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Chung Ching (Review)

College Hill 'mom and pop' Chinese restaurant comes up big

By Bill Hatfield · January 3rd, 2012 · Diner
diner_chung_ching_by_patrick_mcconnellPhoto by Patrick McConnell
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Most people I know fully support “buy local/eat local” values. But as we start the new year, let’s take a minute to give respect to the bedrock of that idea: “mom and pop” businesses.

True mom and pop restaurants are like rotary phones — you may remember what they are but can’t remember the last time you actually saw one. 

Chung Ching Chinese restaurant, located on the main drag in College Hill, is one of the best examples I can offer of a real mom and pop joint. There is nothing fancy at Chung Ching. The décor is dated, to say the least. When seated at one of the well-worn booths at Chung Ching, you half expect to see Ralphie and his family from A Christmas Story sitting next to you, still reminiscing about having their dinner ruined by the neighbor’s dog. 

It’s that kind of place. It’s definitely old school; it’s gonna take awhile to get your food; there aren’t any fancy POS systems; hell, there isn’t even a visible cash register. But did I mention that the food is awesome, and it’s cheap? Yup, great mom and pop cheap Chinese food. 

On a recent post-Christmas weeknight, a friend and I ventured out to Hamilton Avenue to find Chung Ching. I’d never been there, but I have always heard rave reviews about the place. There was a large party seated in the front of the restaurant and the server/hostess/busser/cashier (let’s just call her Mom) was busy with that group, but she seated us in the last remaining booth in the restaurant and immediately produced a pot of piping hot tea as we began scouring the menu. 

The menu of typical Chinese food is large but not overwhelming.

The first thing that I noticed was the low prices. Almost everything is under $10. The four-page menu features family dinners and all the usual suspects of noodles, rice, chicken, beef, pork and seafood, but on the first page they list their specialties. If Mom and Pop think that these are the best, I say go for it. 

I started with Hot and Sour Soup ($2.25). Usually, if a restaurant makes a good Hot and Sour Soup the rest of the meal is going to be good. Chung Ching offers an excellent version of this classic. The broth was perfectly layered, not too much vinegar, spicy but not overwhelming, and rich with flavor. 

My dining companion went all out adventure-wise and ordered an eggroll (two for $3). Incredibly, this was the only dish that wasn’t top notch. In fact, the eggroll was simply awful. While it looked large and nicely deep-fried, the inside was beyond boring. It was simply bland boiled chicken scraps with oily cabbage and celery. Skip the eggroll and try the Fried Jumbo Shrimp (two for $3 or four for $6).

After a really long wait (but we couldn’t complain because Mom was working her butt off in the dining room and I am sure that Pop was equally busy in the kitchen), our entrees arrived. I ordered Governor’s Chicken with Stir Fried Mix Vegetables (yes, that is what the menu called it) for $8.95. Regardless of the grammar, this was one of the best Chinese dishes I have ever eaten. Governor’s Chicken is basically a spicier version of General Tso’s Chicken, as it features habanero pepper sauce and hot oil, along with soy and oyster sauce mixed with crispy chicken cubes, napa cabbage and peapods. The flavors were fresh and vibrant. The sauce was stunningly delicious and the portion was pretty damned big. At $8.95 this is one of the best food buys in town. 

My friend ordered the Beef with Scallop ($12), and it was almost equally as good. The beef was tender and the small scallops were not overcooked or rubbery. The brown sauce was rich and flavorful and the veggies tasted fresh and perfectly cooked. There are several dishes on the menu that I want to try, including Szechuan Crispy Duck or Szechuan Crispy Shrimp (each $12). In addition, I watched Mom deliver plate after plate of fried rice, and it looked really good. All of the fried rice dishes are $6.25 to $6.95 depending on the added protein.

When Mom brought out the hand-written check at the end of the meal, she seemed quite happy that we had totally cleared our plates. She also brought us those classic plastic-wrapped fortune cookies. Too bad my fortune didn’t read “Mom and Pop make good food. Come visit us often.” © 

Go: 5842 Hamilton Ave., College Hill
Call:
513-541-1243
Surf:
No website
Hours:
11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday and 5-10 p.m. Sunday (closed Monday)
Entree Prices:
$6.25-$12
Red Meat Alternatives:
Many
Accessibility:
Fully accessible

 
 
 
 

 

 
01.04.2012 at 01:35 Reply

Great establishment, if you like geniune chinese cuisine, then without a doubt, you will love this place.  Great price, great service, great food!  btw i have to disagree, i think the egg rolls are one of the best in the city, maybe bill hatfield hasn't tried other chinese restaurants egg rolls.  I for one know that these are hand made fresh and not just some frozen prepackaged mass produced garbage you find at other places.  5 stars, 2 thumbs up, or whatever rating system is used, it's one of cincy's finest.

 

01.04.2012 at 03:50 Reply

Most authentic Chinese it is! I loved Chung Ching mom's pop's yum yum cooking! I have not been back in a while, but I remembered I always leave that joint with a full belly! The wait there does take some time, but what good food doesn't take time to make?Moms and Pops are doing it right. I approve of this Chinese joint!

 

01.06.2012 at 12:28 Reply

I lived in College Hill from 1979 (when I moved to Cincinnati) to 1983. I think this place used to be called China Doll. I lived about a block away and dined there often. It was truly a family business then. "Mom" (can't recall her name) would sit and talk to me if they weren't busy. At one point, her nephew, from a region in China I had never heard of, ran the kitchen. I loved the food there. I know Mom sold the business before I moved to Clifton Heights. Sounds like I need to make a sentimental journey.

 

01.10.2012 at 03:06 Reply

This is not an informative piece of writing. It speaks nothing on food quality, technique, and alludes that the restaurant is a anglaphied vs of chinese restaurant,serving drab ubiquitous fare of boring chinese food. 

 

Maybe it's better than that but hard to tell when there is really no infomred culinary litteracy  in the writing. There are plenty of great critics across the globe to ween how to write a revew and plenty of cookbooks on how to learn objective qualification of technique. 

 

Reading back on your articles the author seems to blindly pander to the Cincinnati market, promoting restaruants that edge on terrible. Credibility is based on taking an educated stance, not simple by market glorification. 

 

 

 

 

01.10.2012 at 04:16

Thanks for the feedback. Quick note: When you are criticizing someone specifically for their writing (and credibility), it's probably best if your critique is not riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Spell check is your friend!

Thanks again.

 

01.11.2012 at 11:33

First, how exactly is he pandering to Cincinnatians?  Would you propose he review restaurants in Los Angeles?  CityBeat is a magazine targeted at people in the Cincinnati area.  I'm confused as to why you would expect anything other than reviews for Cincinnati restaurants that he thinks are worthy enough for locals.

Second, Bill, you've made me seriously hungry for some chinese.  Now can you find a good one in the Blue Ash area for me, please?

 

01.10.2012 at 05:35 Reply

You're totally right. Serves me right for writing an impatient review of a review on an iPhone. 

Well played 

 

 
 
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