Columbia Turnpike, Rensselaer, 449-2030. Serving Mon-Fri 11-10:30,
Sat 11:30-10:30, Sun noon-10:30. AE, D, MC, V.
traditional Chinese restaurant
price range: $6 (chicken chow mein) to $19 (seven stars
around the moon)
traditional Chinese restaurant
Jimmy Yip see his restaurant in light of the efflorescence
of Chinese buffets? “We’ve become a niche,” he says. “Just
by doing what we’ve always been doing, we’ve become special.”
But the competition is still fierce, he says, and there’s
a perennial challenge of finding good help.
Yip’s Chinese Restaurant offered one of the most fun dining
experiences my family and I have enjoyed in a long time. Part
of it was the old-fashioned look and feel of the place; part
of it the enthusiastic family spirit. Jimmy or his wife, Ling,
will see to it that you’re seated comfortably, and when she
stops by to take an order, deliver an item, or just see how
you’re doing, you’ll get a taste of her ebullient sense of
are you taking pictures of food for?” she chided me, catching
me as I surreptitiously tried to nab a photo for this piece.
“Take a picture of your family! Or I’ll take a picture of
all of you!”
a throwback to the Chinese restaurants of decades ago, when
Cantonese fare was the mainstay and exotic Szechuan items
were just beginning to invade. And those made-in-America dishes
like chop suey, chow mein and General Tso’s chicken are well
represented. All that’s missing are the big yellow tablecloths
and the choose-from-column-B combo specials.
is on Columbia Turnpike (aka Routes 9 and 20) in Rensselaer,
not too far east of the Hudson. Easy to find, easy to park
behind, and offering comfortable booth and banquette seating—or
seats in the room with the bar.
early enough to have a choice of booths, but watched with
some astonishment as the place filled rapidly during the course
of our meal. And these weren’t adventurous-looking eaters.
This was Middle America, hungry for a good old-fashioned American
see what’s offered. Appetizers include egg rolls ($2.25),
spring rolls ($3), that astonishingly bad-for-you-tasting
deep-fried concoction known as shrimp toast ($3) and more
along those lines. Do what we did: Get an array of them in
the $12.50 pu pu platter.
that goofy display. It’s actually Hawaiian in origin, but
made its way here in the Polynesian-themed Trader Vic restaurants
of the 1950s and ’60s, sporting, as is still usually the case,
an American Cantonese sampling. With a blue Sterno flame cresting
the top of the tall presentation platter, it makes a party
out of your meal and awakens in me an unexpected longing for
all that tiki stuff—rattan chairs, bamboo torches, Martin
Denny—that made my rum-punch-swilling parents seem all the
pu pu platter gives you chicken wings, barbecue spare ribs,
Hawaiian skewered beef sticks, egg rolls, artery-clogging
shrimp toast and more. It’s suggested for a party of two.
I wouldn’t inflict it on fewer than four. We were foolish
enough to accompany it with an order of steamed dumplings
(eight for $6), so there was no finishing any of it. Good
dumplings, too, if you like them thick-skinned.
asked me to explain chow mein and chop suey, startling me
with the realization that I’ve never ordered either. I did
not use this occasion to change that statistic, but you have
plenty of it to choose from, featuring your favorite meat
or vegetable. Egg foo young and many different noodle dishes
also are offered.
abound in the entrée selections. For example: Lily ordered
sweet and sour chicken, confident that the flavor would be
dominated by the former. It’s a $9 dish served with a side
of white rice; add a dollar and they change that rice to the
pork fried variety, and throw in an egg roll and your choice
of soup or juice.
itself is significantly better than the puffy Chinese buffet
variety, with a more complicated (and less glow-in-the-dark)
sauce; it’s still too sweet for my taste, however.
veered from her usual pursuit of poultry and ordered a Buddha’s
Delight ($7.25), believing that she achieves temporary moral
superiority by going vegetarian for a night. It’s a generous
serving clogged with tofu, which she adores and I, I might
as well confess it, revile. It’s almost palatable in this
context, however, with a rich sauce that brings together broccoli,
mushrooms, snow peas, baby corn and bok choy.
Ling to recommend something spicy and she immediately suggested
Gong Bo chicken ($9; with soup and egg roll, $10), a Szechuan
dish (also known as Kung Pao) that adds the appropriate peppercorns
to a medley of peanuts and vegetables. Spicy? Hardly. It had
a bit of a bite to it, but nothing that would disturb the
aforementioned Middle America.
Yip told me that he’s been running this restaurant for 31
years—32 in January—which means that he long ago beat the
longevity odds for this mercurial business. His success has
as much to do with the personality of the place as it does
with a consistent, if unsurprising, cuisine, and it’s certainly
the place to visit when you want a good, inexpensive, all-
American (but nominally Chinese) meal.