It joins Asian Gourmet on that busy block, giving diners yet another cause for pause for Asian cuisine between Michigan State University and the Capitol.
It’s a return to form of sorts for the space. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, the building was home to Eddie’s Chinese Restaurant, a diner that featured Asian and American cuisine. Most recently, it was Lamai’s Thai Kitchen, which closed in 2013. It sat vacant for nearly two years.
The owner of China Flavor, Mei Wan, did a massive overhaul to the interior, which included tearing out the signature diner counter that gave the place an old-timey feel. Wan also installed new floors, bathrooms and a new kitchen. The new space is clean, sleek and modern looking, without feeling cold. Kitchen manager Kim
Lu estimates at least $70,000 in work went into upgrading the restaurant.
“It needed it,” Lu said. “But it’s a whole new restaurant now.”
Lu said he has over 30 years of experience in the kitchen. He comes from the Guangdong province of South China, which specializes in Cantonese cuisine, the type of food emblematic of the American-style Chinese.
In fact, Lu works from two separate menus entirely: One is your typical Americanized Chinese menu, with selections like Beef with Broccoli, General Tso’s Chicken and Szechuan Shrimp. It also has combo dinners (with rice and an egg roll) and a $4.95 lunch menu.
But it’s the other menu, called Authentic Chinese Dishes, that adventurous diners should seek out. Where else in town are you going to find Spicy Mango Chicken Fried Rice, Braised Grouper in Hot Pot or Jelly Fish? (That last one is completely worth the trip, by the way — the jellyfish tentacles look like and have the consistency of thick rice noodles, and are served cold in snappy onion salad.)
Starting next week, China Flavor will roll out separate lunch and dinner buffets. The weekday lunch version ($6.95) goes from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and the dinner ($9.95) goes from 5-8:30 p.m., with weekend prices a little higher. Lu said there will also be a $15.95 all-you-can-eat sushi buffet, which will start soon after the students come back from break.
“This is a very good location, between downtown and MSU,” Lu said. “Lots of traffic.”
As for his neighbors at Asian Gourmet several doors down, Lu said he hasn’t met them yet, but plans to eventually. With at least four other vacant buildings, that block has plenty of room for more Chinese restaurants — the area could become Far East Town. And a rising tide lifts all sampans.
China Flavor 2033 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. daily (517) 721-1083