Sacramento, CA 95818
Sacramento's Broadway area has a healthy population of restaurants, representing pretty much every culinary group found in the area - Nepali, Middle Eastern, Vietnamese, two Thai restaurants right next door to each other (how do they make money) - you've got it on Broadway. (You also have a profusion of bums/vagrant American citizens, but that just adds to the fun!).
I'm always on the hunt for authentic Chinese food, the kind of stuff that involves weird animal parts more then orange chicken and walnut-mayo shrimp glop concotions. We're sort of in a rut with our Chinese restaurant patronage, and by that I mean we go to New Canton a lot. Therefore we decided to take the radical move of hitting a new place: enter New Station.
As befits authentic Chinese restaurants, it's an extremely casual place: clientele is a curious mix of Broadway residents of all flavors, the television is playing sports, and decor is decidedly minimal. The menu, however, is a lot of fun: a good selection of Cantonese specialities, hot pots, and curious protein sources (frog legs and duck tongue? Yes, no? No?). It bills itself as a seafood place, and that's reflected on the menu: whole fish, crabs, and tons of shrimp dishes are on the menu. Another perk: the volume level is a lot lower then many similar Chinese restaurants.
We began with the scallops and ground pork in hot bean sauce. This was very nice: the big scallops were cooked correctly and avoided the curse of chewiness, and the combination with smoky, slightly spicy bean sauce, ginger slices, and sweet ground pork was unusual and good. I'd order this little taste-treat again.
This was the house special fried rice, filled with shrimp, chicken, pork, vegetables, and other standard fried rice ingredients. It's a good fried rice rendition, with a nice meat to rice ratio and a good browned, crisp flavor. I'd prefer it just a little more caramelized and crunchy, but it's still a worthy rendition of a real classic.
Ma-po tofu, or mapo doufu if you're going to be all specific about it, is an old-school Sichuan dish and can be really yummy in the right hands. This is prepared with a spicy bean and chili oil infused sauce, combined with ground pork and tofu cooked to compellingly slimy perfection. (This is not a bad thing). It also traditionally contains Sichuan peppercorns, although I cannot recall if they were present in New Station's version. This was good: I liked the combination of creamy tofu with sweet pork. I'd ask for it spicier next time.
This is shrimp with Chinese greens: a super light and rather refreshing dish, and a nice counterpart to all the chili oil filled and rich stuff we'd ordered alongside. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and had a nice springy flavor, and I enjoyed the flavor of the fresh, crisp vegetables. It's a pretty simple dish, and I would have wanted more taste if I'd just ordered this: but as an antidote to spicy, fatty, stuff, it's perfect.
Finally, we tried the hot pot with chicken, mushrooms, and Chinese sausage. This was a typical clay pot preparation, with a thick, soy based brown sauce and some chili: the Chinese riff on the casserole. The chicken was hacked up with a cleaver in the typical way - and I happen to vastly prefer chicken on the bone to tasteless white meat bits, so no complaints here. The Chinese sausage added a sweet and distinctive flavor to the whole affair.
On the whole, I really liked New Station, and I'll happily come back and sample the rest of the menu. The salt toast shrimp every other table ordered looked great, and I also was impressed by the whole steamed ginger-scallion chicken our neighbors were chowing down on. One complaint: all the dishes were a smidgen less warm then is ideal. We'll see if it happens again on my return trip - and I'll definitely be making it.