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April 2017

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Menuplease: New China Serves Fine Cuisine

Strip malls are not usually the first place you look when choosing a restaurant. There's just something about those impersonal, interchangeable squares of real estate with high-gloss walls, big glass storefronts and acres of asphalt just a few steps from your table that scream Styrofoam taste at high prices! But in a city with strip mall space that goes begging, rents can be attractively low and ideal for small, family-run restaurants. Places like Pho Sai Gon, Priya, 5 Thais, and New China are turning out high-quality food at modest-to-moderate prices.

Several Asian restaurants have come and gone in the corner of Sunset Plaza (corner of Eureka Way and Buenaventura Boulevard) that now is home to New China. Some of them were quite good, but New China has developed a devoted following that ensures its continued success. At any time of day you'll see a string of customers coming in for to-go orders, as well as dine-in.

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When it first opened, New China had a functional but cold tile floor and plain café tables, but has since had elegant upgrades made to the interior. Though it's a neighborhood place, it's also dressy enough to take a date. Service is prompt but not rushed.

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The wonton soup ($5.50 to serve two) is by far the best in Redding. Made with a rich mixed broth (not just chicken stock), the wonton wrappers are stuffed with a snappy ginger-pork pate that is much more distinguished than the usual bland filling.

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BBQ spare ribs, $6.50 as an appetizer. The ribs were not especially meaty or tender but had excellent flavor with a sticky star-anise flavored sauce.

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Pan-fried noodles with chicken and vegetables, $8.95. To M. de Joie's mind, this is a much tastier alternative to the usual chow mein. Chinese noodles are fried until brown and crisp on one side, then tossed with crunchy vegetables and bites of chicken in a slightly sweet sauce. On another visit, we ordered a combination of shrimp, beef, and chicken; more than enough as a main course for two people.

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Broccoli in ginger sauce, $6.75, bears no resemblance to frozen broccoli or that abomination served in school cafeterias. The spicy-hot sweet garlic sauce coats flowerets of broccoli, plus carrots, celery, mushrooms and onions. It might not make converts of broccoli-haters but does make a wonderful vegetarian main course.

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Femme de Joie recalls eating some truly weird and awful versions of sweet and sour pork in now-forgotten and hopefully now-closed East Coast suburban Chinese restaurants, which included crinkle-cut frozen French fries and gherkins, along with greasy pork in a vivid red sugar sauce. It may not be authentically Chinese, but S&S pork continues to be a mainstay at Asian restaurants. New China's version ($7.50) is one of the better ones out there - the sauce is not overly sugary and the sweet is balanced with sour. There is plenty of pork in a light, crunchy batter, with a few cubes of pineapple and bits of onion and sweet red bell pepper.

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One of the nice touches from New China: post-meal, beautifully presented orange halves are brought to your table - a perfect dessert after an elegant dinner.

New China is located on Redding's western edge but is worth a drive from Enterprise, even if you're going to pick up an order to take home. Highly recommended.

New China, 3669 Eureka Way at Buenaventura Boulevard in the Sunset Plaza, Redding. 530-246-9522/0788. Open Monday-Friday, 11:00 AM - 9:30 PM, Friday and Saturday, 11:00 AM-10:00 PM, Sunday 12:00 noon - 9:00 PM. Vegetarian/vegan options. Wine and beer. No checks. Cash, cards. Ample on-site parking.

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