Back in the late 1980s, there was a Peacock Restaurant on Lake Boulevard near... oh dear. Femme de Joie was about to say it was near Timber Lanes, but that bowling alley had closed up by that time. So it was near Joann's Fabric... but that's moved twice since then. Well.... it was in the strip mall that is fronted by A&W (which M. de Joie thinks of as being on South Market Street, but oh dear again, that hasn't been in that spot for a million or so years).
Let's start over.
Does anyone remember when a new steak house was about to open in Anderson twenty-some years ago? Two Feathers was the name; it was custom-built and heavily promoted in the local rag as the next big thing, with calls going out for high-class servers and bartenders and dog catchers. It opened and closed again with astonishing swiftness before M. de Joie had a chance to bask in its glamour, so she'll never know if it was great but just misunderstood or ahead of its time or what the story was. At some point when Femme de Joie wasn't paying attention, the old Peacock closed in the 90's and then reopened a few years ago in the Two Feathers space.
Peacock is situated favorably right next to a motel - sharing their parking lot, actually - and right off Interstate 5, meaning they've got a couple of built-in audiences. Such places can survive and be terrible because they don't need local customers; their patrons will come in, eat, and goest away in their shiny car in the night, never to return. Still, M. de Joie read favorable things about Peacock and wondered if it was anything like it used to be when it was on Lake Boulevard.
The interior seems oversized when you look up at the circular light fixture built into the oddly high ceiling. And it's relentlessly pink except for the carpet, which is relentlessly green and needs replacing. Still, it's clean and cheerful, with wide windows letting in natural light. There's a constant flow of customers, some of whom seem to be regulars. Service ranges from efficient to friendly.
Hong Kong chow mein, $9.25
Hong Kong chow mein is usually a melange of stir-fried vegetables plus shrimp, beef, chicken, etc. bound in a light sauce and served on top of pan-fried noodles. The noodles were pan-fried but really didn't have much personality other than a little crunch; the same could be said for the meat-vegetable topping. It wasn't unpleasant but it didn't have that zsa zsa zsu that makes you want to order it again.
Wor Won Ton soup, $7.50 medium, $9.25 large
Wor Won Ton soup, with a delicate broth, plenty of filled won tons, shrimp, and fresh leafy spinach, was a treat on a cold day. The medium order is enough for two people to share or one person to enjoy as a light lunch. This was a winner.
Szechuan beef, $9.75
It's deja vu all over again. Szechuan beef appeared to be virtually the same dish as the Hong Kong chow mein, minus the noodles and shrimp. Two small dried red chilies had been tossed in almost as an afterthought but they didn't have that light char indicating they had been in the wok for any length of time, so the requisite heat was missing and the sauce tasted the same as the chow mein's. And two slices of beef seemed to have been added from the frozen stage; they stubbornly clung to each other, resulting in raw undersides. Oops.
Luncheon combination plate #2, $8.00
Down at the bottom of the menu page listing luncheon specials are a few combination plates. Those were a terrific bargain and the food was noticeably better than the a la carte plates. Egg foo yung is too often an omelet hockey puck at sea in a glutinous brown salty sauce. Here it was puffy and light with a thin flavorful gravy. Sweet and sour pork was particularly good, with a not-so-sweet sauce and cubes of pork with crunchy exterior and tender insides. Sometimes you feel that egg rolls could just be wrung out and the oil recycled, but this one was non-oily and freshly cooked.
Soup of the day - comes with luncheon combinations
Here again, soup was very good. Beneath that eggy surface lay a good mix of tiny tofu cubes, chicken, diced Chinese BBQ pork, carrots and peas in a slightly salty broth. Adding a few drops of the hot oil from a small jar on the condiment tray made it sing.
Luncheon combination #7, $8.50
M. de Joie loved the perfectly stir-fried crunchy vegetables in almond chicken laced with a light chicken-y sauce. It was a little short on chicken and almonds, but she didn't mind because the rest was so good. Now about that doughnut in the center of the plate: that was advertised as "fried prawn," and there was indeed a small prawnish creature inside, but a truthful menu would have described it as "fried batter ring with a hidden shrimp prize."
Femme de Joie liked Peacock, though it does have its flaws. The luncheon combinations were far better than similar plates in most Chinese restaurants, and the soups were warming and tasty. A little bit of attention to detail could fix the problems - a spicy dish being decidedly unspicy, some ginger and garlic added to a stir-fry. Peacock is worth a visit if you're in Anderson and maybe even a special trip from Redding for lunch.
Peacock Chinese Restaurant, 2881 McMurry Drive (between North Street and Balls Ferry Road), Anderson, CA 96007. 530-365-9833. Open Tuesday through Thursday, 11:00 AM to 9:30 PM, Friday 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM, Saturday 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM, Sunday 12:00 PM to 9:30 PM. Closed Monday. Cash and cards, no checks. Vegetarian and vegan options. Beer and wine. Parking lot.