Photos by Evie Carpenter
View all past Downtown Dining reviews with
the Downtown Dining Interactive Map.
The Chinese New Year is a time to celebrate. People wish for health, prosperity or happiness for friends and family, but for me I wanted the new year to bring hopes of some edible Chinese food. After eating at The Prime Chinese Restaurant, I believe I have found my long-awaited Chinese food staple.
Family-owned and operated, The Prime Chinese Restaurant is nestled in a strip mall on Camelback Road west of Central Avenue, just a short light-rail ride from downtown. As I walked up to the door, I was preparing myself for a world filled with watercolor scrolls, plastic waving cats and stringed instrument music, but instead found a scene of simplistic, clean tables juxtaposed by mixed-media art lining the walls and smooth jazz playing in the background. A small Chinese woman, the owner of the restaurant, greeted us with a smile as she seated our large party an hour before closing time.
Hoping the menu would be as good as the service, I surveyed the options and saw an array of traditional and Americanized Chinese favorites suited for almost any palate. Choosing several dishes to share, I anxiously waited to see which ones would be best. I did not have to wait long — the chicken lettuce wraps arrived quickly. Pieces of crunchy lettuce filled with spiced grilled chicken accompanied by a sweet sauce were fresh and fun, allowing each person to stuff his or her own wrap with as little or as much meat as desired. We had six more dishes on the way: BBQ ribs, House Special Chicken, House Special Fried Rice, Broccoli Beef, Crispy Noodle Chicken and Bok Choy, and Fish with Bean Curd.
For the fried rice lovers, I would suggest the House Special Fried Rice, a combination of pork, seafood and vegetables. It was an interesting twist on a classic favorite. Another standout was the Crispy Noodle with Chicken and Bok Choy. The large fried bed of noodles added a different texture and consistency that requires a fork and knife. The dish, with tender bok choy and a savory sauce, is a favorite for some of the regular patrons. While it is not on the everyday menu, it can be made on request.
I was wary to try fish in the desert after living the past four years in Florida and insisted the table not order any fish entrees. Let’s just say I am glad I did not win that argument. My favorite dish of the night was the Fish with Bean Curd in clay pot. It came to the table in a decorative, steaming hot pot filled with white fish, tofu and veggies in a fish sauce. The fish was light, and the bean curd added almost a subtle sweetness to the dish. Putting all the ingredients over rice made for the perfect Chinese meal.
The Lazy Susan in the middle of the table went around one last time, and I looked down at my watch and saw it was nearly an hour past closing time. The owner never told us we needed to leave or rushed us out the door but instead brought us a plate of chocolate chip cookies.
The food was flavorful, filling and reasonably priced. When the bill came to the table it calculated to be about $11 per person. The furnishings at the Prime may not be fancy, but the real Chinese dining experience is found in the service, the food and the people at the table.
Contact the critic at email@example.com