The secret behind Eat’s success is no secret. It’s the food. Pancakes to BLTs to chicken fried steaks, Natalie Young’s Downtown diner offers ideal versions of favorite foods for breakfast and lunch. So although Eat’s follow-up restaurant, Chow, seems like it’s fitting together odd pieces with its Chinese food/Southern soul food menu, it really makes the same kind of sense. There’s no fusion at Chow. There’s great fried chicken and awesome egg rolls, and nothing is going to blow you away with fashionable ingredients or fancy presentation. The aim is still your sweet spot.
The plump, crispy egg rolls ($8) are crammed with shrimp, ham and celery, among other garlicky stuffing, and their accompanying sauces—dreamy peanut and classic, nostril-burning, takeout-joint Chinese mustard—push this appetizer into must-order status. Equally delicious is the veggie version ($6) with red peppers and enoki mushrooms. If you need to start with meat, opt for the indulgent riblets ($10) in hoisin barbecue sauce.
Chow does fried chicken several ways, leading off with the crispy Southern version ($10 for three pieces to $26 for eight pieces) Young has served at one-off dinners at Eat. The sweet corn muffins and pickled jalapeños are lovely accoutrements for this exceedingly juicy bird. There’s also General Chow’s chicken ($13), which winks at everyone’s favorite (usually too sweet) Chinese-American dish. Tender morsels of white meat are battered and fried and glazed in ginger, garlic, soy and rice vinegar with a bit of chili. I prefer the crispy thighs ($12) in a similar sauce with rice and Chinese broccoli, but it wasn’t on the lunch menu on my last visit; Chow’s menu will likely continue to be adjusted as the new restaurant finds its groove.
Overall, there’s more Chinese than American food, and the Asian stuff is a bit better. My favorite dishes are the ones that seem the most simple, yet they impress with a balance of refined textures and flavors. The pho-style tofu ($6) is a perfect portion of deeply soothing, all-vegetable broth (lots of mushroom) with all the bright, herbal notes you expect from the Vietnamese soup, plus cabbage, carrots and seared tofu bites. The Chinese chicken salad ($12) piles quite a bit of that General Chow’s chicken atop a crisp mound of napa cabbage, bok choy, cilantro and toasted almonds for refreshing and satisfying results. And the barley vegetable stir-fry ($12; $5 more for meat) sounds like something I’d avoid, but I’m glad I didn’t. Shiitake mushrooms and tempura Chinese long beans mix among other fresh veggies and the tender grain, and I added shrimp and quite a bit of the garlic-chili sauce from that bright red jar on the table. It was perfect.
Chow 1020 Fremont St., 702-998-0574. Tuesday-Thursday, noon-8 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, noon-10 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m.