House of Orchid, new Reno Chinese restaurant
Janet mentioned the House of Orchid on the board and a friend also mentioned it. I tried it last night. It was okay and I'll eat there again, but I was far from blown away.
The House of Orchid opened on South Virginia Street near Gentry Way in what was most recently the second location for Micasa Too, a Mexican restaurant, and was for a couple of decades before that a Marie Callendar's.
It's a new restaurant and my waiter had problems answering questions about the food and the wine. I wanted to try the Rudy Wiest riesling but he couldn't tell me the relative level of dryness. I've found you need a sweet finish on riesling for it to pair well with spicy food.
I asked to look at the bottle so I could tell and they happily obliged. Turns out it was declassified Riesling, which is inconclusive. Most are dry like a Kabinett but some can taste as sweet as a spatlese or auslese. I said I wasn't interested and they were nice enough to give me a sample to see if I liked it. That was very nice of them, but it kind of backfired. The wine sucked. Plus it is dry, so it won't go well spicy food.
Next, I had questions about two of the fish dishes. We went on a Chowhound excursion to Soochow and they made a steamed fish dish that was great. I wanted to find out if the House of Orchid steamed fish dish was even close. The waiter was nice enough to ask and find out. It's not the same as Soochow. I also asked about the Sampan style fish. I didn't know what that was. Neither did the waiter and I got the sense I was pushing it to ask him to find out how it was cooked.
So I ended up ordering the cubed stir fried beef, the mushrooms with seasonal vegetables and a cup of wonton soup.
They try to offer elegant presentation at House of Orchid. To bring me my cup of soup, they had one person holding the cup and plate on a platter and the waiter picked it up off the platter and set it on the table. When my mushrooms arrived, a similar two-person operation. The plate was square and curved up at the cornders. Pretty fancy. This process hit a bump with the arrival of my entree, though. In addition to the person holding my beef dish on the platter, the waiter brought a beer for the couple at the table behind me. He went to drop off the beer as the person with the platter stood next to me. The couple had questions though, and there was that awkwardness as I sat and waited for the waiter to finish with them so he could return and serve me the food.
I say dispense with this formality and just gimme my grub.
As for the quality of the food, the wontons in my cup of wonton soup were very nice but the broth was mediocre at best. I can't tell if it wasn't fresh or if it was just not good to begin with.
I got seven mushroom caps for the mushroom dish served over bok choi. I didn't know bok choi was a seasonable vegetable. Both were lightly coated in a brown Cantonese sauce and were fresh and tasty. It was the highlight of the meal.
I had asked the waiter if the cubed beef was spiced up and he was it was. While it's true it had some simple spices, it basically was cubed beef stir fried in a wok. Kind of bland. It might work in a dinner where everybody orders several platters of food and shares, but it doesn't really stand on its own for an entree.
I give the waiter points for being willing to try to answer my questions. I don't think he'll be able to do that if the restaurant was busier. House of Orchid is trying to be different with the elegance. It's still an old Marie Callendar's restaurant. For geniune elegance, there's Palais de Jade up around the corner on Moana Lane. The quality of food is not on par with Soochow. The couple behind me sent back one of their orders, for what it's worth.
It also has Japanese food, but most of that appears to be sushi. I will try the sushi next time.
They have a noodle show on Friday nights where a chef makes noodles by hand and diners can watch. That sounds interesting.