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Dining review

Glori Fickling

It was four years ago on Feb. 3 that enterprising Eric Chen launched

China Bistro #1 in Laguna Beach. The restaurant became an instant success

based on guests’ instant appreciation of his sincerely warm hospitality

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and obvious dedication to using the freshest ingredients.

To celebrate the occasion this year, a handsomely artistic

refurbishing of the premises was set into motion, the project further

prompted when his lease was simultaneously extended for a whopping 15

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years.

A favorite destination for exotic Mandarin and Szechuan cuisines, the

restaurant has been newly designed personally by the talented Chen and

now welcomes guests into a foyer framed with etched glass bearing the

China Bistro logo.

The panels are grandly suspended between towering white Roman columns.

Inside, a beautiful white bas relief of Roman gladiator horses graces

the tastefully pristine dining room where a quartet of huge geometrically

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framed mirrors along one wall reflects graciously appointed tables,

window-sided booths and a classic trio of frosted glass chandeliers. The

setting is a celestial contrast to the intense seasonings of Chen’s

delectable assortment of taste sensations.

Where to start with so enormous a menu may be a dilemma with no less

than a dozen appetizers to tantalize taste buds.

These start with incredibly crisp eggrolls embracing plump succulent

shrimp and continue with the rotating Pu-Pu platter heaped with savory

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barbecued ribs, fried shrimp, beef kabobs, eggrolls, shrimp wontons and

paper-wrapped chicken. This mouthwatering $11.95 feast surrounds a

flaming little hibachi to keep things deliciously hot.

More than half a dozen soups -- spinach and tofu, hot and sour,

three-flavor sizzling rice, won wonton -- and 100-plus entrees make for a

glorious gastronomic gambit.

Seafood tops the list of 10 categories with such chef’s specialties as

three-flavor shrimp, aromatic shrimp and scallops and shrimp in a noodle

basket among 34 assorted preparations of these delectable denizens of the

briny.

Hot and spicy dishes are noted with stars, the menu explaining “we can

alter spice according to taste and we do not cook with MSG.”

Popular family-style dinners at $12.95 and $13.95 per person offer a

dozen entree selections, each with starters of soup and appetizers. For

an evermore enticing culinary adventure, it’s exciting to call ahead and

ask the gracious Chen to give his personal take with some extraordinary

recipes beyond the menu.

Palate-pleasing lunch specials provide another varied cross-section of

dishes with 29 assorted main courses of pork, beef, seafood, poultry and

vegetables, each served with hot and sour or egg drop soup, a salad,

fried rice, egg roll, tea and fortune cookies.

The unbeatable prices range from $5.50 for a quartet of vegetarian

entrees to $7.50, the latter for a bountiful serving of

shrimp/chicken/beef and mixed vegetables.

A select list of wines by the bottle, glass or carafe is available, as

are domestic and Asian beers.

CHINA BISTRO #1

WHERE: 30832 Coast Highwy

HOURS: Monday to Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 to 10 p.m.;

Saturday, noon to 3 p.m.; Saturday/Sunday dinner, 4 to 10 p.m.

PHONE: (949) 499-5236

FAX: (949) 499-3476


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