‘Do what you love’ and grab grub at China King


Heading out on my latest grub-grabbing adventure, I decided I wanted some company and this time invited Tribune staff writer Robert Creenan to join me at China King Restaurant in Bad Axe.

For nearly an entire year of Grabbing Grub with Nunn, I have avoided Chinese food. My reason isn’t that I don’t like it, because that isn’t true at all. It’s because after eating Chinese food for nearly 40 years of my life, I have learned that each person and business has a different interpretation of the flavors and recipes. I have tagged along with friends and family to their favorite places, and each would have good food, but the taste varied from my Chinese place enough that I couldn’t get over it.

That is until I learned the trick of ordering something completely different, then you don’t know what to expect.

Robert started by perusing the menu at the China King, while I took a trip by the lunch buffet to see what the options were. With a goal of maximizing our experience, I waited for Robert to order before I decided what I was going to do. Since Robert was my guest, I was waiting for him to place his order before I decided to pick from the menu or the buffet.

Robert decided on the kung bo Chicken, which gave me an opportunity for the buffet.

When I was younger I enjoyed buffets, because I was able to eat until I was ready to burst. However, as I have grown older, I appreciate buffet options because of the variety they offer. At China King, the buffet variety is enhanced further with freshness.

China King Restaurant

162 E. Huron Ave., Bad Axe, MI 48413

(989) 269-2900

Meal: #10 Lunch Combination – kung bo chicken, with wonton soup and an egg roll; lunch buffet and a cup of hot and sour soup; an order of crab cheese rangoons.

Total Cost, excluding gratuity: $32.86

Lunch combinations, such as the one Robert ordered, come with an egg roll and your choice of soup. Robert went for the wonton soup, while I opted for one of my favs — hot and sour soup. To go along with our soups, I ordered one of my personal favorites, crab cheese rangoons.

Within minutes of placing our order, the soups and rangoons arrived. Robert’s soup was bright and fresh, featuring a light broth, wonton noodles, lettuce and green onion. My soup was exactly what I anticipated, with a thicker, richly flavored broth with cooked egg suspended in it. The first bite revealed the initial hit of savory flavor, enhanced with a tang of vinegar, followed by a slight spiciness.

My love for hot and sour soup is a perfect example of my approach to new Chinese restaurants. For most of my life, egg drop soup was my jam, but one day I went to a new place and tried the hot and sour instead. Since that day, I can count the times I’ve had egg drop on one hand.

The crab cheese rangoons were fresh and not surprisingly piping hot when they came out. Although they are served with sweet and sour, my favorite trick is to dip them in my soup instead. I love the way crab cheese rangoons are enhanced with a savory flavor.

Once Robert’s food arrived, I jumped for my first trip to the buffet. For my first trip, I grabbed an egg roll, fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, sesame chicken, and beef and mushrooms. My favorite was the sweet and sour chicken, which is served sauceless and allows the battered chicken coating to stay crisp and not become saturated. I used the remnants of the sauce for my egg roll. The egg roll was interesting but delicious. I have never had an egg roll with the primary vegetable being bean sprouts before.

Next up on my fork was the beef and mushroom, which had a mild savory flavor that was enhanced by the mushrooms. The thinly sliced beef was tender enough to almost melt in your mouth.

On the first trip, perhaps my least favorite selection was the sesame chicken, which was good, but a bit lacking in the flavors I would expect. Although it wasn’t what I anticipated, that didn’t stop me from finishing it and considering it for round two.

Round two was slightly lighter fare with some stir-fried broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms, some green beans and onions, and a serving of Szechuan chicken with peppers, carrots, onions, and mushrooms. More mushrooms — no wonder why Editor Eric Young doesn’t like Chinese cuisine, but it is one of my favorites.

The Szechuan was absolutely perfect. It had a solid umami flavor with an excellent creeping heat that snuck up from behind. At no point was it too spicy to eat, but once established the spice was always present.

Robert said his kung bo chicken had a solid spicy kick that hit with the first bite, but it wasn’t the spiciest he has ever had and he got used to it quick. He liked the variety of vegetables, especially the water chestnuts and green onions, which provided texture and balanced the flavors out. The peanuts also added flavor and texture to the dish that he enjoyed.

It seems like Robert’s biggest complaint was my order of rangoons, which filled him up prematurely and limited his ability to enjoy his main course. However, he didn’t hesitate to pack his leftovers to go.

In true Americanized Chinese cuisine style, we ended our meals with fortunes, and Robert’s was my favorite.

“Do what you love…”

The fortune was pretty ironic for Robert, and honestly also for me. Robert looked at me and said “I guess I keep doing what I am doing, because I am doing what I love.”

I thought on his words for a minute before drawing the same conclusion. I too am doing what I love, which after all is what brought us to the China King on this latest trip.


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