day twenty-five: apollo chinese restaurant

June 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

It seems that most people who speak Chinese know that at any standard American Chinese restaurant, from Boise to the Bronx, there is more to the menu than meets the eye. Beyond the General Tso’s Chicken and Moo Goo Gai Pan menu, there exists another menu, one which may or may not be written or printed, from which things like pork belly, egg congee, salt fish, and, before the recent and widespread sustainability concerns, shark fin soup can be ordered. Apollo Chinese Restaurant knows well its Collegetown clientele–students looking for cheap Chinese food, authentic or otherwise–and lists its Chicken with Cashews right alongside Salt Fish with Pork Congee. Respect.

I’d gone into Apollo Chinese Restaurant before and ordered the standard fare, a deal at $6.25: 2 hot bar items with rice and soup. Craving that uniquely umami taste, inimitable at home, I noticed not the other menu items and most likely went ahead and ordered some Beef & Broccoli, BBQ Pork, left full and content and called it a day. When I walked by the window the other day, though, I saw some more unexpected items. Some, like Sirloin Noodle Soup, looked delicious, others, like Beef (scrambled) Eggs Over Rice, did not. It was time to give Apollo Restaurant another try.

I ordered another delicious-looking entree, the Roast Duck Noodle Soup, and then, for good evaluation measure, a pork egg roll. Despite the fact that it was an otherwise dull and unremarkable summer session Tuesday, the restaurant was busy and abuzz with distinct dialects of Chinese. While others went through the hot bar, I waited off to the side for my noodle soup. When it came it was much bigger and heavier than I expected. I hastily tried to snap a few surreptitious pictures, then hurried away with my takeout.

As I made the trek back from Collegetown to central campus, I was consumed by an irrational fear that my soup would get cold (And, what?, I would have to microwave it? Like I said, irrational). I suppose it was that I was just cold, the weather being too chilly and dreary for June, and I saw this soup as my salvation. I was delighted to open up my takeout bag and see, on the huge plastic lid, the word “microwaveable.” Awesome. The owners of Apollo Chinese Restaurant, I felt, shared my fear. No one likes cold soup. I set out my spoon, chopsticks and napkin, plated my egg roll, and dipped in. To my surprise, the soup was too hot to eat. Go go gadget lid.*

To avoid doing that thing I almost always do despite warning myself against and never fail to regret (often for days afterward) when I get too excited about a hot bowl of soup, I took to the egg roll first. It was a totally fine egg roll. The wrapper was crunchy and the cabbage inside thick and dotted with artificially-colored pork. Nothing special, but completely satisfying.

When the soup cooled down a bit, I grabbed my spoon in one hand, chopsticks in another, and started to slurp. The actual soup looked much better than the picture representation of it in the window, and the glistening soup was divine. It was salty, peppery, and had the flavor of both chicken and shrimp. The noodles were thin and silky; the baby bok choy hidden on the bottom tender, but not mushy. As one might expect from a $6.75 duck dish, the duck pieces were not, shall I say, choice ones. It looked like a zombie circle saw had flown through a duck coop and indiscriminately butchered the fowl into pieces. There was just no trace of human precision here whatsover. The bones were erratically connected to the meat tissue and would break off in my mouth as I gnawed at the duck. That said, despite its unfortunate boniness, the duck pieces were still meaty and good, not too, too fatty, and, while grumbling, still gnawed with pleasure at them.

Overall, my takeout from Apollo was a surprisingly good lunch experience, and their standard American Chinese fare is far better than what you’ll get at a dining hall like Trillium for the same price.

* Also, take that, Jack’s. Your special lid with holes ain’t got nothin’ on this one, yo.

Price: Student-friendly (< $8)
Hours: 11am – 2am, delivery until 1:45am
Location: 407 College Ave
Delivery phone: (607) 272-1188
Website: Apollo Chinese Restaurant

Apollo Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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