No Sushi. No Pad Thai. What a relief. It seems you walk into any Asian restaurant and they all have a little Chinese, a little Thai, an attempt at sushi, a little whatever. Not Chung Ching. It’s been that little Chinese place on Hamilton Avenue in College Hill for more than 30 years with no real changes. In an effort to be trendy, other Chinese places have bumped items off the menu you can still find here, like Moo Goo Gai Pan, smoked duck, and the ever-mysterious Pu Pu Platter. Chung Ching has quickly become a vintage Chinese restaurant. The menu is the same as when they opened, focusing on Cantonese items with a few hot Szechuan selections thrown in. Many of their dishes and flavors are now considered classic Chinese-American cooking and are an endangered species on many fused-beyond-recognition Asian restaurant menus. Chung Ching is very much comfort food, since the average American’s idea of Cantonese cooking is actually based on flavors immigrants created here at a time when Oriental imports were hard to come by. It’s as American as SpaghettiO’s, but a lot more tasty and fresh from the wok. The decor hasn’t changed much here. Don’t expect frou-frou colors or nouveau-Geisha garb on waitresses. The booths are red and old Chinese lanterns dangle from the ceiling. Joyce will offer you some hot oolong tea and expect you to take her up on it. It’s a step back into simpler cooking, basic flavors, untrendy prices, and portions big enough to take home for lunch tomorrow.
5842 Hamilton Ave.
Originally published in the May 2012 issue.