At Petaluma’s China Town, good food and value

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Tucked away in a small Kentucky Street storefront in downtown Petaluma, China Town Restaurant is a delightful unprepossessing surprise. I have both dined in and enjoyed take-out from China Town for about two years, and I have never been disappointed.

While this is clearly not an upscale restaurant, it is a place you can go to have an enjoyable meal and leave with many more dollars in your wallet than you expected.

The small team here never seems to be upset about special requests, and they all really want you to enjoy your meal, whether it is a single entrée, or a table full of food to enjoy family-style with friends or family. They proudly advertise that they use no MSG, which is nice for those who have an issue with that seasoning.

The most recent visit I made was with a party of four, so we ordered one of the set menus called the Peking Family Dinner For 4. It came with a choice for the table of wonton soup or hot and sour soup, followed by lovely crunchy thin-skinned egg rolls, lightly spicy Mongolian beef, cashew chicken, a choice of fried rice or steamed rice, sweet and sour pork and mu shu pork that comes with four of the very thin, almost translucent pancake wrappers.

At a cost of just under $60 for four people, and with plenty of leftovers to take home, this is one of the true bargains for sit-down dining in Petaluma.

Because we did not want to have two pork dishes, we requested the mu shu be made with chicken. Our special request was absolutely no problem for these lovely people, something that is not always the case in other restaurants serving set menus. We ordered two extra wrappers for the mu shu, and there was plenty of filling to wrap each one into a nice roll. At only 50 cents each, they are well worth the small extra charge to get more.

The hot and sour soup was excellent. It was filled with all kinds of goodies, included tender pieces of pork, tofu, tree ear mushrooms and bamboo shoots. It was perfectly seasoned with just the right combination of flavors, not too sour, not too spicy, and very flavorful with an underlying bone broth that gave it a lot of body.

It was served piping hot, an attribute enjoyed by everyone at our table.

I did not expect to like the egg rolls, because usually at inexpensive Chinese restaurants they are made with very thick, almost cardboard-like wrappers. Not so at China Town, where the wrappers were paper thin, and had just the right crunch. They too were delicious.

The Mongolian beef had a substantial amount of beef in the dish, where in many Chinese restaurants of this price category the dish might consist of more vegetables than beef. It was lightly spicy and enjoyed by everyone.

The same could be said for the sweet and sour pork. There was far more pork than any other item in the dish, and it was nicely balanced between the sweet and tart flavors. The only issue I had with this dish was the use of the red food coloring in the sauce, which I can live without, otherwise it was just right.

The fried rice was fairly bland; steamed rice might be a better choice.

If you order a la carte, the entrées are quite sizable, and I was always able to have at least two meals from one entrée with a side order of rice, so the cost per serving is less expensive than going to a fast food restaurant or a food bar in a grocery store.

I really appreciate China Town’s excellent on-line ordering system. I have used it a number of times, and find it very user-friendly, with excellent results for a quick pick-up or delivery. Their site says they do not deliver more than three miles away, and the delivery charge is only $2 with a minimum order of $30, which seems very fair to me.

Run by Tony and Taylor Zhao, with Tony doing the cooking and Taylor running the front of the house, China Town is worth visiting when what you want is straightforward, reasonably priced Chinese food. Don’t miss it.

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