3/25/2005

 

Canton Restaurant, Coeur d'Alene, ID

It's been there as long as I can possibly remember, surviving lean times under various ownerships, some good, some bad, and some ugly. My favorite Canton story goes like this: It's kind of a had-to-be-there thing, but Brian will understand. It was the next to most recent ownership a few years back and the waitress was called Kim. She was endearingly eccentric and extremely chatty, but her grasp of the English language was still in its infancy stage, to say the least. Brian and I were sat in a sunny booth by the window, our usual spot. It seems like it was an ungodly hot day and we were both nursing ungodly hangovers. When Kim returned with our water, we all gasped as we spotted an earwig writhing about on the table. "The beeeez, the beeeeeeez!" shrieked Kim as she wrestled the poor critter to death with a paper napkin. We immediately turned green. I knew that the days of Kim and Co. were numbered when I wandered in one afternoon to order take out and was told they were out of chicken. Out of chicken? "Never Mind", I said as I relunctantly headed up the way to Chinese Gardens. Days later, the place was vacant and plastered with "For Rent" signs amid rumors of serving customers the types of animals that don't appear on the menu. I don't actually believe that, I mean the food wasn't that bad, but it still made for a heavy, dark cloud over the place that would make for a real challenge to potential new owners. A Chinese joint never stays closed for long, and the new owner arrived in the form of a gentleman named Alex. We met Alex when he first reopened the place (now christened New Canton according to the take out menu), and he was our host, waiter AND chef. The food was tasty, but a wee bit on the rough side. It seemed Alex was still honing his craft. Inside, the restaurant was visibly cleaner and less cluttered, but basically the same, with those big, red, overstuffed vinyl booths, which are the most comfortable booths anywhere. A fresh coat of white paint, and a large mirror on the back wall made the place feel more open and spacious. We worried a bit when on return visits, we were inevitably the only people in the place, whether lunch or dinner, day or night. However, on a recent visit the place was bustling and the food was seeing improvement. Kylie, our young waifish waitress, was sat us in the most comfortable booth of them all, the one with the mismatched fabrics toward the middle of the room. How did she psychically intune that this was our spot? She was clearly wise beyond her years. Cute, but a bit underdressed for the occasion in jeans and a slouchy hippie sweatshirt. She sat in an adjacent booth and proceeded to cut some kind of leafy green vegetable with the utmost of casual disdain. The alarming downside to our favorite booth is the fact that it is sat right underneath the speaker, which was unusually loud and blasting Classy 99.9. Many people, including myself, find it hard to enjoy a hot meal to the music of Phil Collins, Michael Bolton or Martina McBride. We made our best attempts to tune it out as Kylie shuffled on up to take our order. Boldly branching out from my usual choice of Almond Chicken, I chose the Number 9 (Soup/Pork Chow Mein/Lemon Chicken/Pork Fried Rice/Egg Foo Young), with an Egg Roll to start. Number 9 Before Number 9 After The soup was quite excellent in flavor and thickness, but I'm always a little sad when these places decide they have to ruin a good Egg Flower soup with the dreaded frozen mixed vegetables. A lima been should not appear in this context, I firmly believe. The Egg Roll was cooked to perfection, a feat which I hadn't seen here yet, and I almost choked when I loaded it up with their hot mustard, which is normally bland, but was replaced with something quite pungent. Whew! Excellent way to clear the sinuses. The main course was done in perfectly adequate fashion, but I can't say I was over the moon. The main problem was that the lemon chicken was all lemon and no chicken, with only a few gnarled chunks emerging from the slightly overcooked breading and sea of sweet lemon goo. The gravy on the Egg Foo Young was great though, and provided a nice saltiness to counterbalance the tart lemon. The chow main was fresh and wildly edible, but offered nothing out of the ordinary, and slightly suffered from not having enough crunchy noodles under there. Unable to finish (unlike Lou, who never leaves behind so much as even one lowly grain of rice on his plate), I dropped my chopsticks to the tune of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" and sighed with fullness and Kylie delivered our check and fortune cookies. As I approached the counter to pay, I noticed a smiling Alex waving "Hello" at me from the kitchen, and I gave him the thumbs up. Overall, I will say that Canton offers probably the best Chinese meal in Coeur d'Alene, but the competition doesn't give it much of a fight. Sadly, it remains true that to experience the best in Chinese cuisine, one must head west to the Chinese Restaurant Mecca of Spokane. But, in a pinch, the Canton restaurant will always do the trick, and with much pleasure. Food: 7.5/10 Ambience: 6/10

Comments:
I'm still trying to figure what's up the all the bold-face type. I just don't get it. Is there something perhaps that I'm missing about the significance of some of the words and phrases?

Or perhaps not.
 
I first went to the Canton about 9 months ago with my husband. It had recently switched ownership, but the food and service were fantastic! This is the absolute best Chinese I've ever had, the cook Alex is amazing! Everything we've ever ordered there has been just delectable, and our waitress, whose been there since forever, is always sweet and kind. Plus it's always reasonably priced. Some of my favorite dishes are Hot & Sour Soup, Pork fried rice, General Tso's Chicken, Beef & Brocooli & Orange Chicken.
 
Cantonese foods are great! They are superb cooks.
 
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