There’s a new late night Chinese hotspot in town ready to deliver tasty food in a pinch. Meet Colala Express, taking over the old Jumbeaux building on Saginaw Street.
Colala will serve takeout staples alongside authentic Chinese regional specialties. And if the food tastes familiar, that's because the place is run by a branch of the same family that runs longtime Eastside Chinese takeout place China Flavors on Michigan Avenue.
chef Kim Lu said he first learned to cook in China after he completed high school in 1982. Enrolling in Chinese culinary school, his reason for his new career was simple: “I liked food and to try the different types beside my homestyle.”
His native Guangdong province, or Canton, is famous for its mildly sweet and savory dishes with ginger, aniseed, coriander, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce and sugar as main ingredients.
Three years later as a trained chef, Lu first came to Maryland before moving to Battle Creek and making it his home for ten years. After a short stay in Kalamazoo, Lu said he moved to Lansing because he loved the people and location here.
“There is also a lot of Chinese students too,” he added.
Lu said head chef of Colala Express Yupei He always wanted to open a restaurant and this is his chance. “He is my cousin and we are a family business.”
Working with family is best, Lu said. “We have a lot of times together.”
It is important for Colala Express to do authentic food, Lu said.
“I have a lot of MSU students from China of all different kinds. Some don’t like American-style Chinese food.”
The main difference between the two is that American-style has more sauce and juice, Lu said. “Chinese people like it a little bit more dry.”
A good bridge between the two styles is house green pepper chicken and spicy chicken, Lu added.
“We also sell a lot of Szechuan potatoes.
We use the wok and make it really hot. It only takes fifteen seconds, smells good and it’s crispy.”
The pork chop is Lu’s personal favorite.
“It is so tasty and crispy,” he said. “In my homeland it is a little bit different but it is still very tasty with not too much breading.”
The former Jumbeaux building was chosen because of the heavy traffic in the area, Lu said.
“It was a small remodel. All the equipment was there so we just cleaned up.”
Lu said even with American-style Chinese food, Colala Express makes it healthier than other Chinese places.
“We always make our own sauce using light oil and salt, not too much sugar.”
On the pricier side of things, Lu offers a full Peking duck for $40.
“I make a very good Peking duck. We need to make the skin dry and cook it for 45 minutes for the right color.”
Lunch specials will be around $5. “I like to think I will make every customer happy here,” Lu said.