Tuesday, June 28, 2011
In the middle of a block surrounded by signs in both Polish and Spanish as well as a large number of discount shoe stores is a bright red store front with columns and a guardian lion. This is the home of Friendship Chinese Restaurant. There are many cheap Chinese places outside of Chinatown with nothing really to talk about as far as interior design but this is definitely not one of these places. Walking in, the alcove before the hostess station has a polished black wall with small buddhas mounted in even rows. The main dining area has a hardwood floor, rows of tables along both side walls and a row of tables running down the middle of the room with the back wall covered in a multi-layered brass plate. I have been here a few times but they have recently added a sushi station in front of the brass wall. It is raised and kind of looks like a DJ booth with the sides draped in black and with the front having what looked to me like a video fireplace. We were seated quickly and got our drinks. Friendship serves beer and wine but also has a modest corkage fee if you want to BYO. After we made our drink orders but before we actually ordered our food, they brought us an Amuse Bouche. I don't exactly remember what they said it was but it looked like a play on shrimp toast with microgreens and avocado and a teriyaki sauce. It was smoky and tasted as good as it looks. We made our orders and waited for our food.
For our appetizers, we got a Seaweed Salad and Wok Fried Five Spice Calamari. The seaweed salad was both briny and vinegary and sprinkled with sesame seeds. While it was simple, the flavor was very bright and it was also very good. The calamari was a bit of a surprise (but a good surprise). Most calamari I have had has been overcooked and rubbery. What came out did not look like any calamari that I have ever seen. The calamari had a light tempura batter on it and was cut so it didn't look like your typical calamari. With regular calamari, everything is breaded and deep fried. The tentacles are all together and the bodies are sliced into rings. With this, there were no obvious tentacles. The pieces could have been individual tentacles from a large calamari or half of a body ring. It didn't really matter because it was really tender and tasted quite good. It was served with fried pineapple, light layers of sweet and sour sauce and basil oil on the bottom and cilantro on the top.
While everything to this point was good, the entrees on the other hand were a little hit and miss. My brother ordered a Sweet and Sour Boneless Pork Chop with a fruit chutney, balsamic reduction, and a garnish of peeled carrots. It sounded and looked very good and individually, many of the ingredients were very good but, in the end it was just sweet and sour pork, a very boring dish. I understand that sweet and sour pork is a standard on Chinese menus for the less adventurous types, but even jazzed up, the sauce overwhelms everything making for a very boring dish. My dish, on the other hand was very creative in appearance and while not especially spicy, very flavorful. I had the seafood combo in a bird's nest. The combo consisted of scallops, shrimp, sole, mushrooms, and baby scallops served in a fried potato bird's nest.
While not the home run that it usually was, I like Friendship's sense of style and very good service. While their prices are relatively inexpensive, they have done several Groupons in the last year that allow you to try it out without spending a lot of money. I would certainly pay full price for their food but if they continue to offer discounts, I will continue to take those.