Don't go to Café Ginger in your bathing suit. The kind staff will still seat and serve you, but that doesn't mean it's appropriate. I know this because I accidentally did it last summer (oh shut up - we had cover-ups on over the suits). This upscale Asian restaurant is not like your neighborhood Chinese takeout place, but it still serves up the classics - just elevated versions of their former, greasy selves.
Every time I step into the River Oaks restaurant, I am impressed. The dimly lit, eclectic space manages to be both traditional and modern. With its red-trimmed walls, gorgeous high ceiling, giant gold Buddha statues, and horse and chariot overlooking the place, I always feel like I've entered some sort of royal palace. Or am I in Vegas? I can never tell. It's perfectly over the top and I love it.
While the menu has a huge selection of Asian cuisine, including traditional sushi and upscale dishes like a miso-glazed Grilled Chilean Sea Bass, slow-cooked Red Wine Beef Short Rib and Crispy Prawns in Caviar Sake Sauce, on my most recent visit I decided to test how my typical takeout order measures up in a fine-dining atmosphere.
Since the café also boasts an impressive wine list ($26 and up) and because I'm a major wino, we started with a bottle of red (as is tradition). Our server recommended a delicious Malbec that was on special, and in the blink of an eye, had brought it over along with some crispy wonton strips and duck sauce (which were obviously also gone in the blink of an eye because those things are freaking delicious).
My dining companion and I ordered the classics: two Wonton soups ($2.50 ea.), and the Sesame Chicken ($10.95) and Special Lo Mein ($8.95) to split. Our chicken came accompanied with brown rice but for another dollar, we upgraded it to fried. For an upscale restaurant, these prices are very reasonable, even comparable to my local takeout spot. Impressive.
The Wonton Soup came out opulent as all hell in a delicate porcelain soup bowl complete with lid. A lid! Again, I was impressed. The clear broth was packed with plump, pork-filled wontons, leafy greens, and tomatoes (what?). It was delicious, albeit salty; I usually add a splash of soy sauce into my wonton soup anyway, so I was good with it.
Next, our Sesame Chicken and Special Lo Mein came to the table piping-hot and piled high. The chicken dish (pictured above) was perfection. The large chunks came coated in a sweet, thick sauce with tons of sesame (I'm usually the asshole screaming "More garlic! More sesame!" at Hibachi restaurants, so this was major points in my book). Also much to my appreciation, the chicken-to-batter ratio was spot-on. I hate when I cut into a piece only to see it is mostly crunch and no meat. But the best part of it all? Wait for it...Wait for it....All...white...meat...chicken. Fresh, juicy, ALL MOTHER-EFFING WHITE MEAT CHICKEN! Does that make anyone else excited? Amazing!
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The Special Lo Mein beats out any takeout lo mein I've had to date. It's not as oily but just as satisfying. Packed with veggies, chicken, shrimp, pork, and palate-cleansing ginger, the dish was the perfect companion for our chunky sesame chicken.
With exceptional service, inviting décor, great prices and awesome takes on the classics, Café Ginger definitely delivers. No but really, they also legitimately deliver. Buh-bye, greasy takeout!