Getting good Chinese food can be a hard task, especially when you’re trekking between Reno and Salt Lake City. One spot worth heading to is Chef Cheng’s, 1309 Idaho St., in Elko, Nevada.
Of the four Chinese restaurants in Elko, Chef Cheng’s is definitely the best. While Chef Cheng’s is a bit spendy at dinner time and on weekends, the lunch special is definitely the best value in town, aside from the full-plate burritos at Sergio’s.
For $5.50 the lunch special includes a choice of three items that come with a bowl of hot and sour or egg flour soup; and a spring roll. Items for selection include: spicy chicken, Kung Pao chicken, sweet and sour chicken, sweet and sour pork, vegetable deluxe, prawns with vegetables, chicken Chow Mein, white steamed rice, stir fried rice, beef with broccoli and beef in garlic sauce. If you stick to water with lemon for a drink, that’s major value.
The only criticism about the lunch special is that the items never change or rotate on it. Every now and again it would be good to add on orange chicken, General Tso’s chicken or Mongolian beef. Still, the lunch special is a welcome break from the day.
The portions fill a 14-inch plate to the edges, and the food is cooked fresh every day, sometimes to order.
The vegetables are cooked, but still firm and never soggy. The rice and noodle dishes are not soggy either, which can be a real turn-off when eating Chinese food. There’s nothing worse than a mouthful of mush when it’s not supposed to be mush.
The sweet and sour chicken and pork are battered and fried, and then lightly tossed in sweet and sour sauce. This is a great approach to the traditional dish. It’s performed just before being served to ensure the batter doesn’t get soggy and fall off the meat. The sauce is also jus the right consistency. The sauce isn’t watery, nor is it so thick it tastes like Vick’s cough syrup.
The prawns (shrimp) are cooked until they’re just perfectly done. Overcooking can make shrimp rubbery, and really overcooking them can make them convert into a grainy substance the consistency of instant mashed potatoes.
The Kung Pao chicken is among the best I’ve ever had, and the spicy chicken is a slightly less intense flavor for those who value their stomach lining.
The beef with broccoli and beef in garlic sauce offer great cheap beef dishes. The beef is sliced thin, is tender and the broccoli is more or less lightly stir fried and tossed in at the last minute. Some may find the broccoli to be too crisp, but the crispness of the broccoli adds an interesting texture to the dish that the other dishes don’t necessarily exhibit.
The egg flour soup is pretty standard, although pieces of chicken are cut into it to add extra body and depth. The hot and sour is among the best I’ve had, although it’s most likely from a mix considering the thicker consistency of it. Despite this, they offset it with diced tofu and finely sliced black forest mushrooms.
The spring rolls can leave a bit to be desired, consisting of chiefly vegetables and no discernable meat filling or any kind. If you get them fresh, they’re not too bad. If you come at the end of the lunch rush, they’re liable to be only slightly warm and perhaps even a little chewy. Despite this gamble, all other items whether off menu or lunch special, or of excellent quality and flavor.