Red Orchid Restaurant
1750 East Eighth St.
Hours: Monday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Price: $ out of $$$$
Ambience: 4 stars
Food: 2 1/2 stars
I have to admit that I was a little skeptical of a restaurant that was in Davis Manor Center, the same strip mall that also includes the classy institution that is the Dollar Tree. The center is a vibrant orange color, reminiscent of the color of Fanta orange soda, which added a wonderful touch.
My friend and I bravely stepped into the recently opened Red Orchid Restaurant with the hopes of getting real dim sum in a city that has few dim sum options.
To those who may not know, dim sum is a Chinese cuisine in which food is served in small portions, letting you get a sampling of a variety of dishes. It is also typical for waiters to walk around with trays of food, and if you so chose to try the dish, they stamp a card on your table.
Red Orchid Restaurant, however, serves dim sum on order-from-the menu-basis – there are no waiters walking around with trays here.
The music playing was traditional Chinese, but unlike many Asian restaurants, it was very upbeat and lively. It set the mood nicely for our dinning experience.
Round paper lamps hung from the ceiling, and our chairs were red and comfortable. It was a casual and relaxed atmosphere. Our waiter was very friendly, helpful and attentive to our hydration needs.
On the menu was a “chive box.” I instantly pictured a little green box made of chives. We asked the waiter what exactly it was and he explained that it was like a quesadilla but with egg and other ingredients in it. It came with a good dipping sauce (garlic-like and salty) and overall was surprisingly good. I’m assuming it had chives in there, though I didn’t see any.
We also ordered barbecued pork buns, rice with chicken in lotus leaf, vegetable dumplings, chicken dumplings and shrimp sao mai. My favorite was the rice and chicken in lotus leaf, which is steamed, as are most of the things on the dim sum menu. The rice was just the right amount of sticky and the lotus leaf gave it an interesting flavor.
The vegetable dumplings were basically vegetarian potstickers. Their texture was slightly hard and slimy but the filling tasted good.
My only concern came with the “chicken” dumplings we ordered. The meat inside was very pink – like the color of raw chicken. At first I didn’t notice but my accomplice did and we immediately stopped eating and started to examine. They did not taste bad at all – the spices and flavor was quite good, it was only the color that threw us off.
We concluded that we had gotten the wrong order since the meat tasted more like pork. Either that, or there was some special marinade that made the meat taste and look different.
The barbecued buns were up to my satisfaction level; they tasted fresh, definitely not frozen. The texture of the pastry was soft and perfect. The shrimp sao mai, another round steamed dumpling, was also tasty and good dipped in soy sauce.
The restaurant overall was nothing over the top, but good for the prices that it offers. Obviously it isn’t a fancy gourmet place, but the food does hit the right spot and is quite satisfying. The owners of the restaurant also own Davis Noodle City – in fact some of their noodle and rice dishes are the same.
Red Orchid also offers shabu shabu, a Japanese style of dining where raw food is given to you along with various pots of water with flavoring. You cook the food yourself and later drink the broth. I have never tried this myself, but the prices seem reasonable – About $8 for lunch and $10 for dinner.
Our total meal price was around $20, not including tip. Considering all the food we ordered, this is a good deal. They also have special main dishes served with noodles or rice for lunch starting at $5.50. I recommend this place for any hungry college student who wants pretty good food and fair prices.
ANGELA RUGGIERO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.