Chinese Fare With Flair

Times Staff Writer

It is almost impossible to get enough of the Chi Dynasty. So interesting and original are the dishes that one wants to try them all, which takes some doing as the menu is rather long. Thus, it is necessary to return repeatedly, which is a pleasure as this Glendale restaurant serves Chinese food in great style.

A refreshing change from the clattery, serviceable Chinese restaurants that abound here, the Chi Dynasty surrounds its customers with luxury. The presentation of the dishes is beautiful; for example, a Chinese chicken salad arranged on a heavy black plate set on a service plate of black Chinese porcelain patterned with a bright print. The white of the puffy rice sticks and the red of the preserved ginger in the salad contrasted strikingly with the dark background.

Even the wine coolers--and the Chi Dynasty has a worthy small wine list--match the black ware. Also the ash trays, the bud vases and black handles of the cutlery. Which is not to say that the setting is dark and somber. Deep lilac banquettes, expensive-looking wallpaper that picks up the lilac tones and artful Oriental flower arrangements add rich but subtle tones.

In such surroundings, one dines as if at a banquet. Waiters portion out each serving, eliminating the usual burden of deciding how much to take from communal platters without seeming grabby or starving from polite self-denial.

Tableside cooking is one of the attractions. To see it, order steak a la Chi or lychee nuts frappe. The sliced steak is sauteed in sesame oil and mixed with garlic, green onion, water chestnuts and mushrooms in what the menu calls "our Chef's special sauce." The sauce, a sweetened soy sauce mixture, is augmented with the high-proof rum used to flame the dish.

A Spectacular Dessert

The spectacular lychee nuts frappe involves heating lychees with butter and sugar, adding lychee wine, triple sec and the Chinese liquor moutai, which is strong enough to produce a mighty flare. This mixture was served over French vanilla ice cream one time, over ginger ice cream on a different occasion.

Other dishes are not cooked at the table, but their final assembly takes place there. One of the most unusual is vegetarian Peking duck. The vegetarian ingredient is a crisp, flat pastry filled with vegetables--cabbage, bean sprouts and mushrooms, the waiter said as he wrapped the pastry in a thin pancake lined with hoisin sauce and shredded green onion. The crunchy pastry brought to mind the crackly duck skin that is usually served in this fashion.

Also out of the ordinary is veal Mandarin, thin slices of veal combined with baby corn, water chestnuts, black mushrooms and carrots in a slightly sweet sauce. Typical of the Chi Dynasty's flair for presentation, the carrots were cut into ducks, pigeons and chickens rather than the usual slices or shreds.

Such common dishes as lemon chicken and sweet and sour pork are well treated here, the pork free of the usual gloppy, catsup-red sauce and the lemon chicken sporting a flaming lemon shell that perfumed the table with lemon oil.

Responsible for these ideas are Jonathan Chi and his brother, Justin, who is head chef. Prices are not low, but neither are they exorbitant. On the higher side, steak a la Chi is $12.25, the veal Mandarin $11.25 and the vegetarian Peking duck $9.25 for three portions. A lunch menu emphasizes lower-priced dishes.

Chi Dynasty, 1205 S. Glendale Ave., Glendale, (818) 500-0226. Open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express. Has large parking lot.

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