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Chuan Wang Fu Restaurant Review in Charlotte

Updated: May 13

When we were in our early twenties, we used to eat at a Chinese restaurant located in the Arboretum Shopping Center off Providence Rd. After eating there several times and getting to know one of the servers, he shared with us the not-so-well-kept secret about most Chinese food found in the US. It’s not authentic.


Why is that? There are several reasons, but they began when a large population of Chinese immigrated to California during the Gold Rush in the 1850’s to work as miners and railroad workers. During that time, laws existed that prohibited these immigrants from owning land. So, they began living together in ghettos which became known as “Chinatowns.” Many of the Chinese started small businesses like restaurants and laundry services. In smaller towns, the restaurant owners were mainly serving food to miners and railroad workers. So, they typically cooked what the customers wanted.


As the railroads expanded eastward, many Chinese went also which resulted in more Chinese-owned restaurants opening across the US. Over time, Chinese cooking evolved into a style of food not found in China. Many of the dishes were very sweet, partly due to using inexpensive canned fruit, as well as the addition of sugar and other sweeteners. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, Americans were finding these sweet dishes to be irresistible. Additionally, take out was becoming popular in US cities, and Chinese restaurant owners capitalized on this opportunity.


Due to the cost of importing fresh food from China, Chinese cooks adapted by using items grown in the US. In China, you will not see foods like tomatoes, yellow onions, orange carrots, and the broccoli, as we know it, since they are not indigenous to that country. But, they are prevalent in American Chinese food.


Today, with approximately 3.79 million Chinese living in the US, of which 2.2 million were born in China, there is now a greater demand for authentic Chinese food in the States. In large cities, those authentic restaurants are easy to find. But in smaller and mid-sized cities, it is more difficult. In 2006, I traveled to China and fell in love with the food that we ate in Shanghai and various cities in the Sichuan province. Since that trip, we have been looking for a place that serves authentic dishes in the Queen City. 12 years later, we got some help from Charlotte Observer writer Kathleen Purvis who wrote an article May 29th about three such places that she discovered in the area. Oh happy day!


Soon thereafter, we planned dinner with my high school best friend, Stephen, and his wife, Luci, at one of those three called Chuan Wang Fu. It is located in the Quail Corners Shopping Center at the corner of Park and Gleneagles Road. It was rather appropriate that we should go there with Stephen and Luci as the three of us remembered quite well when that shopping center did not exist. In the late 70’s, my father and I used to shoot model rockets off in the field where the center is now located. At that time, and well into the 80’s, Park Road was two lanes and did not go all the way to Tyvola but instead terminated where it intersects Sharon Road. Years earlier, and just north of that intersection, was the Graham Brothers Dairy Farm where Billy Graham grew up.


But back to Chuan Wang Fu. It has become increasingly popular as people discover that they serve authentic Sichuan (or Szechuan) cuisine. After owning a Chinese take-out restaurant for several years, owner Feng Jiang, decided, two years ago, to open a place which served authentic dishes. He hired Chef Liu Cheng, who grew up in the Sichuan province and cooked there for 25 years before coming to the U.S. To hedge his bet, Jiang also added a large sushi bar in case the authentic Chinese would not be well received. It’s not easy to find Chuan Wang Fu in Quail Corners. The sign on the front of the restaurant says “Sushi & Asian Bistro” along with some Chinese characters which many cannot read.


We arrived there at 6:30 on a Saturday evening so getting a table was not hard, but the place filled up by 7:30. We had two servers: Amy initially and then Lucy later also stepped in. The restaurant has its regular menu with the sushi and American Chinese dishes. And you have to ask for their authentic menu. After getting settled, we asked Amy to show us some of the items on the authentic menu which she recommended. To this she replied, “All of them are good.” Hmm. That didn't help too much when the menu gives no description of how the dishes are prepared or what is in them. But alas, the other server, Lucy, came to the rescue and made lots of good suggestions. We had already learned from the Observer article that the green beans with minced pork was a must. And Lucy also suggested the Sizzling Chicken, Grilled Fish with Mixed Vegetables, and Curried Lamb.

As an additional treat, and a completely unexpected surprise, the specials board included Xiaolongbao - also known as soup dumplings. The dumplings get their name from the small bamboo steaming basket, a xiaolong, that is used to cook these special treats. They are filled with meat and soup and are SO good. We have not found another restaurant in Charlotte which serves them. If you like dumplings, you must get an order or two.


So how was the food? We would say it was quite good and we plan to return and try some more dishes. And it will likely remain in our rotation when we are wanting to go out for some authentic Chinese food. The favorite at the table was the Sizzling Chicken and of course the soup dumplings. We would rate the service as good. The servers were certainly nice, but we had a few missteps during the meal that were largely due to the language barrier, which is understandable.


All in all, if you are looking to try authentic Chinese, Chuan Wang Fu is definitely worth a try. And after that evening, we’ll certainly be checking out the other two restaurants noted in Kathleen Purvis’ article: Lee’s Cafe in Fort Mill and Lam’s Kitchen in Matthews.



Soup Dumplings!


Soup Dumplings at Chuan Wang Fu Restaurant in Charlotte

Curried Lamb


Curried Lamb at Chuan Wang Fu Restaurant in Charlotte

inside Chuan Wang Fu Restaurant in Charlotte

front of Chuan Wang Fu Restaurant in Charlotte


Sources:

American Chinese Cuisine” Wikipedia

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