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Jan Mee
280 St. John St.
761-4335

 
Three Plates  
  Road Runner Around Town
 
Jan Mee Reviewed: Fall, 2000

It's only once in a great while that I get an overwhelming urge to gorge myself on Chinese food. Without fail, after the ordeal, I never want to eat it again, of course until that undeniable craving comes back six months later. Well, it happened to be one of those nights and we decided to try Jan Mee to see how their Egg Rolls and Fried Rice stand against the competition.

We parked in the giant lot of Union Square and suspiciously peeked in the windows of Jan Mee to see if they were even open. The curtains in the window block nearly all visual access to the restaurant giving the misconception that no one is in there. We were able to catch a glimpse into the surprisingly well lit room through the short entranceway in which was posted a glowing menu sign listing all the numbered lunch and dinner combination plates, I suppose for one to read while waiting for a table. We didn't have to wait at all, as the giant restaurant was close to deserted. A very nice hostess sat us at one of the numerous booths, immediately filled out water glasses, gave us menus and offered us a pot of hot tea.

The giant room is host to a good 30 tables at least, very few of which were occupied this evening. Large glass chandeliers hang in the center of the room, with pink lights reflecting off the inset white ceiling giving the entire room a rosy glow. A huge lit picture of a city at night, I believe Hong Kong but I never asked, hangs in the back of the room and tiled mirror blocks serve as the wall decorations in the rest of the restaurant. A rather quirky atmosphere but it seems to lend itself well to socializing with its bright lighting and open space. It would be a fun place to go with a large group of people. It's always entertaining to peruse the drink menu and chuckle about the Suffering Bastard or the Zombie and throw around the idea of ordering the big Scorpion Bowl or better yet the four person Volcano Bowl. Every Chinese restaurant always seems to have the exact same drink menu, pictures and all.

It took me a while to decide which of the abundant menu items I was in the mood for. In addition to the many dinner and lunch combination plates, there are tons of selections, mostly the usual Chinese food palate including Chow Mein, Chop Suey, Lo Mein, various Chicken, Pork and Beef dishes etc. with a couple of pages of Jan Mee Specialties such as Volcano Steak, tender steak on a bed of select vegetables with flaming brandy ($10.70), Gai Poo Lo Mein, jumbo shrimp, beef, ham, roast pork with mixed Chinese vegetables on a bed of lo mein noodles and chicken fingers ($12.70), and Scallops Flamingo, fresh scallops, straw mushrooms, baby corn, water chestnuts, and snow pea pods ($10.90). I knew I definitely wanted some chicken fingers and an egg roll as those are my absolute favorite Chinese foods so I searched until I located the perfect combination plate, #7, which offered both along with boneless spareribs, chicken wings, pork fried rice and a choice of wonton, hot and sour, or egg drop soup ($7.95). My vegetarian friend had no problem finding veggie food on the menu. He went for the Vegetable Lo Mein ($6.95) with an order of Vegetarian Spring Rolls (2 for $3.30). And the last in our party went for dinner combo #6 which came with beef teriyaki, chicken with broccoli, pork fried rice which he substituted with steamed white rice instead, and a soup choice ($7.95). We ordered a round of Miller Lites ($2.50 each) to accompany our meals.

Our soups arrived right away with our dinners following closely behind. I had chosen wonton soup with my dinner combo and my friend had opted for the hot and sour instead. My small bowl was full to the brim with broth, tons of crunchy bok choy, water chestnuts, two wontons and some bits of pork. I very much enjoyed the vegetables and broth but the wontons were a little flavorless and the meat bits rather unappetizing. This was the first time I have ever tried a soup in a Chinese restaurant and something tells me that I always avoided them in the past because they never looked appetizing to me. My friend thought his hot and sour soup was great and devoured it well before I had finished mine.

When our dinner plates arrived I was amazed by the portions. I knew at first sight that there was no way I was going to even make a dent in my enormous heap of food. My plate came with 3 chicken fingers, a huge helping of boneless spareribs, 3 large chicken wings, one substantial egg roll and tons of fried rice to fill in the spaces. Our waitress offered us duck sauce and hot mustard which we accepted graciously. The rice was great, full of flavor with bits of vegetables and pork intermingled, made even better with the addition of duck sauce. I finished this first before moving on to an extremely hot and not quite thoroughly cooked chicken finger. The batter was still wet inside, but perfectly crisp on the outside. The chicken was indeed cooked through but something about the fact that the batter was undercooked made me a little wary. I managed to polish off two nonetheless. The infamous red spareribs, although they have never been my favorite, were good and the egg roll was just what I was looking forward to. Also very hot in temperature, chock full of cabbage and shredded meat and all crispy on the outside. My friend loved his vegetarian spring rolls which were of the small skinny fried variety and he though his lo mein was just as good as any lo mein he's had before. Neither of us could finish our meals and our waitress carefully packaged each of them for us to take home. Granted his was a bit lighter and healthier with the white rice and broccoli and all, our other friend managed to finish his entire combination plate leaving not a scrap of rice to be found.

parking
reservations  
wheelchair accessible
vegetarian selections
vegan selections  
beer
wine
liquor
most credit cards accepted
I still haven't figured out what it is about Chinese food that no matter how stuffed you are, you still keep eating. I don't know how many times I put my fork down, feeling ready to explode, yet two minutes later, was going back for more. Must be the MSG, which incidentally Jan Mee uses unless requested otherwise, as noted on their menu.

We of course received our token fortune cookies with our $36 bill. I wasn't all that impressed with my fortune hence I would have probably saved it to write about here. Overall it was a decent Chinese food experience. I am not looking forward to going back any time soon, I've just had my fill of Chinese food for the next few months. I would definitely order take out or delivery service from Jan Mee as it is very convenient and the prices are excellent. So next time you find yourself craving some greasy, MSG infused, fried Chinese cuisine, Jan Mee will be there ready to satisfy.  back to the top

Tracy B. Wheeler is a classical flutist and freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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