China Paradise (Wayne NJ)
ORIGINALLY POSTED 11/11/12 – Now Closed] After 25 years this same restaurant in the same location still seems to be fairly reliable. Their website claims they have been in business over 40 years, since 1968, which would make it closer to 45 years, and that would truly date it in the height of the Tiki Polynesian craze in pop culture. While Polynesian food is fairly open to interpretation, this does maintain its true Tiki style with decor, umbrella drinks and dishes which are not strictly renamed Chinese dishes. Me and my friend have personally been going there for 25 years, so that I can vouch for.
The crispy fried wontons this time around were a bit greasy and oily. They had a bright sheen on them, they were hot, but they should have been drained. The hot mustard was good, as always, probably the very best I know where to find, but you really have to like hot. The tea is always good, always strong, always authentic, not your weak average tea, its good with a slight bite, which I prefer.
Of course you want to start off any Polynesian meal with two things, a Tiki Cocktail and of course the Pu Pu Platter. The drinks, while in the old days were potent with various rum, brandy and fresh fruit juices to mask the taste of the alcohol (making them unsuspectingly lethal), each year these tend to get weaker and less tasteful.
The list is numerous and some are a mystery, but usually the mystery is based on who is bartender that night, because the ingredients vary depending on such. I am getting older, not younger, so my tolerance to alcohol is less, so why don’t one of these Scorpion drinks pictured above at least give me a buzz?
I think next time I will just get 2 rum & cokes and call it a day. My friend’s wife got a “glass” chardonnay wine. It was served in a cordial glass and I doubt it was merely more, if even, a half glass of wine at best. Its sad when they diminish the cocktail tiki culture built its reputation on. Take a look at the cracked bowl and glued back together they served me. Why? Was it the last one left in the bar? I looked around, the place was packed and didn’t see anyone drinking one either. Retail they go for $5 each, so what do wholesalers pay?
Ok, on to the food, the most important part. We have to start with the Pu Pu Platter as mentioned. This gives a nice sampling of the truly foods that are signatures of Polynesian culture. As always, the Java Chicken and the Java Beef are the most unique and delicious. The fried chicken wings were nothing special, in fact, KFS is better. The shrimp toast and fried shrimp were good, and the ribs, while tasty, were too thick, too tough and too small. I don’t mind more bone if the meat is flavorful and more tender.
The pork dumplings are excellent. I could taste the peanut sauce and the ginger in the seasoning in the pork and its very good.
This far into the post, I have to comment on these photos. Ever since i got the iPhone5 I stopped using the 12 megapixel Canon Elph, thinking the new iPhone5 with 8megapixel will not only take sufficient photos but also eliminate one more electronic device in my pocket. Well, not really happy with the focusing feature or the exposure in in auto. This is obvious in the photo below of the crispy duck. Being a professional photographer of live events I am used to getting a decent, clear photo in one or two shots on the move without taking time to review it. Here I obviously failed, and I need to re-evaluate the new technology. It might be time to continue using the 3yr old Canon Elph at this point.
Ok, so photo aside, the crispy duck was not all that. In fact the skin was not crispy, and not even crunchy but almost impossible to chew. The duck meat itself was dry and this was the 2nd time in a row it was a disappointment. I never thought it was that great the first or 2nd time we got it, but my friend loves it, and its served on a bed of crisp string beans, but clearly its not prepared properly the last few times we were there, and we go at least once each year. So, on to the next courses.
The crispy orange beef has always been one of my favorite Chinese dishes. But for me, the beef is always very tender, and never battered. Its served with candied orange rinds and plenty of hot chilis. This was fine, but tasted more like General Tsao’s Beef. The best dish of them all is the Hawaii 5-0. Named after the famous 1970s crime show, it also features 5 types of food and vegetables: shrimp, scallops, pork, beef and chicken, along with baby corn, button mushrooms, sugar snow peas, water chestnuts and bok choy. The pork was the most delicious, scallops not bad either. All accompanied by a side of Pork Fried Rice. While the rice is great, its very dark as you can see, meaning, they really soaked it well with soy sauce.
Again, you have to forgive the horrific photos here. I think from now on I will go out of autoflash and be sure the flash is always on from now on, so even if the color is off, I can correct that, but the photos will always be in focus. The rice is good, but again, too much soy, too much fried and not so light. Not enough bits of good charred pork or vegetables.
And, while this may not seem like a perfect review (and its not), I am too critical knowing what this place was once capable of a few years before. And, they certainly would not have been around for 40 years if the food was not good. Its good, its delicious, they just need to get back on track with some things.