Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 19th
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Ahh, Sauté

dining unclekwok2Leftovers from a Szechwan lunch in New York were carefully preserved in my hotel room sink, surrounded by ice and swaddled in bath towels. Savoring this delicious souvenir at home left me craving some spicy stir-fry.
Uncle Kwok's in Aptos is serenely decorated in grays and blue-greens; the walls hung with large painted fans and prints of Chinese scenery.
Dinners for one, called Bachelor's Choice ($8.95 to $14.25), served with hot and sour soup, egg roll and white rice include dishes such as double mushroom chicken and Kung Pao Three Combo with beef, scallops and prawns.

Dinners for two ($12.50 or $16.50 per person) include appetizers, soup, rice and two dishes, adding an entrée for each additional person.

We started with the plate of Assorted Appetizers ($7.60) which were served with tongue-scorching Chinese mustard and sweet crimson sauce. Deep-fried were crisp-skinned egg rolls stuffed with cabbage and tree fungus, breaded, butterflied prawns, and crunchy blistered wonton wrappers. Triangles of foil-wrapped chicken held nuggets of seasoned white meat.

Tender, slick noodles in the Chicken Chow Mein ($5.95) had taken on the color of their soy-based sauce. The platter included dark meat, shredded cabbage and carrot with fresh green onions adding color and texture.

Szechwan Beef ($9.50) in a shimmering, sweet brown sauce sat on fried white rice sticks. The lean meat with a translucent quality was starched and fried with torn, dried red chilies, its piquancy building with each chewy bite.

I liked the healthy simplicity of Broccoli Chicken in Spicy Garlic Sauce ($8.75). Large, bright florets of still-crisp broccoli were joined by tender strips of chicken breast, all flecked with garlic and red chilies in a light, ginger-scented sauce. Mildly spicy, I added spoonfuls of vinagered fresh chili paste.

Uncle Kwok's Szechwan Restaurant, 7960 Soquel Drive, Aptos Village Square, 685-2121. Beer and wine. Serving lunch from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. daily, and dinner Sunday-Thursday 4:30 to 9:30 and on Fridays-Saturdays until 10 p.m.

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