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Wok This Way

At Silver City's new China Gate, the fortune cookies read: Bring hearty appetite.

 

We can say one thing for sure about Silver City's eagerly anticipated new Chinese restaurant, China Gate: You'll leave there carrying a Styrofoam takeout box. It's not that the food isn't tasty enough to make you want to finish whatever you order; it's that the serving sizes are so enormous. No matter how hearty your appetite, we predict that the heaping mound of sizzling sesame chicken strips ($9.95), for example, will defeat you.

Don't let the prodigious portions to come prevent you from ordering starters, however, as some of China Gate's tastiest offerings come at the front of its ambitious, multi-page menu. The crab rangoons ($4.95) achieve the perfect blend of crispiness and creaminess, with a lively, onion-y bite to the generous filling. Eggrolls ($3.75) are another hit, though they're served with a sweet-and-sour sauce that more adventurous eaters may want to supplement with some of the chili sauce on the table. Can't decide? An appetizer plate ($7.50) lets you try both plus wontons and barbecued pork.

Every section of China Gate's menu seems to have a couple more choices than you'd find at most Chinese restaurants. There are six soup options ($6.25-$7.25), for instance, including not only the standard wonton but also a house special, egg flower, wor mein and wor wonton. We tried the hot and sour soup–one of the standards by which we judge Chinese eateries–and found it unusually hearty, with just enough peppery zing at the back of your throat. Vinegar lovers might wish it had a tad more sour, though.

Choosing an entree from the lengthy list was daunting. You'll find all the Chinese-restaurant standbys–sweet and sour pork ($8.95), Kung Pao beef ($9.95), Mongolian beef ($9.95), Szechuan shrimp ($10.95), lemon chicken ($9.50), lo mein of every variety ($8.95-$10.95)–as well as a few less-familiar entries. We were intrigued by black bean beef ($9.95) and twice-cooked pork ($8.95), and almost went for China Gate Sizzling ($12.95)–shrimp, beef and chicken stir-fried with vegetables. But the cashew nut chicken ($9.50) proved irresistible and a good choice; even the overabundance of celery pieces was forgivable, given the overall enormity of the serving portion. Still more eye-popping was the serving of General Chow chicken ($9.95), an unusual version with tempura-like chicken strips (rather than chunks) sitting in a plate of spicy sauce. We were a bit worried when our server didn't ask how spicy we wanted this dish, but needn't have: Hotter flavors here have evidently been tamed to American tastes. Indeed, we could even have gone for it a bit spicier.

Those who simply can't decide at all can opt for any of five family-style dinner combos ($11-$14 a person) or three dinner-special combos ($8.50-$8.95). Or come at lunch and sample the all-you-can-eat-buffet ($6.95).

Beverage options are limited to tea, soft drinks and such, and if you want water you'll have to ask for it. No plum wine or Tsingtao beer–sorry.

Service at China Gate is snappy and friendly, though we did wish for a third plate to eat our entree and rice from.

The interior–which once was the Double Eagle restaurant–has been decorated in just the right amount of Chinese touches. There's a big-bellied Buddha at the door, a smattering of lanterns and the like, but not so much as to cross into kitsch. Seating is either at comfy booths along the walls or at black-lacquered chairs and tables.

Or there's always takeout, of course. Just keep in mind that even if you order in, you'll still have plenty of food to go.

–David A. Fryxell

 

China Gate, 1740 Hwy. 180E in Silver City, 388-1191, is open Tues.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4-9 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4:30-9:30 p.m., Sat. 1-9:30 p.m. (no lunch buffet) and Sun. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Mon. Most credit cards accepted.

 

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