Welcome back. First, let me preface the review with a little story. When I was working in Chicago, I had the chance to go to a natural foods trade show. After a little small talk with a man peddling Himalayan Salt Blocks, he asked me where I was from. I told him I was born and raised in Indianapolis. His response, "the best Chinese food I have ever eaten was in Indianapolis." I replied, "Oh yeah? What restaurant?" He then proceeded to tell me that there is no way I have heard of it. I said, "Try me. I think I've been to the best Chinese restaurant in Indianapolis." Finally he conceded and told me it was this little restaurant called, Yen Ching. I informed him that I too believe that is the best Chinese restaurant. The only difference is that he always goes to the Yen Ching on E. Washington Street, whereas I frequent the Northside location. Yen Ching has long been a family favorite. My family has been going to this restaurant for a long time now. It is special when you can walk into an establishment and the owners, wait staff, or bartenders recognize you and welcome you by name. I always hold those places in high regard.
Luckily I work on the Northwest side of town, so Yen Ching is only about 10 minutes away from the office. I have introduced my co-workers to the restaurant and its safe to say that they are hooked as well. They always know I'm a sure bet to join them for lunch. I know, enough background, and on with the food. My favorite time to dine is during lunch. They offer a lunch combination platter where you can get soup, entree, fried rice, a crab rangoon, and a fried wonton for $5.45 (some options are a little more expensive. For instance, the Orange Chicken). I always get the Hot & Sour soup. It is a great blend of veggies (bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrots, and I want to say there are bits of straw mushrooms as well). Also, there is egg streamed into the broth as well as tofu and tiny pieces of pork. Flavor-wise, it is exactly as advertised. It is a great mix of spicy and sour. It has a healthy amount of pepper. **Note, make sure you ask for a small bowl of fried wontons to mix or dip in the soup. It gives the soup a little added crunch.** I've tried other hot and sour soups, but this is by far my favorite. I also always substitute the fried wonton with another crab rangoon. The filling in the rangoon has a very creamy texture. I'd say it leans on the cream cheese flavor, with a hint of crab. All in all, a perfect addition to the meal. For my entree today I went with the General Zoal's Chicken. Who is General Zoal you ask? Well my friends, I have no idea who he was historically, but culinarily, he beats the pants off of General Tso, General Chu, or any Chinese General with a chicken dish named after him. This dish was the initial reason I started going back to Yen Ching. The pieces of chicken are dark meat. The sauce is a vibrant red, as compared to more of a brown sauce you get at other Chinese restaurants. The sauce is not heavy and has a great blend of heat and sweet. The fried rice also has a very light taste to it. It is not at all greasy. The only veggies you are getting with this combo are in the soup and in the fried rice. If you want a more well rounded meal, opt for the chicken or beef and broccoli.
Let's talk about the atmosphere. The decor in the restaurant is pretty plain. They have some Chinese tapestries and plants, but thats about it. If you are looking for a five star Chinese restaurant experience, Yen Ching is not the place for you. It is the perfect neighborhood eatery for amazing Chinese food. My favorite part of the service is the timing of the food. I'd say it is pretty flawless. You are seated, the waitress takes your order, within 5 minutes you have your soup, as you are finishing the soup the entree is on its way. As your meal comes to a close, the check is dropped with a fortune cookie. Speaking of fortune cookies, ever wonder why your fortune isn't coming true? Well you are eating the cookies wrong. Let me blow your mind on the proper way to eat a fortune cookie. 1. Break the cookie. 2. DO NOT READ THE FORTUNE. 3. Eat the cookie. 4. Read the fortune. 5. If you like your fortune, eat your fortune. And do NOT tell anyone what it said. BOOM. That's how you eat a fortune cookie. Anyways, my favorite waitress is the older lady, Ching. Some people are annoyed with her style because she is very loud and commanding when you order, but she is friendly and gets the job done.
Let's recap. The best time to go is for lunch. Order the Hot and Sour Soup, the Egg Drop is a decent option as well. I recommend the following dishes as I rotate them whenever I dine: General Zoal's Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, Sesame Chicken, Orange Chicken, Beef and Broccoli (My sister's favorite. She swears by it. I'd have to agree that it is the BEST Beef and Broccoli I've ever had) , Chicken and Broccoli, and Sweet and Sour Chicken. Lastly, don't forget to sign up for the Birthday Club. You bring two friends in and your meal is free. Well just find one friend and bring me.