House of Chow

House of Chow is a venerated mainstay in the Columbia Chinese food scene. They go way back, and some customers have been going for decades. I always found it solid, if easy to overlook in an increasingly crowded and competitive Asian-food market in Columbia.

So when Amy Chow sold it to her nephew last year and he told Marcia Vanderlip,

“I like the lighter side of Asian food,” he said. “My direction is healthy with fresh ingredients, not so much canned.”

I thought we might have a new player on the rather dismal west side of town. My first visit made me reconsider. An order of “Chicken Lettuce Wraps” resulted in a plateful of lumpy, brown soup swimming atop a three long-destroyed leaves of iceberg lettuce. The vomitus-looking concoction was piping hot, you see, and had instantly wilted the lettuce into submission. It didn’t taste like much, either, and we ate virtually none of it. The new owner acknowledged a poor preparation, but it appeared on the bill just the same.

“Pork Belly Gua Bao Sliders” were chewy and, somehow, dull. The rest of the meal followed suit – lots of promise, no delivery (I forget – and can only assume to have forgotten upon departure – what we had for entrees, so unmemorable were they). Some acquaintances we happened to run into on our way out later relayed a similar experience, and in the months that followed I heard no reason to return (or to stay away for that matter, apathy apparently being the primary public sentiment).

On a lark today I returned, and was treated to a nice, finely shaved Napa cabbage salad with sesame dressing (hopes rise!) and then the crushing pendulum-swing of a lame egg roll (possibly forgivable) and an utterly bland “Sweet Basil Rice Bowl” (not forgivable). When I tell you I could not detect basil in this dish, I mean to say they didn’t wave a sprig of it over the bowl before bringing it to me. I mean to say that the carrots were recently liberated from a Sysco freezer bag, that the chicken, thinly-sliced and cooked perfectly, was devoid of a single iota of heat. If you’ve ever had the basil chicken at Bamboo Terrace, you’ll understand the depth of my self-hate for ordering this non-entity.

The last, if symptomatic, straw was the disappearance of my server after delivering my entree until dropping off the check ten minutes later and wishing me a nice day. The dish needed some chili sauce, and a request for the same brought a fiery but flavorless sriracha knockoff. It made the remaining bites I was willing to take better, but just barely. The aforementioned bill came to $6.51, so I guess if you’re looking for suboptimal Chinese food at McDonald’s prices, this is the place for you. I’ll be spending a few more bucks at Bamboo Terrace and their ilk. Let me know if at some future date House of Chow becomes relevant once again – right now they seem to have lost their way entirely.

House of Chow
2101 W Broadway
Columbia, MO 65203
(573) 445-8800

Author: Scott

I am a married father of two. I graduated from Rock Bridge High School and then Mizzou before spending six years in the Washington, D.C. area. We returned to Columbia, Missouri in 2006.

6 thoughts

  1. Glad to see you back.
    Glad to see you had the same reaction to the new improved House of Chow that we did. Three times we tried. Three times too many.

  2. Whoa, this is bad news. We’ve been going to House of Chow for years. It’s our go-to place for sit-down chinese food, like for someone’s birthday or whatever. Solid, like you said. I’m disappointed to read your take.

    I don’t suppose you checked on their Springfield-style cashew chicken? If they’ve screwed that up, too, we might have to find a new place.

  3. Wow, we had the same experience you did. Pretty dismal. Definitely not on the return-to list. Can’t remember what we had, but it was as you describe it…bland. Can’t agree with the McDonald’s pricing however…we thought it very overpriced for what you get. We’ll stick with Bamboo Terrace and Mandarin House on the west side, and ABC on the east.

  4. We had the same experience, the food was tasteless and the 3 dishes we ordered had the same vegetables (plus the canned water chestnuts and bamboo shots) and sauce. Too bad, I was hoping for new dishes with fresh ingredients…

  5. I was there for the celebration of Jerry Wade – I did better than you, I guess. I got a chicken salad minus the chicken. It was crunchy and tasty. Nothing to knock my socks off, but certainly edible. I agree that ABC and Bamboo Terrace are better bets.

    Welcome back, BTW.

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