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Hot Tip: China Cafe co-owner Paul Liu serves mainland Chinese dishes like mu-shu beef and Szechuan chicken to Peninsula diners.

Fine China

Mountain View's China Cafe delivers--both figuratively and literally

By Joe Mangelli

IT SHOULDN'T, but it always surprises me when a really good restaurant sits inside one of those cookie-cutter shopping centers anchored by a Safeway. My prejudice. So when we received a tip from a Los Altos man extolling the virtues of his favorite Chinese restaurant in Mountain View, and I drove to the Blossom Valley Center at the corner of Cuesta and Miramonte, I was pleasantly surprised. Once again my instinct for prognostication was invalidated. China Cafe is a real find.

The restaurant is almost formal, perhaps because it lives on the ruins of a French restaurant and inadvertently retains its soul. Hardwood, brass and curtains are the backdrop for an impeccably clean establishment. This Mandarin-Szechuan restaurant is co-owned by Esther Liu and her brother Paul, who brought their expertise to China Cafe from Los Altos a few years ago.

We started with a snappy rendition of sizzling rice soup ($4.25) and a shredded chicken salad appetizer ($5.50). The chicken salad was very well-presented with a crown of thinly sliced, golden fried chicken abetting crunchy cilantro-essenced greens. Our tipster, Jim Holwerda, also recommended Mongolian beef ($7.25), which was a perfect rendering of this popular dish: tender, plentiful beef and scallions--sauced, not souped. Our least favorite dish was prawns with black bean sauce ($8.95)--a bit too sweet and overrun with green peppers for our taste. Some of the most-requested menu items are prawns with Chinese walnuts ($9.95), and tote-board specials like ginger crispy chicken ($9.95) and sesame prawns ($9.95).

This place even offers free delivery with a minimum $15 order in parts of Los Altos, Palo Alto and Mountain View. In such competitive surroundings abounding with fine Chinese restaurants, China Cafe can hold its own with the best of them. Thanks for the tip, Jim.

China Cafe, 1760 Miramonte Ave., Mountain View, 650.968.2298

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From the April 6-12, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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