dinner, you can walk over to Hoffer’s Tropic Life Pets and check out some giant tortoises and caymans, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Ratings for Yen Ching were, as follows:
Yen Ching cumulative rating: 6.9
Visit Yen Ching online here.
Photos courtesy of TJ UTTKE PHOTOGRAPHY
Losing ‘Y’ nominations were: Yum Yum (Nick, Cindi and Mike) and Yo Mama! (TJ and Shannon).
Introduction to the ABCs of Milwaukee Dining
AJ Bombers: 6.8
Beta by Sabor: 7.9
Comet Cafe: 7
Eatery on Farwell: 6.2
Fajitas Grill: 5.3
Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub: 7.5
Irie Palace: 6.2
Jow Nai Fouquet: 6.9
Louise’s Trattoria: 5.2
Newsroom Pub: 5.4
Odd Duck: 8.2
Pizza Shuttle: 5.2
Quivey’s Grove: 6.9
Rumpus Room: 7.2
Seoul Korean Restaurant: 4.7
Tenuta’s Italian Restaurant: 7.9
Union House: 8.1
VIA Downer: 6.8
Wolf Peach: 7.7
X- Harbor House: 6.3
Yen Ching: 6.9
WHERE ARE WE EATING NEXT?