I called in a carryout order to China Cafe the other day a good thirty minutes in advance, and when I got there, was told it wasnâ€™t ready yet.
Okay, so I waited, and during that time I went back to wash my hands. My goodness, this place can be best described with one word: itâ€™s a *dive*! Itâ€™s not â€œdirty,â€ but itâ€™s old, cluttered, and has that sort of year-over-year crust that only this type of restaurant can have.
On the way out of the washroom, walking through the kitchen, the cook – a friendly lady who was the only person working in the empty restaurant – said â€œthe squid was frozen, so itâ€™s taking a little longer.â€ Hmm, Iâ€™ve seen too many cases in the past where I call in a carryout order, and the restaurant doesnâ€™t begin cooking it until you arrive to pick it up (that would be you, Ravi Kabob).
I orderedÂ Pepper Salted Squid Over BroccoliÂ ($9.99), and based on the quality of the batter, Iâ€™m willing to believe they needed to soak the squid in warm water in order to coat it, so, no accusations here. The odd name is because itâ€™s a salt-based batter around ring-meat only (no tentacles), with a few sliced jalapeÃ±os (the â€œpepperâ€) added into the mix.Â
This was a good dish, and would have been a *very* good dish had it not been salted to death. After the first third (or so) of the entree, I started getting salt-saturated. This was really, really salty, and even the steamed broccoli was almost too salty to eat with any degree of enjoyment. But it was high-quality frozen squid, the batter was otherwise delicious, and the dish was very well-fried (in a deep pan).Â Thereâ€™s also little doubt this entree was meant to be had along with other, less salty, dishes by its side; not scarfed down in its entirety by one person as a meal.
So, while deeply flawed on its own, the execution of this squid was deft enough to call me back the next time Iâ€™m at Ground Zero in College Park (Route 1 and Knox Road). With apologies to Ferhat and Fishnet, where my loyalties will take me the next time Iâ€™m anywhere in the general vicinity.