I normally write about dentistry and/or cycling, both topics where I have some level of expertise. I also have been a fan of Chinese cuisine for years, so I know a bit about that as well. My wife and I found this gem of a Chinese restaurant - L.C. Chen's - about 3 years ago, and this place has become our “Friday night date” place to enjoy the start of our weekend.
We took one of our cycling friends there for dinner. He told us that for him, the acid test of a good Chinese restaurant is the hot and sour soup. After one sip he stopped and told us we had a great place. It only gets better from there.
I am absolutely addicted to their hot and sour soup! At Chen’s, the hot and sour soup is chock full of a variety of gourmet mushrooms, not just tofu and cornstarch as I have experienced in many other places. Their wonton soup is not salty or greasy at all, the soup is so tasty and the wontons are delicate, not heavy fleshy intruders to the dish. Before discovering Chen’s, the closest I came to sushi was the smoked salmon at Zabaar’s. Now I am spoiled, since I have come to appreciate sushi, but compare everyplace to Chen’s and they always come up short — even a high end Japanese restaurant we tried in midtown Manhattan! Frequently, we order Coastal Fire roll or Flying Dragon roll dishes as an appetizer after the soup. Their Sichuan Ravioli appetizers are also very special: delicate, spicy, and flavorful, not sodden and doughy.
One of the most significant aspects of this casual, comfortable restaurant is the healthy side of the fare. At almost every Chinese restaurant I have been to, or taken out from, the food is ultimately greasy and oily. It also frequently has been salty as well. At Chen’s, the food is lighter and not greasy or oily. They do not use msg at all in anything. Their tofu in the passion basil is just a perfect consistency to capture the flavor of the sauces. Even their multigrain fried rice is not oily — but it certainly is good! You can order it with mushrooms and shrimps or chicken or veggies. Their General Tso chicken is crispy and lightly battered and the chicken is tender, not rubbery or encased in very thick sugary shells. I try to keep my weight down (helps me ride uphill on the bike), so, much of the time I will get steamed chicken and veggies — but I love hot garlic sauce. The staff at Chen’s knows me quite well and always makes the sauce as spicy as I prefer. The delicious spicy garlic sauce does not contain sugar, as they have customized ingredients to accommodate customer requests. The steamed dish arrives in a large bamboo steamer, so it stays hot during the meal as you take out portions to eat. The white meat chicken is always well trimmed, with no fat or gristle. The veggies are a lovely, crunchy assortment and are lightly steamed and fresh. The owner has personally shaped many of the dishes, so she can explain and/or modify the offerings if you have special needs.
My wife has taken to their Chilean Seabass, steamed with basil and ginger. The portion size is so large, my wife invariably gives me some, so I can attest to it being very tasty indeed. We have taken friends over to Chen’s many times; they also love the Teriyaki Salmon, Roast Crispy Duck, Passion Basil and Mandarin Orange Scallops.
The staff at Chen’s is low key and friendly, attentive without hovering. In a free standing building in Fairfield, just off Black Rock turnpike with plenty of free parking (a benefit of being next to TJ Max with its own enormous parking lot), the interior is calming and private. The staff there is very knowledgeable and can offer expert advice to recommend something for you or modify a dish to satisfy your tastes or if there are dietary requirements. My only complaint is that they are in Fairfield, not New Canaan, so I have to drive a bit. But, as the saying goes, they are “worth the trip”. Oh, one other thing — the cost. Amazingly inexpensive! Most entrées are less than $15. Even the Chilean Seabass, at $20.95 is a steal and more cost effective than buying it at a fish market and cooking just the fish yourself. I truly believe that if you try Chen’s once, you won’t be disappointed and will begin to make it a regular dine out option.
Chinese New Year is February 10th. Chen will have special dishes for Chinese New Year. We normally go to Chinatown to enjoy the Chinese New Year Banquet special. This year, we will be in Fairfield.