A few years after opening his hugely successful destination Skyroom at the Redding Airport, restaurateur Peter Chu announced that his brother Mark would be opening a small casual restaurant in the Pine Street School in downtown Redding. Femme de Joie dimly remembers going there shortly after Chu’s Too opened and not being impressed with it – actually, her entire memory centers around some miso soup that had dried fish flakes in the bottom of the bowl, and the place being very crowded and noisy.
In recent years, though, Chu’s Too has become a favorite spot for M. de Joie and Amico del Signore. Whether this is due to a change in the restaurant itself (the Chus’ good friend, Duong My Diep, bought the restaurant four years ago, said brother and floor manager Lambo Diep) or whether the switch is due to a change in tastes, M. de Joie couldn’t say: that long-ago indifferent evening is just a fuzzy blur.
When you walk in you’ll face the hostess’s podium, separated from the main dining room by one of those ornate room dividers. On the left is a small blackboard with the daily specials written on it – actually, they’re always the same specials: Hunan pork, spicy prawns, green beans with your choice of meat. Behind the podium is the sushi bar: as soon as the sushi chef spots you he’ll holler “HIIII HOOWWW ARRRE YOOU?” whether you’ve ever been there or not.
Small special salad and the soup of the day. Many Chinese restaurants serve a recycled thin chickeny broth with a gloppy cornstarch-and-egg swirl and a shot of soy sauce as the daily soup, but Chu’s Too doesn’t do that. The soups are made fresh every day with bits of fresh vegetables and meat, in a flavorful broth – no cornstarch here. The small salad is a tease: fresh cabbage and lettuce with a sesame dressing. It’s just the right appetizer to make you look forward to what comes out of the kitchen next.
Scallops in hot ginger-garlic sauce. Femme de Joie can’t begin to describe how delicious this dish is – not overly spicy-hot, not too sweet or sour, the sauce enhances the scallops and crisp vegetables rather than cover them up.
When Amico del Signore thinks of Chu’s Too, this is the dish he dreams about: short ribs. Beef short ribs are cut across the bone into super-thin slices, then stir-fried in a light teriyaki sauce, and served on a bed of cabbage and carrots. The beef short ribs absolutely melt in your mouth. Teriyaki sauces are often very thick and too-sweet, but not here: again, the sauce enhances the meat.
About Chu’s Too’s waitstaff: they are fun, helpful, and enthusiastic. Also fun. Did you know they were fun? They are. On a recent visit, the Chinese waiter noticed M. de Joie seriously studying the sushi menu, and he began extolling the virtues of tuna: “Lots of protein! So-oo good for you! Give you strength! Go ten hour! No problem! HAI!” accompanied by a lively pantomime of running uphill, arms pumping. That was a recommendation we couldn’t pass up. Amico del Signore is not the world’s biggest sushi fan, but he did enjoy Chu’s Too’s spicy tuna roll.
Neither A. del Signore nor M. de Joie cared much for the pork chow mein: too much salty soy sauce and not enough ginger and garlic, as well as being oily and overcooked.
At Chu’s Too, skip the standard menu items (sweet-and-sour pork, chow mein, etc., and instead head for the house specialties like the dry-braised chicken, sushi with soft-shelled crab, Chu’s Special salad, the feathery-light tempura. Oh, and don’t forget the tuna. Ten hour! No problem!
Chu’s Too, 1135 Pine Street in the Pine Street School, Redding, (530) 244-2987. Open Monday-Friday for lunch, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Dinner Monday-Friday 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Saturday dinner only, 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Sunday dinner only, 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM. Cash and cards. Beer, wine, sake. Sushi bar. Vegetarian and vegan options. On-site parking.
Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more.