Review - Paper Crane offers many choices
Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 7:50 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 7:50 a.m.
Some psychologists, spiritualists, economists and philosophers argue that true freedom comes from a lack of choices.
The Paper Crane
Cuisine: Japanese and Chinese
Location: 420 Eastwood Road, Suite 3, in Eastwood Commons at Racine Drive
Contact: 395-7008 or 395-7005
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
Price range: $5 to $12
Payment: Visa and MasterCard
Sanitation grade: This new kitchen has been examined by the New Hanover County Health Department but will not be issued a grade until it has been in operation for several weeks.
Atmosphere: Quiet and relaxing with paper napkins
We say: Family-style dining at The Paper Crane means both Japanese and Chinese dishes large enough to share.
Various options may mean fewer restrictions, but picking this, that or the other requires energy and attention in a world already overrun by details. Heads spinning with alternatives, fatigued decision-makers abandon free will for a give-me-whatever attitude.
Why then, with its extensive menu of both Japanese and Chinese options, is The Paper Crane a such a soothing place?
Scanning the list feels less stressful in the small, simple dining room on Eastwood Road at Racine Drive. Picture windows show dinner-rush traffic whizzing along. Inside, The Paper Crane's low lights on dark brown wood keep peace.
Three lucky bamboo spears rising from a white, oval vase by the front register provide color and consolation. Light-footed servers speak in hushed tones while the silent sushi chef shapes assorted rolls and sashimi.
His Fantastic Roll is a splashy display in this subdued scene. "White" seaweed that's really pale green enrobes yellowtail, avocado, cucumber, neon tobiko and tuna and salmon's pink hues.
Two rows of the soft, easy-to-bite rolls flank miso, eel and spicy mayonnaise sauces muddled in a martini glass. It's a spirited cocktail suited to the faintly flavored roll.
Japanese kitchen dishes match the rainbow sushi mix.
A sunny-side-up egg's bright yolk centers mild nabeyaki soup. The soba noodle load floats chicken, crab meat, two panko-crusted tempura shrimp and a scattering of julienned carrots, onions and snow peas in dashi broth.
Hibachi salmon wears a lovely copper sear against its coral flesh, but the fish is dry atop stir-fried vegetables.
Chicken katsu suffers no such fate. Panko-crusted breast slices, a plateful fit for two, are moist and tender.
Chinese selections cover a broad range, from pu pu platters to lo mein, fried rice and Mongolian dishes. The essential "chef's special" offerings include "scallops and beef": tender, stir-fried beef slices, medium-sized sea scallops (overcooked recently), broccoli, carrots, baby corn, snow peas and water chestnuts arrive in brown sauce.
Peking chicken's pile of hard-fried chicken nuggets in sugary orange sauce have nothing to do with Peking duck.
Bright red barbecued spare ribs are a tough chew as well, but the sweet and char flavors make wrestling with them a little more agreeable.
The plate holds sufficient samples for a table of four. Nibbling supplies added time to consider entrees, and should brains be weary from the day's many other decisions, take the server's advice when she suggests mango shrimp. Large, lightly battered fried shrimp, assorted vegetables and fresh mango slices mesh in vivid red-orange sauce that's a little spicy and just sweet enough to satisfy dessert cravings, giving freedom from more things to ponder after dinner.
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