Name: China Lake
Location: 3215 E Main St., Endicott, NY 13760
Phone: (607) 748-2133
Cuisine: Chinese (American and Authentic)
Price: Around $10 per person
Endwell's China Lake represents one of at least two Chinese restaurants in the Binghamton area that offer not only the standard Americanized Chinese take-out that most folks in this country are acquainted with, but also a special menu of more "authentic" Chinese cuisine. The other, Moon Star (also in Endwell, about a quarter mile up the road from China Lake), has long been a favorite of mine. It's been my "go-to" Chinese place since I first went there a few years back. Lately, I've had somewhat of a renewed interest in the area's Chinese restaurants. I heard China Lake was one of the best from friends, from various blurbs around the internet, and from loyal readers of this blog, and today we went to try it out.
China Lake is located in a small strip mall in Endwell on 17C, just before the North St. split. There's a tiny, awkward parking lot in front of the restaurant. Upon entering China Lake you'll notice there is hardly any ambiance to be had. The place has about 8 tables. There are a few 4-seaters along the left side, but most of the tables are for larger parties of 8 or more. The restaurant is slightly on the dingy side and has little by way of decoration to spruce it up. One gets the sense that China Lake works best as a take-out place. They also deliver (not sure to how wide a radius).
We took a seat and were given menus, noodles, and a homemade duck sauce. Since it was lunch time when we were there, we ordered from the lunch menu, which had two components. First was a list of Lunch Specials featuring an entree with soup of your choice (wonton, egg drop, hot & sour), from which Megan ordered the Chicken with Broccoli with wonton soup. On the flip side was the authentic Chinese menu, with several interesting looking choices (some easily more adventurous than I was willing to go on this day). From the special menu, I ordered the Barbecued Beef and also opted for some wonton soup.
The soup came first and I thought it was pretty good, maybe the best of the wonton soups I've had in this area. The wontons themselves were smaller, tighter pouches than what you get at many other places, but had very nice flavor. This is a soup I would definitely order again.
Next came the entrees. Megan liked the Chicken with Broccoli quite a lot, preferring it to the same dish at Moon Star (and any other Chinese we've had in the area for that matter). I had a couple bites and it wasn't bad. But not nearly as good as my entree.
I really enjoyed my Barbecued Beef entree a lot. This featured beef stir-fried in a somewhat spicy garlic sauce with green onions served over a bed of Chinese cabbage. Completely delicious, and something I would order again in a heartbeat. If I had to be a little bit critical of the dish, I'd say it was very oily. From the above picture, you can literally see it swimming in oil. This didn't bother me, nor detract from my enjoyment of the dish, but I get the sense that some people might be a little turned off by that aspect. Fortune cookies and fresh orange slices followed to complete the meal.
Service at China Lake was provided by friendly, if a bit gruff, older Chinese lady. I'd have to say the service was a bit spotty, as it took about 15 minutes for us to get drinks (just water and tea), and there was an extended wait for our check because the restaurant staff decided it was their time to eat. All this means is that China Lake has not supplanted Moon Star as my "dining-out" Chinese restaurant. I thought China Lake's food was probably the best Chinese I've had in the area, but I plan to enjoy exclusively it as take-out in the future. For what it's worth, Megan shares the exact same opinion. She enjoyed the food quite a bit, but to quote her: "There's no way I'll ever eat there again." If you choose to dine in, consider yourself warned.
China Lake is a very good, if somewhat flawed, Chinese restaurant. No doubt the menu is more expansive and unique than most others around, and most importantly, we found the food to be extremely tasty. Ambiance and service definitely knock the place down a peg in our eyes, an area in which the restaurant pales in comparison to the nearby Moon Star. But if all that matters is the food, I would have to conclude China Lake is the best restaurant of its ilk that you'll find in the Triple Cities.