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  • The new Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • Crab rangoon from Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • The new Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • Pot stickers from Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • Chicken noodle soup from Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • Egg rolls from Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • Shrimp toast from Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • Steak Kew from Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • The new Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • Almond chicken from Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • Orange chicken from Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • Pork lo mein from Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • Egg drop soup from Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • A sad fish tank at the entrance of Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • Hot and sour soup from Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

  • Lobster in garlic sauce from Yu's Golden China on Challenger Parkway.

Sunday, May 14, 2017 1:00 am

New regular spot for Chinese discovered

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

Yu's Golden China

***

Out of a possible five

$$

The saying, “You eat with your eyes first,” usually applies to the food.

But in the case of Yu's Golden China, it applied to so much more.

Given it is one of Fort Wayne's oldest Chinese restaurants, Golden China has a long list of satisfied customers from its original spot on the north side of Washington Center Road just west of Lima Road.

Well, much had changed recently. The Yu family, which took ownership about 15 years ago, added their name to the marquee when they moved out of their way-past-its-prime building across the street to Washington Plaza. The new spot, which was once Switta Thai, looks way better and my experiences were way better since my last visit, too.

There are no sunken floors, stained carpet or dilapidated tables. It is new and clean, the tile floors are pristine and the decor has modern touches with enough Asian decor to not be gaudy. The giant Ming-style faces still flank what is one of the saddest fish tanks I have ever seen as you walk in – a vacant tank with big tropical fish sadly swimming around without a speck of gravel in the tank much less plants or rock formations. That aside, the new look is fantastic.

And so was most of the food.

My first tastes were great, starting with the simple egg rolls.

The ground pork inside was still moist and nicely peppered. The cabbage and carrot slices were fresh and crisp as was the not-at-all-oily fried wrapper.

The crab rangoon triangles were generously stuffed with a standard sweet cream cheese filling and I loved them with some of Golden China's spicy mustard. The shrimp toast had a lot of ground shrimp atop the toast that stood out and could be tasted – often not the case in other restaurants. It was a little greasy but still worth having again.

Don't bother with the pot stickers as they had a very bland filling and were very greasy on the outside.

When it came to the complimentary soup, the hot and sour was the clear choice. I recently met longtime Golden China carry-out regular Jim Childers who told me he swore by it and that his family has not found a version that stacks up anywhere else.

What made this soup so good was its balance. It was not too sour and not too hot, so folks who might shy away from it because of its spice level should not worry. It was a step above the egg drop, which was also a fine choice thanks to the unexpected bits of chicken and finely diced water chestnuts in the thin egg broth.

At lunch, the soup offers vary – an owner said you can find the soup du jour offerings online – and I loved the chicken noodle. It had a light, clear, but nicely seasoned broth with crunchy carrots, onions, celery and cabbage, as well as tender slices of chicken and slivers of what appeared to be egg roll wrappers as the noodles.

I overheard that owner telling another table that his favorite beef dish was the Steak Kew, so that was a must-try, and I must have it again. The chunks of filet mignon at the center of this dish were super tender and had a nice wok char which gave them a from-the-grill essence. It, too, had big slices of crispy, fresh celery, onion, carrot and water chestnuts and was enrobed in a rich, dark garlic sauce dotted with minced garlic pieces. It was hearty and delicious.

I went to the sea for my next entrée – but stuck with the garlic – and ordered the enticing-sounding Lobster in Garlic Sauce. This spicy, thick sauce had a less garlic punch and just enough heat to perfectly flavor the shellfish without overpowering. The lobster chunks were sautéed in the shell and were cooked just right so the meat had the perfect consistency. It had a lot of crunchy green peppers, water chestnuts and carrots, but none of the menu-promised bamboo shoots or tree ear mushrooms.

When it came to more mundane Chinese offerings, the almond chicken was the clear winner with diced celery, carrots, water chestnuts and super tender chicken all uniformly sized to make it easy to eat. There were also plenty of sweet green peas mixed in and toasty almond slivers across the top. Its brown, soy-based sauce was pretty standard and let the ingredients do the work, which was a good thing.

The pork lo mein was wonderfully executed with surprisingly succulent strips of pork and just a little cabbage, onions and bean sprouts. Those ingredients and every al dente noodle was coated in a light brown sauce that provided the perfect kiss of the standard sort of salty, slightly sweet Asian flavor without masking the flavors of the meat and vegetables.

The Orange Chicken was better than the General Tso's as it was crispier and held up better under its thick, somewhat gelatinous sauce. There were no rogue pieces of tough, overcooked chicken in the dish, the orange was present and had a perfect level of spice. The General chicken had much less spice and was not at all crispy.

In addition to the new looks, I experienced some newfound stellar service that I struggled to find at the previous location. My servers were quick to remove dirty dishes, seemed genuinely happy to be waiting on me and answered every question that was asked promptly.

So I guess I have found a new regular spot for Chinese food. And it came as quite a surprise. Places that have been around so long and which have worn out their spaces often fade into history.

But not this one. This one just got better than it ever was.

Restaurant: Yu's Golden China

Address: 5820 Challenger Parkway

Phone: 489-6725

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: Chinese

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Beer and wine

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Egg rolls ($1.50), shrimp toast ($5.25), rangoon ($4.25), soup ($1.50), orange chicken ($12.95), lobster in garlic sauce ($19.50), almond chicken ($11.95), Steak Kew ($14.95), lo mein ($10.50)

Rating breakdown: Food: *1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. Past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. Follow DuVall on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.