Ching’s Table stays consistent as it expands its geographical reach

Most of us have something that we really like about a restaurant. Mine is consistency. There are few things I find more annoying than dining at restaurant X, ordering dish Y, loving dish Y, and returning a week later only to find dish Y looks and tastes different.

Why does is taste different? There are a host of variables and they include inconsistent produce bought by the kitchen and changing or rotating chefs. At one of my favorite local places I have seen my often ordered mussel dish having five mussels or 20, being served in wine sauce or cream sauce, with toast on the side or nothing. At this same place, a green salad with steak has some with a tiny filet one day and a slab of cow the size of a dinner plate the next.

Ching’s Table, one of my favorite Chinese restaurants, has no consistency problems. I have been eating here for years, and to my delight, whatever I order tastes just as I remember it: no surprises.

Ching’s, over the years, has gone from a strictly Chinese place to what would best be called Pan Asian. To keep up with the competition one can now get Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese dishes as well as classical Chinese. I am happy to report that whatever geographical location I order from, I have yet to find a bad dish. Of course, I have my favorites and I will share them with you.

Ching’s Table

64 Main St., New Canaan

As my readers may know I often make a whole meal out of appetizers. Not that by any means I am a dainty eater, just the opposite, but with a slew of appetizers I can try three four or five dishes instead of just one entree.

At Ching’s this is my favorite way of dining and here is what I get. I have recently had a personal revival with my love of tempura shrimp. I honestly don’t know what sparked it but for a month I have been on the hunt for the best. Of all the places in Fairfield County I have tried, I like Ching’s best of all. The large shrimp are encased in a feather light batter and served with a savory dipping sauce. Once I have my shrimp addiction out of the way, I move on to my other favorite, fried dumplings. Sometimes I get the spicy Szechuan ones, other times plain ones. These two are served with a great dipping sauce that I often request extra.

I was skeptical about the Thai crab cake as I am very snobby about a great crab cake not existing north of the Maryland shore. My friend ordered it and it was so well made and crab packed that I ate most of it and ordered her a second. As the official restaurant reviewer, I get away with murder.

I have another friend who watches her waistline and she loves the minced chicken served in a lettuce wrap. Again this is something I would not think to order, but it was amazingly good: well spiced and satisfying. More my speed were the baby back ribs, glazed in an amber sauce and falling off the bone. I had a scallion pancake on the side and felt it was a great combo.

When I do not want many small dishes, but one hearty entree, I am in love with the Basil Beef. This simply is strands of steak that are “woked” with big juicy basil leaves in a ginger sauce. A very elemental and flavorful dish. Also on the top of my list are the wok grilled garlic shrimp. This dish features snapping-fresh large shrimp stir fried with garlic. Sometimes I am amazed how good foods that I do not think of as specifically Asian (filet mignon or large shrimp) are. The grilled filet mignon is as good a cut of meat as I have had at a steakhouse.

If I am on a strictly Chinese bent, I will always order Crispy Chicken and Shrimp with Honeyed Walnuts, or String Beans and Chicken. I guess you have to be born Chinese to understand how to transform the ubiquitous droopy green vegetable into something so tantalizing: a green bean that would laugh at Thanksgiving green bean casserole. I have tried to make Chinese-style green beans at home and failed.

Ching’s is also available for takeout. On a cold winter day I ordered Hot and Sour Soup and it was probably the best version of this classic as I have had, remarkably hot (spicy) and just sour enough to brighten the flavor.

For comfort food, take a look at the section of the menu called Meh and Noodles. If it sits in the takeout container for a while, I think it only gets more mellow and better. My favorites are Singapore Thin Rice Noodles, a somewhat transparent noodle that is light and unusual to the American palate. I have become a bit burnt-out on Pad Thai (just as I am getting sick of pho) but if you love this dish I can promise you an excellent version here.

Jane Stern is co-author of the Roadfood book series.