Zhang’s Kitchen, Amherst, MA

This week is really deviating towards restaurant reviews. There are quite a few good joints around campus where you actually feel like you’re getting a good value for what you pay. Pizza places compete for being known as the cheapest pie and wings in town, burgers and wings are filling and less expensive in bulk, and the friar of frugality, Chinese food, delivers decent food at an obscenely cheap price.

Unfortunately, there really aren’t many good places with good prices for an immediate noodle fix. One particular restaurant is odious and charges out the ass for delivery, and others don’t deliver or close early. So tonight’s expedition was a mission to find good cold sesame noodles to eat both for tonight’s dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast.

Zhang’s Kitchen was the choice, out of convenience than proclivity, but after ordering from them, I can say with minimal hesitation that they’re my new go-to place for Chinese. With a delivery minimum of $10, I barely scraped by with my $9 order of fried pork wontons and cold sesame noodles. It took about twenty minutes and the food arrived fresh and appropriately hot.

For $4 and change, there were way too many wontons for one person to eat. I’m used to six medium-sized dumplings in an order, but this container had at least twelve. They were golden brown and stuffed with pork and chives and were still crispy after the sixth. My only gripe was that they were not covered in spicy sauce and sesame seeds, but did come with an orange duck sauce. However, this did not adequately coat all of the wontons and I was left with quite a few naked pieces that I later discarded. More sauce would be appreciated.There had to be at least a pound of noodles in the $4.75 order. They had carrots, sprouts, and scallions on top, with a good coating of sauce. Unfortunately, the sauce wasn’t mixed in at all, and I was forced to play Goddess of Salad Shaking and mix with two forks and an eventual interpretive dance. The sprouts were off. They tasted too earthy and bitter, and I eventually ended picking them out. The carrots gave nice color but little else to the overall composition of the dish, and the onions mixed well with the sesame flavor.Sesame noodles are my favorite lazy food. It’s like eating spaghetti with peanut butter mixed in, as Frank Bruni would tell us, and what’s not to love about that? In this case, the sauce, which seemed inadequate, was enough to coat all the noodles and give them a creamy, nutty flavor. The noodles were thick and perfectly cooked and soft, just the way I like them. I’d order this sans greens the next time, but it’s perfect for multiple meals or a light supper with friends. Zhang’s Kitchen is the best combination of quality and quantity in the Pioneer Valley. I’m hoping to try some of their more exotic selections and see what they can bring to my table. Er, desk.

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