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10B - The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazine - Thursday, November 14, 2002
The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magazine -
OUESTION OF THE WEEK
"What's your worst experience with a landlord?"
Make a date with the Gate:
Campus' best Chinese food
"Our toilet leaked poop-
water into the kitchen, into
my teapot. I called up our
landlord and she said it was-
n't her problem.'
- LSA sophomore Rekha Nath
"Junior year, the landlord told
me I could keep my stuff there
over the summer ... so I got
back to school and she charged
me rent and storage fees.
- LSA senior Justin Otsuka
"My bathroom ceiling caved
in. It took them a month to
fix it. In the process, one of
the guys electrocuted him-
self, one of the guys stepped
on the sink to fix the ceiling
and broke the sink."
- LSA senior Jaime Woudstra
By David Enders
Weekend Food and Drink Critic
Work hard, play hard...
In the same place.
Compiled by Graham Kelly
This campus suffers from an unex-
plained proliferation of bad Chinese
food. I've gotten food poisoning at
Dinersty. (General Tso declared war
on my stomach.) I've had better Chi-
nese food in the Upper Peninsula.
But there is an exception: China
Gate, a tasty oasis in a dangerous
desert of too-greasy egg rolls and fried
rice that just shouldn't be "that" color.
The food there is so good one of my
roommates is convinced it has the
power to cure hangovers.
But don't listen to me. Listen to an
expert. It happened one was in town
last weekend: Former Weekend Food
and Drink critic Michael Grass. (I owe
a considerable debt to Mike for creat-
ing the Food and Drink Critic position
at the Daily.)
To say thanks, I took my esteemed
colleague for lunch at China Gate,
where he regaled me with the knowl-
edge he gained during his three-year
employment at a Chinese restaurant in
Grand Rapids. Excerpts follow:
Mike Grass: I don't think I've ever
had a bad meal at China Gate. I'm not
so sure why that is. Typically, having
pictures of a restaurant's food on the
wall is a culinary faux pas. (One
could, in theory, order by pointing.) So
is advertising a chef's cooking awards
and prizes so prominently. But Chef
Jan manages to overcome all of this
with the quality of his dishes.
David Enders: I think our waitress
is on speed.
(It should be noted China Gate has
the best turnaround time of any restau-
rant in the area. Even when the place
is full, I've never waited more than 10
minutes for a table.)
M: Americans typically think of
Chinese food as one simple cuisine.
People believe that if you add meat,
vegetables, sauce and rice together,
with a side of an egg roll or won ton
soup, you're eating the same thing as
the people back in Fujian Province.
Clearly, that mentality is myopic and
wrong, but it isn't necessarily the fault
of the unknowing people on this side
of the Pacific. Chinese cuisine is more
like a family of regional tastes and
food traditions. And most Chinese
restaurants offer a wide variety of
samplings from these different
regions, creating an Americanized
fusion Chinese cuisine and adding
fancy imperial names like Princess
Chicken to add authenticity. Chop
suey is an American invention and if
you go to Beijing, you'll have trouble
finding egg rolls.
E: Have you ever been to China?
M: (Eyeing me suspiciously and
then reaching for the last of the crab
cheese appetizers) The first thing to
know about Chinese food is geogra-
phy. The most prominent names in
Chinese food are Mandarin (Beijing
and Peking), Szechuan (Sichuan) and
Hunan and Guondong (Cantonese).
Mandarin cuisine is from the northern
part of China and isn't my particular
favorite. Like in the U.S. and India,
the food gets more flavorful the fur-
ther south you go.
Szechuan is hot and sweet and
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Hunan is hot and spicy. Cantonese
food offers the best of everything
because Guondong (Canton) and its
proximity to Hong Kong was an
early outlet of Chinese culture and
food to the West.
Early waves of immigrants from
China came from this region, so Can-
tonese cuisine is a dominant force
showing up in many American Chi-
(At this point, the Michael Jackson
song from "Free Willy" is played on
the restaurant's muzak station. People
actually begin humming or even
singing along. There is a slight pause
before Mike continues:)
The new wave of immigrants
from China is coming from the
coastal province of Fujian, across
the straits from Taiwan. So special-
ized seafood dishes have been slow-
ly integrated into many Chinese
restaurants in the U.S.
These new coastal dishes are most
of the time a lot lighter than some
dishes that hail from the interior, so if
you have a chance to have a chef's
special, you may be pleasantly sur-
prised. My old boss came from a Tai-
wanese culinary background, which is
heavily influenced by seafood. He spe-
cialized in Sa-Tsa, a coastal barbeque
sauce made from anchovies and garlic,
which you don't see too often in the
Midwest. He would make it for me off
the menu. Straying off the typical can
yield the best food selections.
E: Yeah, straying off the typical can
yield a lot of things. When's our food
gonna get here?
M: A typical Chinese dish should
only take two to three minutes to
make, so if youwait for a long time
for a simple dish, something is
awry in the kitchen.
The reason for the quick turn-
around time in Chineseqrestaurants
is tied to China's traditional lack of
energy resources. Fuel for cooking
has always been in limited supply,
so creating a large fire that con-
sumed a lot of fuel wasn't always an
option. So the stir-fry process,
which used an intense flame for a
short period of time became the
cooking technique of choice.
Chopping everything into small bite
sized portions in the cooking
process required less fuel to cook,
which is another reason why you
rarely see a slow-cooked honey-
baked ham on the menu of most
E: So if you were writing this
food review and not me, what would
M: China Gate does a great job
overall. The crab cheese is different,
but is fantastic, and the hot and sour
soup is perhaps the best I've had in
Ann Arbor. They're located at 1201 S.
University Ave. Their hours are 10
a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Kung Pao anything is superb, and the
prices are reasonable (mostly under
$10, with lunch specials under $7) and
served with rice and soup.
They also do take-out.
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U-M Computer Showcase
Michigan Union ground level
206 West Michigan Ave.
At China Gate your water glass will never be empty.