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Published October 13, 2010, 12:00 AM

Restaurant review: Beyond the buffet

Lucy’s offers fresh, unique Chinese cuisine
Simply put, as far as casual Chinese comfort food goes, the menu at Lucy’s North China Cuisine is the best I’ve had outside China and as good as any I’ve had inside China.

By: Eric Daeuber, special to The Forum-, INFORUM

RESTAURANT REVIEW

Lucy’s North China Cuisine

3003 32nd Ave. S.

Fargo

Cuisine: Chinese

Ratings:

  • Food: four stars
  • Service: two and a half stars
  • Ambiance: two and a half stars

Dining details

  • Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Sunday
  • Phone: (701) 356-5100
  • Reservations accepted: No
  • Alcohol: No
  • Dress: As you like
  • Credit cards accepted: Visa, Mastercard and Discover

Simply put, as far as casual Chinese comfort food goes, the menu at Lucy’s North China Cuisine is the best I’ve had outside China and as good as any I’ve had inside China.

It’s tempting to compare this restaurant with area Chinese buffets because that’s been about the only expression of the complex world of Chinese cuisine that anyone could find in Fargo. It would be a mistake to compare the two.

Lucy’s delivers Chinese food like it’s coming from someone’s backyard garden through the family kitchen. Flavors here are fresh and combined in surprising and exciting ways.

For instance, the mild, gentle and sweet cucumber and shrimp soup ($2.50) side-by-side with a classic hotter-than-Hades kimchi ($1.50) makes you wonder why it has taken so long for someone to just say no to MSG. Who really needs a flavor enhancer with ingredients like these?

If you consider the traditional Korean kimchi to be a relish rather than a side dish, you can use it to add some punch to the milder dishes on the menu. This is the secret of enjoying Chinese cuisine – putting together wildly different flavors in new ways.

Lucy’s has the usual combo specials found at Chinese restaurants – because some people just can’t leave without General Tso’s chicken. But to really appreciate the menu, be sure to try dishes that at least hint at the traditional punch of northern Chinese cuisine.

For example, when ordering the pork dumplings (eight for $5.25), opt for the ones stuffed with Chinese chives. They are a bit more pungent than other versions of these Xian-style appetizers, but along with the easygoing pale fried rice dishes, they offer an understated contrast.

Again, natural flavors are central to the food at Lucy’s. Thus, salt is used relatively sparingly. So is sugar.

The service is basic. You order at the desk and pick up your own cutlery. The atmosphere is casual and comfortable. And it’s an extraordinary value.

Fargo is ready for this kind of ethnic adventure and, even if you’re not the adventurous sort, any place that can give you an excellent experience and a solid square meal for under $10 is a must-visit.


Eric Daeuber is an instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College. Readers can reach him at food@daeuber.com.

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