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Johnny Chan II 11296 Montgomery Rd. 513-489-2388
Johnny Chan II points to “fine Chinese” as their claim to fame. Reviews are primarily good and plentiful. Not believing everything we read (even if it is from the Enquirer) we felt it necessary to include our 2 cents worth ($40 in this case) in among the reviews.
Bright yellow walls, high ceilings and modern art decor create a definite distinction between Johnny Chan II and your average local Asian wok. The feel of the interior does make the taste buds water with high expectation. They did get that right. We were curious as to whether the menu would continue to impress and if the food was as vibrant and fresh as the decor.
Service is self-praised on the menu and followed suit. Our server was efficient and polite (even when confronted with an unexpected loud outburst by an obviously un-medicated senior in the throws of a personal confrontation with her companion at the next table).
We didn’t have many questions as the menu is quite simple. The Moo Shu pancake dishes sounded authentic, but the shrimp with garlic sauce ($11.50) was described as “authentic” so we went with that. The bean curd family style ($8.75) is a tofu specialty so that was ordered as well. Sadly, Singapore chow mei fun, lo mein and pad thai were the only noodle options, so we went with the mei fun ($8.95) hoping for a surprise. An egg roll ($1.95) appetizer was ordered to gauge the most basic elements of the menu.
The egg rolls were nicely colored and popping hot, almost as hot as the Chinese mustard. The first bite proved I may have went for more mustard than I was ready for but it was refreshing. While perfectly cooked the egg rolls were 99.9% finely shredded cabbage. Good but very plain.
The bean curd family style came out nearly sizzling, smothered in spicy brown sauce. A bit too sauce laden and shy on tofu but decent. The garlic shrimp presentation was quite striking and the fairly fat shrimps were delightful aside from the sloppy process of pulling off the tails while slathered in thickened seafood stock. The unusual crispy fried rice noodles held up under the savory sauce although our napkins didn’t fare as well. The dish doesn’t seem quite as authentic as described but hey, we aren’t Chinese so what do we know.
We always enjoy good mei fun (it’s the very thin almost clear noodle stir fried with green onions and egg you see often on buffets). Johnny Chan II describes their version as “Singapore” yet the spices seemed distinctly Indian to me. Strong yellow curry was most dominant. The shrimp were of the popcorn variety and thin slivers of pork were discovered here and there. As a fan (a huge fan) of good Chinese noodles we were a little disappointed in the dish though it was quite nice.
The fried rice was better than average although a tad greasy. All in all we found the meal to be average across the board (other than the service). Quite Americanized and lacking any real Chinese character. The prices aren’t cheap but nothing to complain about either. Perhaps we’re being too harsh, but don’t forget we did say the initial impression set a higher standard than your average take out spot. In this case the decor may have set the food up for a fall.
A few reviews point to the banquet menu as Johnny Chan’s true strength. Three 8 course menus are available (Dynasty, Emperors and Royal). The feast feeds 10 and the prices are fixed at $198. We were 8 people and $150 short on trying out that menu, but at $19.80 per person it would have cost essentially the same as our three dishes costs us ($20).
The banquet menu does sounds interesting we agree. Only 9 of the 24 dishes your offered to choose from are on the regular menu. The 15 other dishes do sound worth investigating. For instance Hunan crispy whole fish, Peking duck, twin lobster with ginger & scallion, fresh walleye filet, Shanghai style jumbo shrimp with mango & walnuts and sauteed clam with black bean sauce all sound enticing.
They have a buffet for lunch as well as a Sunday brunch. The next time we are in a party of 10 and cravin’ Chinese we’ll check out that banquet option. The Emperors Banquet sounds best to us. It features the chicken with winter melon soup, minced chicken with pine nuts, Peking duck, twin lobster with ginger & scallion, Hunan crispy whole fish, pineapple jumbo shrimp, three treasure vegetable and triple delight pan fried noodles. Hopefully this menu is the one that will finally allow us to consider Johnny Chan II “fine Chinese” along with the rest of the world.
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