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Friday, October 17, 2008

Forestville's Tahoe Chinese Restaurant

Every month Carolyn Horan takes us out to dinner to a local restaurant she wants us to experience as well. Her reviews are not all about food and service - she talks about how the owners of the restaurants relate to their communities, and what roles they play as part of its citizenry. She's not only inspiring for dinner suggestions, what she writes make us want to participate more as well.

TAHOE CHINESE Restaurant, Forestville
When I was 13 my father was a machinist, my mother worked in the post office, and I earned my allowance by keeping the house straightened up doing dishes and other chores. We didn’t go out to dinner often but when we did it was a local Chinese restaurant. The food was good, plentiful and reasonably priced. Well that hasn’t changed. Now that I am old many days I grab the paper about 11:30 and go into Forestville to have a bowl of Hot and Sour soup and greet my neighbors.

There is something very comforting about this ritual. It pleases me. So I thought I should share the experience with you. The Tahoe Chinese Restaurant is nestled up by the Forestville Post Office. The official address is 6492 Mirabel Road. The customers are mostly local and at noon time you will always find hard working men and women meeting there to socialize with each other and talk about their fishing trips or brag about their kids or just take a break and fill their stomachs with good food. Moms with their kids, grandparents with the grandchildren or entire families are frequent customers for both lunch and dinner at Tahoe.

What makes the atmosphere so comfortable is being greeted by Bing Chen or his wife Lisa who own the restaurant. Lisa picks out the music which consists of good old standards like Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. She also has fresh flowers in the windows and a fresh smile for the customers. Bing is usually in the kitchen but he wanders out to talk to his friends about hunting or fishing. Bing was born in Taiwan but during the 70’s he lived in Minnesota and Chicago. His relatives and friends owned an Oriental/Asian wholesale food businesses as well as Chinese Restaurants. Since Bing was the one in his family that liked to help his mother and grandparents in the kitchen making traditional dishes, he was always available to help out in the restaurant kitchens of his friends. He particularly liked to bring any wild game or fish that he had caught and he and the staff would cook up great feasts for themselves after the restaurant closed. Bing finished college, met and married Lisa, who has degrees in architecture and communication art, and they had a daughter who is now a freshman in college. Bing opened a retail and wholesale food distribution business in Minnesota and Lisa spent her days raising their daughter. They moved to Santa Rosa to be near Lisa’s family when their daughter started first grade and in 1997 Bing bought the Tahoe Chinese Restaurant.

Bing spends his mornings at the restaurant where he peels the fresh shrimp and prepares the fresh chickens daily. The luncheon specials are served with fried rice, soup of the day and Crab Rangoon or Egg Roll. There are 31 selections which cost either $7.45 or $8.00. If you want one of the CHEF’s RECOMMENDATIONS I suggest you try the Walnut Shrimp dish which is $13.95 or the Eggplant in Garlic Sauce or Sweet Basil and Spicy Chicken dishes which are $10.95. There is another list of 12 Chef’s Specialites such as General Tso’s Chicken or Szechuan Scallops which cost $10.50 to $12.95. And, of course, you can pick various dishes of beef, chicken, pork, vegetables, Egg Fu Young, Rice or Chow Mein to mix and match to your taste which range in price from $7.95 to $12.95.

As Bing describes the process of learning how to cook good Chinese food he explained there is no one school. You learn through the taste, and smell and combination of sauces and spices, working in different restaurants and learning from friends in those great after hours cooking fests when you share your wild game or fish. Bing does like hunting and fishing for “anything that is legal” and has good hunting and fishing partners that have been his friends for years. He also has friends on his staff such as a chef who has been with him for over 10 years.

The Tahoe Chinese Restaurant is open Mondays through Thursdays from 11:30 to 3:00 and 4:30 to 9:00; Fridays from 11:30 to 3:00 and 4:30 to 9:30; and Saturdays from 4:30 to 9:30. The phone number is 887.9772 and the address is 6492 Mirabel Road in Forestville.

Fall is here and the cold rainy weather is not far away. I suggest you stop for a bowl of the great Hot and Sour Soup, or bring the family for dinner or order some food to go and enjoy it in front of your fireplace.