Welcome to good Chinese food

Nee House Chinese Restaurant $$-$$$
13843 N. Tatum Blvd. # 15, Phoenix

If I had a nickel for all the times I’ve been asked where to get good Chinese food, I could afford to send you all to China. Since no one gave me any nickels, I will instead direct you to a local establishment I’ve enjoyed over the years.

It’s a neighborhood place, in a strip mall, as most good Chinese restaurants are. There are zero decorations except for some stock photo posters scattered about, and this is typical of a place whose focus isn’t décor, but whose focus is beautiful food. There are fish tanks, not aquariums, but tanks of live fish inside that are ingredients for those craving seafood. It’s not a special-occasion restaurant, but it definitely is the answer to, “Where can I get good Chinese food?” There are large round tables available with a Lazy Susan in the middle for big groups, and they are often in use.

The restaurant’s name, Nee House, is a play on words…well Mandarin words. Ni hao (pronounced nee how) is how you say “Hello” in Chinese. So, in a way, the name of the place, Nee House, welcomes you. Get it? While we are on the subject of language, English does not seem to be the first language of the serving staff, and I love that. It’s a no-nonsense, no chit-chat, “Are you ready to order?” kind of place. It’s family run, and you will be left alone to eat so if you need anything after your food arrives, better speak up or wave your arms because they’ve moved on to other customers.

Over the course of several visits, this is what I had:

Steamed Fish (market price)
(Steamed fish garnished with scallions and cilantro in the house soy sauce)
I know this dish isn’t for everyone, but if you love seafood, it doesn’t get any fresher than this. I watched them catch my dinner with a net, and then waited patiently for it to arrive. Chinese-style steamed fish is probably one of the healthiest ways to eat fish, and it is covered with fresh scallions that have been lightly sautéed, with fresh cilantro on top. The soy sauce does have salt in it, but you can choose how much or how little of it to spoon onto your plate.
Tonight’s fish is Tilapia ($11.99/lb.) and it arrives whole, head on, bones in, covered in a pile of delicious greens and sitting in a brown sauce. The meat is extremely tender and moist and slides right off the bones with hardly any effort. All you need is a spoon to ladle the fish, the veggies, and the sauce over the accompanying white rice. The fish seemed to range from 2 – 3 pounds and I believe they vary the selection during the week. If you love fish, this is a must try.

Mongolian Beef $11.99
(no restaurant description)
This is a traditional presentation of sliced beef, onions, carrots, scallions, all in a brown sauce that is sweet and a little spicy. The meat is super tender, and the veggies are cooked perfectly. This is a popular dish here, and you can’t go wrong. Don’t be afraid to order your level of spice – from hot to mild.

Eggplant with Spicy Garlic Sauce $10.99
(Sliced eggplant lightly fried and stir-fried in a spicy garlic sauce topped with scallions)
I love eggplant, any way it comes, but if you’re telling me you’ve prepared it in a wok with garlic, bring it on. This dish is surprisingly hot! I don’t mean spicy; I mean eggplant retains heat like a baked potato. Let it cool a bit and then enjoy the rich, sweet, garlicky flavor of eggplant that melts in your mouth. I’m not sure why they call it spicy because I really didn’t detect that.

Roast Duck (half) $12.99
(Crispy roast duck, chopped up, served with house special sauce)
What is most amazing, is the generous portion on the plate for the price of this gourmet treat. If you love duck, you are certainly going to enjoy this. I wouldn’t say it was crispy, but it was juicy, tender, deliciously salty, and there was plenty of it.

Chicken Chow Mein $11.99 (Pictured above)
(Chicken, cabbage, carrots, celery, onions and bean sprouts with egg noodles)
This is a warm noodle dish with very tender pieces of sliced, white-meat chicken in a medley of Chinese vegetables. It’s total comfort food. To me, this was more like lo mein because the noodles are soft. I was searching for lo mein which was not on the menu, and the server indicated that their chow mein was more like lo mein – and she was right.

As is typical of Chinese restaurants, there are no desserts offered except for the fortune cookie delivered with your check, but really you are stuffed anyway. It is common practice in China to order more food than your group can eat; it’s a sign of generosity, and I would add that it is also fun. This way, you get to try different things and if there is one thing that is great the next day it is Chinese leftovers. Some people reheat, some like it cold, I do both.

At Nee House, the food comes quickly, each dish as it becomes ready, like a little parade coming by with something new to see and eat. Parking is easy which is always nice. If you don’t have time to dine in, everything they offer is also on their takeout menu. Their hot tea is delicious and they have a full bar. Now you owe me a nickel for telling you where to get good Chinese food.

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