For a local Chinese food place, China Cottage is very atypical. It’s actually a chain of four restaurants around Dayton offering above-average experience with an opulent, though muted, environment. Actually, it’s also the only Chinese place in memory that has a full bar and televisions, too. It’s interesting to me that the place’s tagline is “for those who appreciate the authenticity of Chinese cuisine” while sporting a very Americanized atmosphere. Frankly it’s nice; I feel like the place has harnessed American decorum and a Chinese menu very well.
So about the food. Really, the problem is it’s hit and miss to find what you like. I can elocute with all the finesse of my college degree just how crunchy and sweet the General Tso’s Chicken is. I can explain how nicely the sauce in the Sizzling Combo makes the shrimp, chicken, scallops and crab all taste good, which is difficult. But I would also have to creatively explain to you how bland the Kung Pao Beef is, or how I was biting into raw vegetables on that dish. And of course I would not be able to miss that every single time I am here, the rice I get is served lukewarm, and always is cold and hard by the time I am halfway through my meal. It’s alarming, really, that there are so many good and bad dishes…all from the same place.
You know, there are some simple dishes every Chinese place does well. You really can’t mess up frying chicken and putting it in a sweet sauce. China Cottage does better than that. It masters good, creative dishes and once you find one, you’re in for a good experience. The problem is it seems to be a fifty-fifty chance as far as that goes. Some things are good and others are bad. And both the strengths and the problem areas are just so consistent. Fried stuff is great. Meat is often done well. Vegetables and rice are always unpleasant in some way or another. I’m sorry to say that even extends to the atmosphere, which is very pleasant and appealing to many moods, but the floor is often dirty to the point of distracting even me.
I’m stuck without a clear line here. I really won’t rule out coming back again, but I feel like I have to stick with a few dishes I like, which are really good. But I don’t like the same things over and over. Bah, you get what I’m saying!
- China Cottage has a bar, as confusing as that sounds. It’s nice because you can watch a game and have a beer if you somehow wanted Chinese food for that purpose.
- It’s got an atmosphere here that strangely suits any audience. The quieter, lowlit tables give way to mellow and private types, while sociable people can congregate at the bar in front of the TVs.
- If you find something, stick with what you like. It’s a gamble to try a dish you aren’t familiar with.