(Note: Additional photos can be found at my food blog. Please click the link below.)
Madge and I haven't been out together in quite some time. Most of this is Madge's fault because Madge has been husband shopping. Alas, she seems to have landed someone special. What a better way to tell me all the details of your love life than over a Chinese lunch.
As luck would have it, Madge was a fan of Autumn Court when they were housed on Central Avenue. A fire in the kitchen last year, however, closed that location and the folks behind the scenes discovered the building that used to be home to the Flat Iron Grill at 38th Street and East Indian School Road in Phoenix. They have only been open about two weeks, but we decided to give it a try as I was dying for some great Sweet & Sour Pork.
The thing to remember about Autumn Court is that this is a Chinese restaurant to head to if you are looking for American Chinese food. You won't find the authentic tastes that are cooked up over at Golden Buddha. The best way to decribe the Chinese food is to say it is very similar to what the food served at the old China Doll use to be like. And I don't mean when China Doll took over the space next to Basha's at 7th Avenue and Osborn, but when it was across the street in what is now Bruno Mali's.
We headed into the restaurant shortly after the lunch rush and were seated in a comfortable booth. The interior is still the same as when RotiJoe's and Flat Iron occupied the space (dark woods, exposed beams, etc.), but a few "Asian" touches have been added.
Right off the bat, Madge wanted BBQ Pork Slices ($6.50) and I wanted Egg Rolls ($1.50 each), so we decided to eat "family style" and share the dishes. Our very attentive server took our drink order (water and Diet Coke for us both) and was back in a flash. Right off the bat, I was please with the large glasses used to serve our beverages. These quart-sized containers were perfect for a warm Saturday afternoon. Any restaurant that gives large glasses of a drink (or leaves a pitcher on the table) gets bonus points from me.
We requested our appetizers and then I ordered the Sweet & Sour Pork ($8.95) and Madge chose the Sesame Chicken ($9.95). Our meals also came with white rice.
The first thing to our table was a large plate of the BBQ Pork Slices. They slices were about 1/4" thick and were sat in two rows, topped with some additional BBQ sauce along the top. A small puddle of the sauce was also at the bottom of the dish. Madge and I dove in and were hooked from the first bite. The meat was tender and juicy. The BBQ sauce was thin, but flavorful and, thankfully, not overpowering. It was a perfect mix of tastes.
Next up were the Eggrolls. A large plate was set forth with two steaming hot eggrolls, accompanied by a ramekin of Sweet & Sour dipping sauce. The eggrolls were cut in half and the wrappers were deep fried and super crispy. Inside, the filling of pork and vegetables was hot, but the vegetables were still crisp and gave the roll a nice, soft cruchy texture to enhance the wrappers. Another winner for Madge and me.
Next up was the Sweet & Sour Pork. This was a dish I grew up on, and the sight of it took me back. In front of us sat a large, shallow platter with a sizable helping of the pork. The pork pieces were deep fried and then tossed with a mixture of fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers and pineapple before being mixed with the sauce. It was wonderful. The best part of the dish was the fact that the batter surrounding the pork pieces was still crunchy. The vegetables were tender crisp and the flavors enhanced the dish perfectly. The chef could have made this dish on the cheap, but the fresh vegetables and the crispy pork make this dish heavenly.
Our final selection arrived and it was another success. The Sesame Chicken had an intense, savory aroma and the bite-sized chicken morsels were battered and deep fried like the pork. They were then tossed with a somewhat smokey, slightly sweet sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. This was a great way to round out our meal. While it had similarities to the pork, it was just a very well prepared dish with a few simple ingredients.
Madge and I chatted away about the potential new husband while we finished every speck of food on the plates. The service was very good and our drinks were kept topped off regularly. This was a great lunch and an even better opportunity for Madge and I to catch up on life and our roles in it.
There was no downside to our meal, which cost $33.24 including tax. Our bill was, of course, accompanied with fortune cookies. We paid and headed out, but not before getting the lowdown on the new location. Although the old location on Central had been the site of a bad kitchen fire, the owner told me they were rebuilding once the insurance claim was processed and would open the old location and keep the new location open.
I was thrilled by the news because Autumn Court will do well in the Arcadia District. Its only true competition will be the Pei Wei down the street.
If they keep the food as consistent as they have at the old place, they will have a wonderful, thriving business.
I know that Madge and I will be back!
Autumn Court Chinese Restaurant
3752 East Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018