Joy in Little White Boxes

China Boy's offerings pop with flavor—and the restaurant delivers, too!

In her best-seller The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, Jennifer 8. Lee credits Misa Chang, owner of Empire Szechuan Garden restaurant in New York City, with popularizing restaurant home delivery. Lee devotes a whole chapter in her book to the topic.

Whether or not this is true, I don't know, but I do know that having a hot meal delivered to my home after a hard day at the office is my idea of heaven. So when I discovered that China Boy—a relatively new Chinese restaurant not far from my house—offered delivery, I took advantage of it.

Our friend Don was over, so we decided to order from the "family dinner" part of the menu. That way, we could sample as many items as possible, for $8.95 or $9.95 per person. (The higher price allows for more items and more-tempting options.)

We ordered each of the three soup choices—won ton, egg flower, and hot-and-sour—and for entrées, we picked Mongolian beef, orange chicken and almond shrimp. The per-person combo also included an egg roll, a fried shrimp and pork fried rice.

I called in the order to a friendly and helpful voice on the other end; 45 minutes later, the food was on my table.

The appetizers were well-prepared and quite good, although the egg roll—with its crispy goodness—trumped the shrimp.

The best soup was the hot-and-sour. Dark, sweet and spicy with bits of green onion and slices of tofu, this was one of the best versions I've had in a long time. The egg flower also was top-notch; you could tell the base was chicken broth. All too often, the broth in this soup is pale, with a slick mouth feel that is a complete turnoff. Not so here. The won ton was our least-favorite—but we still finished it off.

While the fried rice was labeled as an appetizer, it seemed more like an entrée. It was loaded with pieces of delicious fried pork and various vegetables; the fluffy rice had taken the nice brown tone of the pork.

The almond shrimp with cashew chicken was a conglomeration of shrimp, chicken, almonds, cashews, zucchini, green onions, white onions, mushrooms, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and peas, as well as a mellow sauce. There was none of that corn-starchy texture or taste that seems to be found in a lot of Chinese food.

The orange chicken consisted of big bites of white-meat chicken, fried in an eggy batter and then tossed with a sweet sauce and a mess of vegetables. It was a nice version of this standby.

Mongolian beef is supposed to be hot—and China Boy's version fits the bill. Not only was the sauce hot and fiery; mixed in with the beef and vegetables was a full ration of whole, dried, blackened red peppers. Perhaps there were too many, but beyond that, this was a great dish.

For lunch, I dined at the restaurant solo. I skipped the lunch specials ($5.25 and $5.75; includes egg roll, fried rice and soup) and instead ordered vegetable egg foo young ($6.95) and one of the interesting sounding "chef's specials," the crystal shrimp with walnuts ($9.95).

The server brought a bowl of won-ton strips with a bowl of sweet-and-sour sauce for dipping, which was a good thing, because it took a while for the food to arrive.

The egg foo young was packed with a mix of vegetables, with even more veggies on top (including big florets of fresh broccoli, mushrooms and spinach). All of it was dressed in a garlicky dark sauce. The four pancakes were huge and cooked perfectly. This would've been enough to satisfy two or three more people.

The dozen or so jumbo "crystal" shrimp were deep-fried in a coating that at first bite was lightly crispy, and then melted in the mouth. The shrimp was tender—but it was the sauce that made the dish. Slightly sweet, slightly savory, opaque and smooth, it was fantastic. The nuts only enhanced the dish. I would certainly order this one again.

The décor is what one might expect at a Chinese-American restaurant, with big booths, a dozen tables, blacks, reds, golds, bamboo and a folding screen that divided the entryway from the dining room. The look is nothing to write home about, really, but it was acceptable.

My only complaint: The ceiling fans were spinning away at a high speed, which cooled the food down way too fast.

China Boy reminded me of the Chinese restaurants of my youth. The food is full of flavor; portions are huge; and the takeout comes in those cute little white boxes.

I'll definitely return to China Boy—especially for home delivery ... my idea of bliss.

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