January 10, 2014 Updated: January 10, 2014 at 11:04 am
Quality vs. quantity. Do you care more about how much food a restaurant piles on your plate or more about how good the food is? Some people prefer the approach that nets them the most food for the money. Others don't care how much it costs, as long as the food is prepared and served exactly right.
Can't we have a happy medium?
Xiang's Kitchen has some very good American-Chinese dishes, some less successful dishes from other Asian cuisines, and hefty portions that defy belief. While the restaurant does a brisk lunch business, the evening seems to rely heavily on takeout orders. The restaurant can feel a little empty when your family is the only one there eating dinner. But the service is friendly and quick, and you aren't likely to be disappointed if you stick to the Chinese side of the menu.
The lunch menu at Xiang's is available 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday and on the weekends from noon to 3 p.m. Instead of listing a separate menu, they simply and practically list lunch and dinner prices next to each item. Lunch, as you might expect, comes with soup, egg roll, cream cheese wonton and fried or steamed rice. It runs from $5.75 to $6.50.
I'm a sucker for hot and sour soup (served on its own, $1.50 lunch/$3.75 dinner), and the version at Xiang's is mighty fine. There's a nice bite from the black and red pepper and just enough tang from the vinegar in a beefy base that hasn't been overthickened with cornstarch. The eggrolls ($2.50 for two) have a balanced blend of carrots, cabbage and onion, and the staff will bring you a vegetarian roll if you don't want meat. The fried wonton ($4.25/$6) was merely there, not sufficiently good or bad to stand out in any way. (Dinner comes with steamed or fried rice.)
Lunch portions are generous but not ridiculous. Dinner portions, which run from $8.25 to $14.95, are fairly epic. One dish could probably feed four people, if you could get them to agree on what to order. Xiang's pays special attention to the vegetables that go into a dish, meaning everything is bright and crisp, no matter what the sauce is.
The beef with garlic sauce ($6.25/$9.45) came with tender beef and an abundance of bamboo shoots, emerald green bell pepper, zucchini, onion and mushrooms. The dish is prepared to your preferred heat level, and medium came out tasty but not overly spicy. The garlic and soy sauce foundation is highlighted, not overpowered, with red pepper.
The sesame tofu ($5.75/$7.50) has the golden brown exterior and creamy interior that you'd expect. The sauce is lively but not too heavy, punctuated by the nutty sesame seeds.
The pad Thai ($8.95) is difficult to describe. The flavor is very good; it just doesn't taste much like pad Thai. The savory flavor had notes of garlic and red pepper, but was missing the complexity and tang of tamarind and fish sauce. It takes more than a topping of chopped peanuts to make something Thai.
Two other dishes were not worth the effort of ordering. The Vietnamese rice noodle bowl ($8.95) is a poor substitute for what you'd get at a Vietnamese restaurant, and the Thai panang curry (with tofu, $8.50) tasted like the Chinese version of curry, without any trace of coconut. Which is a pity.
The chicken curry ($8.95 lunch or dinner) has a thick, delicious, curry gravy enrobing chunks of onion, green and red bell pepper and bamboo shoots with plenty of tender chicken. The "Thai" version seemed to differ only in the fact it added carrots into the mix. After eating two servings from the dinner portion, we still had enough for lunch the next day.
The Carnivore's Delight ($11.95) was similarly huge. Tender strips of beef are marinated in a fabulous house marinade, although the waitress wouldn't tell me everything that went into it. She admitted to a soy and oyster sauce base, and lots of garlic, but refused to divulge any more. There was definitely ginger and something that tingled on the tongue. We were happy to take these leftovers home.
The Hawaiian Chicken Chop with Soft Noodle ($10.50) wins for most gargantuan entree. After eating one serving and packing up what looked like two more meals in a to-go container, there was still a meal's worth of noodles left on the plate. An enormous pile of grilled chicken thighs, red-hued and similar to red-cooked pork, were both sweet and savory with delicate hits of star anise and five spice. The other half of the plate was filled with chewy, fat noodles entwined with snow peas, broccoli, carrots and celery.
Xiang's Kitchen is definitely worth a visit, but plan on either taking teenage boys with you or taking leftovers home.
Restaurant character: Fast service and huge portions of good American- Chinese standards. The Chinese side of the menu is much better than the Vietnamese or Thai items.
Rating total: 4 out of 5 stars
Food: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Ambiance: 4 out of 5 stars
Service: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Address: 5935 Constitution Ave., 80915
Contact: 573-8899 or 573-9005, xiangskitchen.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; noon-9:30 p.m. Saturdays; noon-9 p.m. Sundays
Credit cards: Yes
Vegetarian options: Several, including Kung Pao vegetables or tofu ($7.50); sesame tofu ($7.50)
what's onlineAs of Dec. 30:
- 89 percent of 206 voters "liked it" on Urban Spoon
- 3.5 out of 5 stars based on 20 reviews on Yelp
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- No violations were marked during an October inspection by the El Paso County Health Department.