The bowl of crunchy noodles and sour Chinese cabbage and carrot salad waiting on the table as we sat down to dinner at Ling Ling was a welcome sight. Neither complimentary item lasted very long. The noodles were nice and crunchy. The cabbage salad was a bit too sour, but my mom enjoyed it. The Chinese tea was also a treat.
After filling our water glasses, the wait staff seemed to be nearby whenever we needed them. Yet they were never overbearing. In a word, they were stealth. They were constantly zipping in and out of the open kitchen, which is separated from the dining room only by bamboo shades.
We were given ample time to debate the many options. Ling Ling is known for serving healthy dishes. No heavy oils, transfat or M.S.G. touch the pans as they sauté, grill or steam mixed vegetables with chicken, shrimp, salmon, flounder, pork, tofu or beef. All of the vegetables are fresh, never canned. Other entrees on the extensive, reasonably priced menu include rice and noodle dishes, soups, appetizers, sizzling platters and many specials. Starters range from $1.70 to $8.95; entrees, $8.95 to $19.95.
My parents started the meal with chicken teriyaki skewers. The chicken all but fell off the thin wooden skewer, with each bite seemingly more tender than the next. The sauce was pleasantly sweet. I savored every spoonful of the vegetable wonton soup ($2.50). The broth was bursting with flavor; it wasn't at all watery.
Whether ordering from the healthy section or the traditional fare, you are sure to get heaping portions. My father and I ordered shrimp dishes – sautéed shrimp and mixed greens with garlic and ginger ($14.95) for me, shrimp and broccoli in brown sauce ($13.95) for him. Both plates came with a dozen medium-sized, juicy shrimp.
Ordering off the famed healthy menu, I was expecting a fresh sampling of vegetables and juicy shrimp. The shrimp did not disappoint. The rest of the plate did. The vegetables were overcooked, almost mushy. There was only the slightest hint of ginger, while the garlic overpowered the rest of the flavors. I ordered mine with brown rice ($.75 extra), which was cooked to perfection and saved the dish from being a complete letdown.
The brown sauce saturating my dad's shrimp and broccoli was spicier than normal. We all agreed that we prefer the traditional preparation.
My mom’s plate was practically overflowing, piled high with the filling for her Mu Shu Chicken ($11.50). She orders Mu Shu every time we visit a Chinese restaurant, and said Ling Ling was one of the better versions she has tried. The only problem was that her food was hardly even warm by the time it came out. The waiter was happy to bring it back to the kitchen and heat it up for her. Once hot, she ate every bite.
We ended the night with chocolate fortune cookies and yet another cup of Chinese tea. Overall, I would call Ling Ling satisfactory. You definitely won’t go home hungry.