Friday, January 21, 2011

China Lake

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

Review:
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.

Grade: B+

China Lake Restaurant on Urbanspoon

9 comments:

  1. Best Chinese in Binghamton are, bar none. I live four blocks from Foliage and still routinely drive across town to get China Lake. I've never eaten in, but I can't remember the last time I ate in *any* Chinese restaurant. I recommend the crispy shrimp w/ black bean sauce and the snow pea leaves (deep green, tasty side dish). Clearly I have to try Moon Star. ~RP

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  2. I often go to China Lake with a group of 8-10 people. We eat at one of the round tables and order a bunch of different entries family style. We also usually order the duck (you have to order this ahead of the time). The food is delicious (I love the snow pea leaves and black bean shrimp) and we have a great time despite the lack of ambiance. I have also eaten at Moon Star and like them equally.

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  3. Rex, I'll try out the Shrimp w/black bean sauce next time around for sure. If you like China Lake, I am pretty sure you will also like Moon Star, though if you're more of a take-out kind of guy it probably doesn't make a difference which one you go to.

    Anonymous, I agree that going with a larger party and sharing would probably be the best way to experience China Lake if you plan on eating there. Thanks for visiting!

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  4. This is the best and fairly review I've ever seen for a long time especial for China Lake - my favorite Chinese Restaurant!!
    The food is excellent! indeed. but the service is the worst in the world!!
    I don't think the gruff Chinese lady can get any job at other restaurant, she just has no sense of what business for. thankfully, the chef ( the owner) is her husband.
    My favorite dish was "Chicken with Ginger sauce" and " 3 favor Chicken " (Chick with basil favor)
    You're right, I would prefer to do take-out instead of dinning in, but if I have to go with friends, I must not expect the speed of the service or go when it's not the rush hour.
    I personal don't visit Moon star anymore because of the portion! Although the area and service are much much nicer than China Lake,for the best value, I'll still go visit the gruff lady once a while. ^_^

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  5. Thank you so very much for putting together this blog! I've been here for more than two years now and I wasn't aware of most of the establishments you've reviewed here, and I thought Binghamton had a most insipid food scene, but now there are so many places to check out! :)

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  6. Diviani, it's our pleasure! Like you, we were here for quite a while before we started to discover some of the better local places. Try out some places and let us know what you liked!

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