B.M. Chen’s is a new Chinese restaurant on Reynolds and Airport Highway. My mother has known the owners since they worked minimum wage jobs at the Flower Drum. The fact that an immigrant can go from line cook to owner in the span of ten years in today’s economy personifies the stereotype of the hard-working Chinese. My mother and I are extremely picky eaters of Chinese cuisine. Only two restaurants in the area embody excellence, and not even the entire menu; IPOH’s roasted duck and dim sum at New Empire. Every other place pales in the comparison to home-made Chinese cooking. Furthermore, as stated in a previous review, virtually all Chinese joints in the Toledo area boast a terrible interior and exterior décor, including Chen’s. Therefore, we decided to dine in on the opening weekend for the food alone.
The menu at Chen’s is identical to every other Chinese restaurant in Toledo. There’s the traditional fare, Mongolian beef, Szechuan chicken, princess pork, as well as the standard classification issues. It is custom for these restaurants to offer too many options, and I believe the language barrier typifies such menus. Under American cuisine, there are options like veal, frog legs, and even spaghetti with meat sauce, which I don’t trust. I also wonder about the Thousand Island Pork. I imagine this dish being similar to pork chops marinated in Thousand Island dressing. Then, there are the mashed potatoes under drinks and desserts.
My mother and the owners discussed the Chinese food scene in Ann Arbor. Chinese people regularly drive to Ann Arbor for the Chinese food, yet the difference between restaurants is minimal. They are usually the same in terms of food, atmosphere, décor, and menu. The experience of eating Chinese food will dramatically change if there’s a native speaker in your party regardless of the city you decide to dine in. The food gets better, the décor becomes reasonable, the prices meaningless, because the real Chinese look past Thousand Island Pork, demand authenticity, and get it.
We joined a table with the owner’s uncle and aunt, who had already ordered. The meal reminded me of a hundred different versions of the same take, from my mother’s cooking or my uncle’s restaurant to a Chinese restaurant in Ann Arbor, Toledo, or Los Angeles. We ate a giant bowl of Chinese spinach, a five pound walleye steamed whole, and a mixture of shrimp, scallops, and squid deep fried with a little spice. I intend on visiting again to try the pho, nearly 3 dollars less than other places, the waiter who I’ve met before at International student events, or for the simple fact that the owners primarily speak Cantonese, my parent’s native tongue. If all Chinese restaurants are the just the same, are as Americanized as any other, something native has to stand out to a full blooded Chinaman.