Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Sep 18th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Sizzling Satiation

dining_chefliuChef Liu in Scotts Valley offers a wide selection of Hunan, Cantonese and Szechuan specialties, including an incredible Hot Pot.

I had high hopes for lunch when I encountered a practically packed parking lot at Chef Liu. Opening the back door, I slid into a warm and decidedly fragrant room.

Although previously known as Mei Garden, the restaurant has not been related to its namesake on Ocean Street for more than a decade. Last year, to avoid confusion, the owners gave it a new and eponymous name.

Daily lunch specials ($6.50 to $7.75) are all served with soup of the day, but we decided to order from the extensive list of specialties.

Three huge eggrolls ($3.75), their thin flaky skins glistening with oil from the deep fryer, were stuffed with cabbage and carrots and served with a vibrant red, vinegary sweet and sour sauce, and some familiar sinus-clearing Chinese mustard.

Chili flakes were suspended in the cups of Hot and Sour Soup ($1.75). Tofu, toothsome tree fungus and slivers of bamboo shoot joined lacy clouds of beaten egg in the tart, translucent broth.

I savored thin slices of melt-in-your-mouth meat from reusable plastic chopsticks. This platter of gingery Mongolian Beef ($9.25) included bamboo shoots, green onions and airy fried rice sticks.

The Special Chow Fun ($8.45) was made with fresh, chewy, wide Cantonese ho fun noodles, which were still folded into little rolls. They were fried with pink-tinged BBQ pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and strips of white onion.

Not oily like the three previous dishes, Garlic Chicken ($8.45) was a blend of tender meat and still-crisp carrot, broccoli, green beans and water chestnuts with visible mince of fresh garlic. The mildly sweet sauce was indeed spicy, but not overly so, and very satisfying. I occasionally added more heat with the wonderful chili sauce at the table. This dish is typically the benchmark against which I first measure a Chinese restaurant and the recipe at Chef Liu's stands with the best I've eaten.

A hissing and sizzling sound approached from my left, emanating from the Special Tofu Clay Pot ($11.75). Chicken, shrimp, pork and cubes of fried tofu were cooked with at least eight different fresh and colorful vegetables coated with a thick garlic-studded sauce. Seldom do I find a new addition to my list of cravings, but Chef Liu's Clay Pot is definitely in the rotation.


Chef Liu, 4303 1/2 Scotts Valley Dr., Scotts Valley, 438-5772. Beer and wine. Open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.



★★★


Although I reported that Lightfoot Cafe occupied the restaurant that was "previously Backstage Lounge," the space next to the Rio Theatre remains Backstage Lounge, and is still available to host your special parties and holiday dinners. Backstage's owner David Jackman (also of Chocolate) is collaborating with chef Mike Martinez and Lightfoot Industries for their upcoming suppers.


Lightfoot Industry's Suppers at Backstage Lounge, 1209 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz, 234-9482. Taking on-line reservations for Saturday December 4, Saturday December 11, and Sunday December 17. Visit lightfootind.com.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Catwalk on the Wild Side

Meet the artists and designers behind this year’s edition of FashionART, SantaCruz’s most outrageous fashion show

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Feeding Frenzy

Culinary journey ‘The Trip to Italy’ isn’t the foodie film you’d expect 

 

Watch List

From Google to the government to data brokers, why your privacy is now a thing of the past
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sweet Treats

Local cannabis bakers win award for cookies

 

What fashion trends do you want to see, or not see?

Santa Cruz  |  High School Guidance Counselor

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Santa Clara Wine Trail

My memories of growing up in England include my mother pouring port after Sunday dinner—and sometimes a glass of sherry before dinner. My family didn’t drink much wine back then, but we certainly made up for it with the port and sherry.