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Aug 13, 2011 12:35 AM

[Ann Arbor MI] Lucky Kitchen on Plymouth Road

Around Ann Arbor, Lucky Kitchen has that reputation of being just another cheap, greasy Chinese take-out for the college set. No one talks about Lucky Kitchen without using the word "Americanized". During my undergraduate years, I knew Lucky Kitchen as the place where American kids went for orange chicken and an egg roll.

But the Plymouth Road location is different.

Perhaps in an attempt to lure the massive Chinese student population living on or near UM's North Campus, this Lucky Kitchen has a "house specials" menu posted on the wall, full of pretty true-to-form Cantonese-ish dishes.

pork and string bean
pork and rice cake
tilapia in black bean sauce
zha jiang mein
malaysian chicken & malaysian chicken curry
beef noodle soup
beef wide noodle
pork with extra firm tofu
salt and pepper shrimp
stir-fry bok choy in oyster sauce
...and a number of others, about 25-30 dishes total

These dishes are very good--some of the best Cantonese food I've had in Michigan. They're a bit greasy, but they're quick and very full-flavored. I don't think any of the dishes tops $9.

The pork and rice cake is one of my perpetual favorites. The oyster-based sauce is flavorful without being exceedingly heavy. They manage cooking times perfectly--long enough to cook the pork through without toughening/overcooking, just long enough to soften the rice cake into its chewy perfection, and a quick turn of the greens to keep them crisp.

Tonight I tried the Malaysian chicken, which is sort of a Cantonese interpretation of Malaysian-style flavors. This was really fantastic. Like, craveable fantastic. They use little morsels of chicken in a very light cornstarch-type batter. They're crisp-fried, then covered in a soy-based sauce that's gingery, sweet, a bit vinegary, salty, spicy, and just so lively. Includes zucchini, onion, green pepper. Served with rice.

I also tried the beef wide noodle, which was sort of mediocre compared to the aforementioned dishes. Not bad at all--and the sauce was actually very good, typical Cantonese oyster and soy sauce. But the noodles were standard wide rice noodles, pre-dried variety. Would've loved to see fresh noodles, but I know that's expecting far too much, and asking so would be gluttonously greedy. A good dish, though, and I'd definitely order again if I were in the mood for a Chinese noodle dish.

...But until then, I have way more of this "house specials" menu to work through!

Does anyone know if the other Lucky Kitchen location on Central Campus has a similar menu?

Lucky Kitchen
1753 Plymouth Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48105

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  1. They have ( at least last time I was there) about 20 or so items on sheets of paper on their wall. Some of the stuff was good, but nothing I had there was better than the "other menu" stuff I've had at Kai Garden or Great Lake for example. I've never had anything from the Plymouth Rd. location because I'm rarely on that side of town .

    Kai Garden
    116 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

    1 Reply
    1. re: moose734

      What should I try at Kai Garden? Because I have another friend who raves about Kai's "Chinese menu" items--says I can't go wrong with any of them. But I've been so terribly underwhelmed with them, every single time. I've found the flavors to be completely absent--even for Cantonese food. And there are rumors that some of Kai's noodles are homemade, but I've never had anything but pre-made, dried noodles there. So what's good there? What am I missing?

      Kai Garden
      116 S Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

    2. Thanks for posting! Never would have suspected. Those people are restaurant pros (although they really seem to have whiffed with Passport), and I'm not surprised they can cook good stuff when they put their minds to it. Getting to be a real destination in that area with Seoul Street (great Korean fried chicken), Ayse's (Turkish), the little Syrian place whose name escapes me, two decent sushi places, and more.

      13 Replies
      1. re: Jim M

        I don't mean to hijack this thread (which thoroughly was an enjoyable read), but did somebody say Turkish?!!!

        1. re: VTB

          Sure, Ayse's is right on the back side of the strip center where the Plymouth Rd. Lucky Kitchen is, as linked on the map above. Enter and order at the counter, then take a seat. Call ahead—they sometimes go on vacation.

        2. re: Jim M

          Lol, I can't remember the name of the Syrian place either, but I love their Kafta and Syrian yogurt.

          1. re: moose734

            Exotic Bakery is the Syrian place (closed Sundays). The keftas are great as are salads including black-eyed peas or the beet baba.
            Around the corner is the handy Jerusalem Market--a good source for middleastern grocery staples.

          2. re: Jim M

            I have always been underwhelmed with any restaurant in that mall type establishment on Plymouth Rd., but I'll have to try it again for the Korean chicken. Never been impressed by Ayse's.

            1. re: momskitchen

              Seoul Street ( the chicken place) isn't in that same courtyard. It's further down Plymouth , in the same strip as Great Plains Burger.

              1. re: moose734

                Soon after they opened, Seoul Street was taking about 30+ minutes to make the fried chicken, so it was best to pre-order. Not sure if that's still the case, but just an FYI.

                1. re: jjspw

                  I've been there in the summer and received it in the promised 20-25 min., but when the students get back it may take longer. It's worth the wait, but not a place to go for quick takeout.

                  1. re: Jim M

                    Sorry to be a buzz wrecker, but I tried out the place. I didn't have 30 minutes to wait for the chicken, so I got the bi bim bop. It was just okay, and it was expensive - $9! I'd like to try the chicken but that seemed spendy, too. $1 each for a wing or a chicken finger. Yikes!

                    1. re: momskitchen

                      I don't think you're being a buzzkill, MK...just honest. Bi bim bop wasn't one of the dishes that JJ mentioned as being worthy, and she did make mention of the fact that the beef wide noodle was just average.

                      I'm thinking you probably should have called ahead for the chicken, or ordered one of JJ's mentioned dishes. Perhaps you would have had better luck.

                      1. re: boagman

                        I should have mentioned I was talking about Seoul Street, not Lucky Kitchen. We probably need a new thread.

                        1. re: momskitchen

                          Ah, indeed MK. I misunderstood which place you were referring to. Sometimes you can't differentiate the players without a program!

                    2. re: Jim M

                      While waiting at Seoul Street (where the bbbop + fried chicken are very good), one could amble a block away to scope out Exotic Bakeries & Jerusalem Market.