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Thursday, August 5,2010

Chinese, like mama used to make

By Clay Fong

For me, a visit to a Chinese restaurant is either an exercise in frustration or dewy-eyed nostalgia. I either feel that the chefs are butchering the favored dishes of my youth, or they should immediately be canonized for their uncanny ability to reproduce the standouts of long-ago family dinners. More than a year ago, I wrote about Broomfield’s Heaven Star, lauding it as the best place to enjoy dim sum in Colorado. It also was notable for having the menu closest to those of my San Francisco Bay-area childhood.

It’s now known as Newport, and is under new management. Without getting into too much detail, there was some unpleasantness involving the DEA and the illegal cultivation of controlled substances. Hence the name change, and a considerable amount of concern that quality and the menu would suffer under new management. Visiting for dinner with friends Tertia and Eric and their young daughter, Addie, I noticed that dim sum is still available. Happily, the menu appears much the same, featuring old chestnuts like salt fish fried rice.

We ordered four entrees for three adults, and Eric joked we were getting enough for a dozen people. I shot him a look that was pure Jet Li from Lethal Weapon IV — ordering in a Chinese restaurant is no laughing matter. Our selections weren’t tourist fare, save for the cheese wontons and egg drop soup to accommodate young Addie’s palate.

Half a roast duck at $7.50 is a good deal, but this was the weakest course in the meal. It was heavily marinated with soy and five-spice, making for a darker bird than usual. The skin tended more towards soggy than crisp, and the flesh lacked the moist suppleness of the best examples.

Much more successful was a $12.95 portion of pea vines, stir-fried at our request with plenty of garlic. These were about as good as it gets when it comes to cooked greens, with subtle flavor and perfect al dente consistency. A lot can go wrong with this dish, ranging from a bitter taste to a disconcertingly fibrous texture, but you wouldn’t know it from this version.

Newport happily accommodated my special request for $8.95 tomato beef chow mein with pan-fried noodles. For most Chinese-Americans, tomato beef chow mein occupies the same psychic space madeleines did for Proust in Remembrance of Things Past. The stickler could argue the sauce on Newport’s version was too thick. However, that didn’t lessen our enjoyment of the hot and crunchy noodles playing off sweet tomato and achingly tender slices of flank steak. Newport’s convincing execution of these flavors and textures took me back, if only for a moment.

Continuing the noodle theme, we relished a platter of lobster over yee mein, rice-based pasta resembling thick fettuccine. Consisting of a whole lobster, cut into chunks, shells and all, this entrée hit all the right notes. The crustacean was fresh with a delicate savor and the noodles possessed a satisfying heft. Telling Addie she needed to finish her lobster made me feel we’d be first against the wall come the revolution, although I’d raise the defense that this selection only cost $15.95. Based on the evidence of this dish and the tomato beef, as well as the pea vines, Newport has emerged triumphant.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

Newport
6700 West 120th Ave. Broomfield 303-635-1688

Clay’s Obscurity Corner

The mein difference

There`s a variety of Chinese noodles at Newport, including lo mein and chow mein. But what’s the difference between these varieties? The distinctions between lo and chow mein are ambiguous, as both use similar thin noodles. The differences are in preparation in that in lo mein, the noodles are stirred in the wok with the accompanying meat and vegetables, while chow mein noodles are prepared separately and topped with the other ingredients just before serving. Chow mein is also served crispy, although there is also a soft steamed version. My family never ordered lo mein; we always ate chow mein.
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