About a year ago, my weekly lunch friends and I ate at the Ichiban, the newest Japanese/Chinese restaurant in Amherst, right next to the uber-popular Miss Saigon on North Pleasant St. The restaurant was cavernous, with two huge rooms and few diners were seated with us. Fast forward to late 2018, and Ichiban is gone. But what’s taken its place has a much more solid footing.
Lily Wang has opened Chuan Jiao Bistro, an authentic Hot Pot Chinese restaurant where a sign on the door advertises for bilingual waitstaff. So if you want to work for Lily, you have to be able to tell Chinese customers what’s on the menu, in Chinese! I was slated to meet one of those same buddies but we messed up the time, so I ended up eating alone.
My lunch was superb! They have the usually-expected lunch specials. $7.95, and I ordered braised sliced fish with soy sauce. It came with wood ear mushrooms and a delicious simple sauce. The highlight was the hot and sour soup.
This staple can be bland, but Chuan Jiao knows how to make it come alive! I noticed a few items on the menu that are particularly Chinese–and probably won’t get many American takers, such as sauteed pig kidney, and ox tongue and tripe with hot chili sauce.
The dinner menu also features hot pot, which is served on tables that have a burner in the middle, the food is cooked for you. I noticed another nice feature, there is a little call button at the tables to alert the waiter if you need them to come by.
Dry Pot Style “served in a mini-wok and cooked in a spicy hot pot sauce with green peppers, onion and bean sprouts,” styles include Cumin, salt and pepper, Sweet Bean Paste, Ginger and scallion, Kung Pao and garlic sauce.
Oh, and they offer chicken, beef, shrimp, lamb fish or tofu in these styles. And duck head, too.
But that’s what I like, a place that’s truly authentic. I think this place is a winner!
Chuan Jiao Bistro
104-106 North Pleasant St.