There's probably a restaurant named House of Egg Roll in every major metropolitan city between Los Angeles and New York. In fact, a quick Google search turns up results including a Vietnamese-Chinese fast food spot by that name in Santa Clara and a similarly named Egg Roll House restaurant in Milwaukee. It's the kind of generic Chinese restaurant moniker that conjures mental images of steaming plates of General Tso's chicken and cream cheese-stuffed wontons.
And that's why it's so surprising when you step into metro Phoenix's own House of Egg Roll in Chandler, where on a recent Sunday afternoon you'd have been hard-pressed to find anyone speaking English. Instead, we stumbled into a crowded dining room filled with tables of families and groups of young people digging into a giant portions of northwestern Chinese food.
The restaurant itself has been around, on the southeastern corner of Ray Road and Alma School, for years. And though the name and decor seem to be as familiar as ever, a change of ownership in recent months has turned what used to be just another take-out Chinese eatery into the Valley's latest hot spot for real-deal Chinese cuisine. Of course, diners have been able to find northeastern Chinese Dongbei cai at Chou's Kitchen across the street for years, now a quick car ride can transport you to the Shaanxi province to experience northwestern Chinese culinary traditions.
The menu still includes plates intended for the restaurant's existing fans — there are house egg rolls, of course, and even General Tso's chicken — but also plenty of fare that should get Phoenix's food lovers excited for a new dining adventure.
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Start with the Biang Biang noodles ($8.75), a dish with which you might already be familiar thanks to Mission Chinese chef Danny Bowien
Also excellent is the restaurant's hot and sour lamb dumpling soup ($8.75). Combining the deep, umami flavors of seaweed and tiny shrimp with pungent vinegar and a fistful of bright cilantro, this soup hits notes high and low in every bite. The pudgy dumplings inside add a steady, meaty note with rich lamb surrounded by a soft layer of dough.
The last dish we tried was the first listed on the menu under Restaurant Specials, another soup, this time filled with vegetables, crystal noodles, and lamb. Seasoned with fragrant star anise, we wouldn't blame you for initially mistaking this for pho, but the mix of vegetables — including leeks, onions, and celery — gave a familiar quality to the dish.
Despite what the under-$10 prices might indicate, the portions at House of Egg Roll lend themselves well to sharing. In fact, it's almost a struggle to dine there as a party of two. The tables, during peak hours, will likely be packed and only come in sizes for parties of four or larger, and you'll want to try more dishes than two people could probably ever finish.
The upside is that the restaurant's complex soups make excellent leftovers. And now you'll have a good excuse to return to this dining destination.