Last night we visited LC's Asian Kitchen (29070 North Campbell, Madison Heights, MI 48071) with our friend Carol and Christopher, who had been raving about it to a group of us earlier that day. LC's is a relatively small place, tucked into a strip mall dominated by a large store selling grow lights and hydroponic gardening supplies. Inside, there is none of the usual Chinese restaurant kitsch like lacquered sculptures, dragons, and paper lanterns- just a handful of white tablecloth topped tables and owners Lisa and Larry seating you and taking your orders. This is a small family operation, with just the two of them in front, Lisa's parents in the kitchen, and Lisa's brother helping out as well.
Carol and Christopher warned us that the portions were very large, but we decided (as always) that variety was the cornerstone of a good Chinese meal, and we could always take leftovers home. We started with the Winter Melon Soup, a very cooling, or yin, dish that would balance nicely against some of the other dishes. It was very good, although perhaps a bit thicker than I'm used to. Our first entree was the chow mein with friend noodles seen above that Carol insisted was a must have. Carol and Janet both raved over this.
My choices were the gai lan, sometimes known as "Chinese Broccoli" seen above, and the Fried Squid (also known as salt and pepper squid) seen below. The gai lan was prepared very attractively with a traditional garlic sauce, and I think we all ate quite a bit of it.
The squid was prepared a bit differently than I've had it before. After dusting with cornstarch and frying, the squid is then (Lisa explained) tossed in a mixture of salt and a number of spices. The result is the reddish color you see and a spicy tang, along with some other flavors I couldn't quite identify. A few pieces were a bit too salty for my taste but overall is was very distinctive and very good.
Janet chose this Panko-fried chicken that was a big hit with everyone. The texture, the sauce and the breading were all just perfect. (Janet took the leftovers, too!)
I'm not sure who suggested the General's Beef (I think that was the name) but it, too, was a big hit with everyone:
This dish consisted of amazingly tender chunks of beef with a crisp coating in a sweet sauce. Very good. After the meal we were presented with fortune cookies and what I think are some of the best almond cookies I've ever eaten. All very good.
I don't normally dine at Cantonese-American style restaurants, but LC's Asian really shows how good this cooking can be. It doesn't have to be what Calvin Trillin called "lumps in brown sauce"like so many restaurant are. Running a Chinese restaurant that serves a mostly non-Chinese clientele is always a tricky balance between authenticity and customers used to overly sweetened, thickened sauces, but LC's gets it right, with a fine mix of traditional and Americanized dishes. Lisa tells me that they had once considered opening a restaurant specializing in Congee (Chinese savory rice porridge) so you know her heart's in the right place. I think we'll be back soon.