All day I was craving Chinese food. I’m not 100% sure why but I believe it had something to do with smelling someone else’s lunch in the cube farm and deciding that it would have tasted a whole lot better than the Mac and Cheese with Spam alongside a salad that I had leftover from dinner the night before. On my way home from work I shared this little tidbit with Kim and she mentioned that we still had a few bucks leftover in the budget so if we could keep it to $22 or under, we’d be in the clear. I pondered this for a moment and decided that we’d try out a recommendation for Americanized Chinese from reader Matt at Lai Wah in Apple Valley.
Based on the e-mail I got from Matt, I knew where it would be but I checked the place out online first and found that like many other local restaurants they have absolutely no web presence outside of links from the trashy ad-filled websites like City Search. Well, after verifying that it was indeed at the corner of 140th and Pilot Knob behind a Walgreens (why there is no CVS on the next corner, I’ll never know — “choice” brings “competition” you know) we were off.
When I pulled into the parking lot I noticed that this place is located very close to a local pizza chain that is so very dear to my heart, Linwood Pizza. I also thought it would be interesting to note that I passed another Asian restaurant, Mei Fun, along the way. Has anyone tried Mei Fun and Lai Wah? If so, please give a comparison below! Anyway, not knowing if they had dine-in seating, I half expected to pull up, grab a menu and wait for takeout but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had a large and very empty dining room available for our use.
Kim and I were offered the opportunity to seat ourselves and we chose a booth right near the front windows. The woman who had been busy working the counter and phone came over and provided us a menu rife with the standard spelling mistakes and crossed out words. The menu options were very straight forward and there were absolutely no dishes that you couldn’t find at any one of 1000 other Americanized Chinese places around town. The menu prices seemed reasonable and were, from my quick glance through, generally under $10 with the majority in the $8.50 range. Because Kim and I were on a tight budget for the evening we both chose from their dinner menu items (ordered by number) which included cream puffs, fried rice, and an entree. Kim ordered their sesame chicken and I grabbed their orange chicken. Not exactly what I was looking for tonight, but it would have to do.
While we waited I watched as numerous people came and went with their pickup orders. The restaurant says that they have been around since 1982 and while I don’t know if they mean at the current location or not, it sure did seem to have some good business tonight. While the take-out side was running smoothly, we remained the only two on the dining room side to which Kim said she felt like they could do without the entire dining room side of the restaurant. I have no idea what it’s like on other nights, but tonight I couldn’t have agreed more.
Our meals were out in fairly short order and came served on vintage plates like I have never seen before. These would probably be a better fit over at Osaka Japanese Steakhouse with their party atmosphere than they are at Lai Wah. After I snapped a few photos we dug in.
The food is really nothing to write home about. It was exactly what I would have expected your ordinary Americanized Chinese food to taste like. In fact, it reminded me of just about every other single Americanized Chinese restaurant in Apple Valley including World Buffet, Egg Roll King, Jade Island, etc, etc. Kim said that she thought it was fine and while she has absolutely no desire to return anywhere other than Leeann Chin, she would go back to Lai Wah.
Me? Well, my cream cheese puffs looked nice but had almost no cream cheese and were over-fried. What cheese was inside had become a tough mess that had the consistency of bubble-gum that had been chewed too long. The orange chicken was meaty and plentiful but was just ok — certainly not something I’d recommend anyone else try and certainly not something that I’d order again. The pork fried rice was fine but fell apart too easily to eat with chopsticks. This plate was meant for eating with a fork and I suppose that if you’re into that, then it would have been fine. Kim’s sesame chicken reminded me more of teriyaki than anything. She also had the same sides as I did so I didn’t bother to try those. While we both finished them and Kim thought it was good enough, I have no desire to return.
No matter how you take what I wrote above I’d like to state that the food wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great. If you live in the immediate area surrounding Lai Wah and you don’t like Mei Fun, I suppose you should go there. If you live closer to any number of other Americanized Chinese restaurants around town, there is no reason to go out of your way to eat here instead.
Have you eaten at Lai Wah? If so, let us know what you thought. Perhaps they have a dish you’d personally recommend? If so, comment on, we’d love to hear about your experience(s)!
14050 Pilot Knob Rd
Apple Valley, MN 55124
Check out all the pictures from Lai Wah in Apple Valley, MN on Flickr here.