MIDDLETOWN: A RETRO CHINESE NEW YEAR

020216houseofchong6Shrimp lo mein, left, and shrimp in garlic sauce at House of  Chong. Edward Chong, below.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

By SUSAN ERICSON

020216houseofchong1Chinese new year begins Monday, and diners with a yen for a little time travel along with well-made Asian cuisine might set their GPS for House of Chong in Middletown.

The restaurant, located in the Union Square Mall, has been serving Cantonese and Szechuan-style Chinese delicacies since 1976, owner Edward Chong tells us. His parents first opened House of Chong in Brick in 1969, and though that restaurant is now closed, the Middletown eatery remains a family affair — and something of throwback.
020216houseofchong4Big bowls of soup such as hot and sour and wonton come with all of the lunch specials and family-style dinners. From the bar, a banana daiquiri, below. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)

102915houseofchongThe place is something of a time capsule to the ’70’s, with nostalgia-inducing decor that seems to appeal to young adults as much as older clientele.

A long, ebony cocktail bar gracing the front of the restaurant offers classic Polynesian drinks such as mai tais, daiquiries, and pina coladas with festive little paper umbrellas.

Some menu choices are straight out of the past, too, but in the very best way. All may be ordered ala carte.

The retro styling of this restaurant isn’t the reason it’s been in business so long, though. It’s all about the fresh, clear approach that the kitchen utilizes in preparing dishes.

An order of shrimp lo mein ($7.25) had plenty of shrimp and accompanying vegetables, but the non-mushy, al dente treatment of the egg noodles had us taking special notice. This lo mein is above average in every way.

The garlic shrimp ($7.75) were plump, juicy and spicy enough so that you knew you were eating something meant to convey heat, but not sweat-inducing.

Traditional Americanized Chinese options, from eggrolls to chicken chow mein fill out the menu. We loved the egg foo young, a dish that PieHole had given up ordering elsewhere because it was too often coated in grease and a thickened, starchy, flavorless gravy. House of Chong gives it a more ethereal treatment, with a thinner but full-flavored gravy.

Modern favorites also grace the menu. Grand Marnier shrimp are made with colossal, deep-fried shrimp served swimming in an orange-tinged cream sauce. Singapore-style mei fun, those thin rice noodles mixed with assorted protein and vegetables, came prepared with a healthy dose of fiery curry powder.

Three distinct dining areas offer tables big enough for large groups and tables for four or fewer. A raised platform with plenty of cushy booths offer a more romantic-date-night ambiance.

Busier on weekends than during the week, House of Chong does a brisk takeout business, and offers delivery on the Greater Red Bank Green. Prices for lunch specials run from about $6.50 to $7.50 per dish, which and includes your choice of soup.

Open weekdays 11:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

SUSAN-ERICSON