How does a restaurant last two decades? And not just last, but thrive. What keeps people coming back year after year, Friday night after Friday night, season after season? What brings in families, couples and seniors in equal number?
It’s word-of-mouth. According to a recent Nielsen study, 78 percent of respondents said that one of their biggest influencers are other consumers – both positive and negative. In fact, negative comments seem to sway folks even more than positive ones. Don’t I know it.
So when BiteClub wanders into a spot like the 20-year-old China Room, all but hidden in the back of a Rincon Valley mini-mall, during some seriously tough economic times and the place is packed to the hilt, it makes me wonder exactly what they’re doing right.
It’s not the décor or the swanky location or a celebrity chef. It’s the regulars. It’s word of mouth.
Despite a ho-hum interior, the menu is extensive, with standard Chinese-American fare with Sweet & Sour everything, Moo shu, fried rice, walnut prawns, General Tso chicken, orange beef, hot pots as well as more intriguing daily specials featuring with seasonal veggies, curries and seafood.
What China Room gets spot-on are the flavors. Details like Rocky Chicken, seasonal veggies and a handle on the salt and oil make all the difference. Orange beef is studded with bits of orange peel, walnut prawns have crunchy walnuts, fried rice is gently seasoned and comes out more of a tan color than a lacquered brown. This is a good thing. Especially when you’ve got a craving for comfort Chinese.
There’s not mistaking that this ain’t haute Asian fusion cuisine. Clearly the dishes are aimed at American palates. Sweet is the operative word on many sauces.
The service can be a bit off, especially for a large group, when dishes come out one-at-a-time rather than all together. Portions are generous and prices are reasonable. But it’s food that’s approachable, consistent and good.
Don’t take my word, though. Ask a regular.
China Room, 500 Mission Blvd, Santa Rosa, (707) 539-5570