J.W. Chen’s: Chinese restaurant around the corner
Jessica Shaffer | Thursday, September 24, 2009
As students living on campus, it is often frustrating the lack of alternatives to the dining hall that are within walking distance. While the opening of Eddy Street Commons is certain to increase our choices, the general state of food options near campus is minimal. Nevertheless, there are a few dependable choices very close to campus that are often overlooked. Next to Clover Village, or the apartment complex previously known as Turtle Creek, is a small strip of restaurants that offer a whole array of ethnic foods. Next to Alexander’s Grill, reviewed here previously, J.W. Chen’s Chinese Cuisine is a quirky Chinese dining experience. With common Chinese fare, somewhat puzzling décor and a generally authentic atmosphere, J.W. Chen’s has all the elements necessary to become everyone’s favorite Chinese restaurant around the corner.
Walking into J.W. Chen’s, one is presented with a curious combination of Chinese décor and recycled office furniture. An overwhelmingly white environment, the restaurant is a somewhat small room, crammed full of a few too many tables complete with bright blue, leather office chairs. But, ultimately, it cannot be denied that the office chairs are very comfortable. And they swivel. They just seem delightfully out of place. The chairs and tables combine with some other unique touches to create an atmosphere full of character.
The menu at J.W. Chen’s encompasses most dishes one would expect to find at a Chinese restaurant. Complete with appetizers, soup, salad and entrées, there is an option for everyone. The lettuce wraps come prepared on large pieces of lettuce with fried rice noodles and a delicious chicken and mushroom mixture. On the side, a traditional lettuce wrap sauce is provided which adds a little bit of sweetness to an already delectable appetizer.
All entrées are served with a choice of soup, fried or steamed rice and an egg roll. The wonton soup was identical to a traditional wonton soup. The wonton, made with pork and onion filling is combined with green onion and a flavorful broth. This classic Chinese dish is the perfect option for anyone not committed to Chinese food because it is flavorful without being overwhelming. The sweet and sour soup, the other starter option, is jam packed with mysterious vegetable shreds. Creating the standard fare when it comes to soup options, wonton soup will satisfy those seeking saltiness while sweet and sour soup will speak to those looking for something a little more spicy and savory.
The sesame chicken is prepared with the typical sesame sauce. Generally sweet with a slight kick, the sesame chicken is a nice alternative to the more common sweet and sour chicken. Because both have a similar sweet and spicy palate, the sesame chicken is a safe way to try something new. Coupled with steamed rice to absorb some of the extra sauce, the sesame chicken does not disappoint.
The Walnut chicken is a healthy flavorful alternative to the more notorious deep fried Chinese indulgences. The sauce lightly accents fresh vegetables and grilled chicken with a mildly sweet and still savory sauce. Charred walnuts complete the dish adding slightly sweet and smoky flavors for a bit of creativity and culinary intrigue.
J.W. Chen’s also may be one of South Bend’s only providers of boba, or bubble tea. A trendy beverage that combines tropical juice with “bubbles” of chewy tapioca, the drink is a refreshing snack in and of itself. The tea is available in mango, kiwi, strawberry, banana and watermelon. Served in an icy, smoothie slushy form, the boba is certainly worth a try.
Overall, J.W. Chen’s fulfills expectations. It offers delicious traditional Chinese food within walking distance of campus. Perfect for a big group or a date, J.W. Chen’s has the promise to become a regular spot for anyone looking for a quality dining experience.