Reno: Authentic and tasty Chinese food at 168 Cafe
168 Café has opened in Reno on South Virginia Street behind Black Bear Diner and is offering some nice authentic Chinese dishes in addition to the standard Americanized Chinese food. My friend Glenn first brought it to my attention. I’ve eaten there twice and enjoyed it both times.
The first time I got a spicy pork and bean curd and a dish of green beans and tofu. I asked if the pork dish was just a spicier version of mapo tofu but it was quite different. First off they use a firm tofu. And instead of being cubed it was sliced like thin French fries. The pork was sliced in the same shape as were red and green peppers. It wasn’t too hot. But it had some nice zing to it. The green beans had been dried, or had that dried texture to them, but tasted great and were a nice mix with the big chunks of tofu. It was a delicious meal.
The next trip I got the boiled beef with chili oil and another dish with beans and other vegetables that I can’t recall. I liked this meal, too, but not as much as the first for this reason: The boiled beef with chili oil was fairly rich and was too much of a good thing for one entrée. This would work much better in a group where several people are sharing it. It’s almost soup like. The beef was tasty as was the bok choy and other ingredients. It was fairly easy to avoid the peppers in ladling out the food. The vegetable dish that came with this meal was also quite tasty. All the vegetables were fresh and none were overcooked.
There’s about 20 items on a special menu that look like authentic Chinese dishes you don’t see on menus in the Reno area, plus some cold plates, four soups (two of which don’t even have English translations) and special orders for Shanghai duck, lion head meatball, braised whole pork shoulder and braised duck with Chinese wine sauce.
This is an ambitious menu for a dining community that won’t go beyond wor wonton soup or General’s Chicken. I hope it can gain the traction it needs to succeed.
2303 S Virginia St
Reno, NV 89509
Back for lunch again today. We're probably there every couple of weeks. We're trying to FORCE ourselves to eat at least one new thing each trip. This time it was the salt and pepper fried tofu. I laughingly called it "poor man's foie gras" :) That slight crispiness on the outside and the creamy tofu on the inside. Served with thin slices of onion, peppers and jalapenos. Another winner. One again had the fish filets in spicy oil and remember to take a picture before we started eating. Rare for me esp. here. Got the eggplant again. A table of four or five had the hotpot and I got invited over to check it out. Two different oils to cook a plethora of things in and probably six toppings. Looked great. Another couple had seaweed, pea shoots and some kind of sizzling pork and veg platter. Yet another couple had two of our dishes but also a bowl of congee. As is our MO now, we always order too much food so we'll have leftovers for a couple of meals. I remain so grateful to have this here in Reno. Would be proud to take anyone there.
PS: Would like to mention that they seem pretty popular with a strong Asian following.
We eat here quite regularly and in our opinion, it's hands down the best Chinese food in Reno. We tended for a while to get stuck on the fish filets in spicy oil with vegetables. Quite spicy which we love. Also like the salt and pepper squid. Recently had their mapa tofu - excellent. And a new fave is their eggplant which is creamy just the way it should be. We never order Americanized Chinese food so can't comment. Haven't had the hot pot yet but it's a popular item and something they specialize in. The owners also own 168 Asian Market on S. Virginia which is how we found out about the cafe. I think we're pretty discriminating about Chinese food, having lived in SF for so many years and traveling to places with large Chinese populations. This would be good food no matter where you put it down. Cannot recommend highly enough. Simply top notch. Oh, and the service is just the friendliest and they get a kick out of all the spicy things we love :)
re: c oliver
Was out running some errands this morning and decided to pick up some food here. Planning for leftovers, I got the fish filets in spicy oil with baby bok choy and glass noodles, spicy garlic eggplant with onions, mapa tofu and steamed rice. Photo attached with clockwise from top the fish, the eggplant, mapa tofu and rice. While normally I'd eat it in a rice bowl as is traditional, having it at home I used a plate. Also easier to find the killer hot peppers in the fish :) Excellent as always.
My server really went over the top for me. They had barely opened at 11 when I walked in and it was rather warm inside and out. First she sat me down at a table and gave me a large glass of iced tea with lemon. Then she brought me a laminated menu to use as a fan :) And finally a teapot that she had filled with more iced tea. What a dear. If she's ever without a smile, we've never seen it.
I was rereading a thread about Golden Dragon resto in Rocklin, CA. Someone commented that there's nothing of that caliber here in Reno. Now there is. And for those who want the Americanized Chinese food, that's there also. Once it cools down (is it EVER going to?) we'll go for hot pot which they specialize in.