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In Dining

The new Third Ward Chinese restaurant will be inside the Marshall Building.

A new kind of Chinese restaurant takes shape in the Third Ward


With its assembly of hip bistros, quaint little cafes and fun places to grab a beer, the Third Ward is undoubtedly one of the most eclectic Milwaukee neighborhoods for dining.

The variety -- from French to Japanese to Mediterranean to Turkish (Tulip, opening this summer) -- is impressive; yet for all the options on offer, the area has been devoid of Chinese food for a long time.

Hailing from Shanghai, Jing Wang and Jack Xu are well-suited for the Chinese food challenge as they reinvent a Marshall Building space -- formerly Moondance Coffee -- into a small, authentic Third Ward Chinese restaurant this summer.

The name of the 1,700-sq. ft. restaurant taking shape at 207 E. Buffalo St. has yet to be determined by the young co-owner couple, but the essence of the eatery, they say, is clear cut: This place will be different.

"When we came here we thought the Chinese restaurants here were not very Chinese," says Wang. "Now that we've stayed here for several years, we've become very American and we like the food they make. But at the same time, it's so different from real Chinese food and we'd like the chance to introduce some authentic Chinese food to Americans."

In China, Wang says, eating is a delicate art, involving several small portions of food throughout the day. Food is almost never deep-fried and the variety of edibles is expansive -- and sometimes off-putting to Westerners.

"A lot of people eat chicken feet in China, but here they are scared of chicken feet, so you will never see chicken or duck feet on the table," she explains matter-of-factly.

Even if the food item -- tofu, for example -- is shared between American and Chinese menus, it if often prepared differently in each country.

"Fresh tofu is always on the table in Shanghai," says Wang. "Every family will eat it -- they love it. They don't eat it fried though. They'll add sauce and spices, and they usually don't even cook it. We want to introduce the Chinese way of cooking tofu and present it to Americans and see if they accept it."

Xu was a chef when the couple lived in China, and will be heading a team of chefs in the kitchen at the new restaurant. To avoid a culture shock of a dining experience, Xu's menu will incorporate many Americanized Chinese dishes along side the authentic ones, but prepare your palate for a decision process that is Eastern in nature -- with varieties of vegetables and several soups from which to choose.

Wang, a self-described socialite, will work the front, greeting customers and introducing them to what she hopes is a fresh, new way to do Chinese in Milwaukee.

"I want my restaurant to be very welcoming, charming, cozy and neat -- not cluttered. I want the new image about Chinese restaurants to be that they are cool and fun."

Expect the feng shui to be to perfection.

Although the couple has been living on the East Side of Milwaukee for six years now, they see the restaurant as a way to really introduce themselves to the city.

"When we first decided to come here, we didn't think we would stay, but now with the restaurant opening, we just feel like this is part of our journey," says Wang. "We just enjoy every part of what we do. In my mind, it's not about the money -- it's about a thing that you did in another country and the opportunity to see how it works. We're both Buddhists. We want to do good things -- we've gotten so many great opportunities here in this country and we want to do something good in return. We want to do something real -- take action -- in our life."

The Third Ward's new Chinese restaurant takes action this August. Stay tuned to OMC for opening day details as they become available.

Talkbacks

gtg76 | May 25, 2007 at 10:30 a.m. (report)

Well...I like to think Green Tea Garden in Franklin is pretty good for authentic Chinese cuisine, just ask for the authentic menu...if you've given Fortune a try and it wasn't that great, give this place a try. It seems that the food there is packed with more flavor, it's not as tame and inconsistent as Fortune.

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laurafern11 | May 23, 2007 at 4:04 p.m. (report)

This is intriguing. I lived in China, just for a year, but it ruined me for any sort of Americanized Chinese food, which is seemingly all that is available in Milwaukee. I've heard Peony and Fortune are good, but I was not impressed first time around, and those regular disappointments basically stop me from ever eating that cuisine in Milwaukee. Anyway, I'm looking forward to trying this new Third Ward spot. I would be their number one fan if they served the authentic, fresh cuisine suggested in this article.

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Observer | May 23, 2007 at 6:51 a.m. (report)

Interesting that the article mentioned chicken feet. There was a Chinese restaurant on Farwell who's name escapes me now but it served authentic Hong Kong style dim sum, one of which were chicken feet. I had to try it. It tasted like the skin around one's finger nails. Perhaps it was a cultural thing but I could not see ordering it again. I welcome another Chinese restaurant to complement the two Fortune restaurants which also have authentic Chinese should one desire the real thing.

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