Chris and I love Asian food, hanging out with close friends, and trying new restaurants, so Saturday night was the perfect opportunity to check out Springfield’s latest Chinese restaurant. We met our pals Colby and Lyndsey for dinner at 5 Spice China Grill (5SCG), the newest restaurant from Johnson and John Tan, owners of Springfield’s popular Ocean Zen (OZ).
Springfield, MO, is known for its Chinese food and is the home of Springfield-style cashew chicken, and after eating in Chinese restaurants across the country and in China itself, I can honestly say there is nothing quite like Chinese food here. 5SCG was touted as a step up from usual Springfield Chinese cuisine, which is known for being quick and cheap, so we were excited to give it a try.
I could immediately tell when we approached 5SCG’s front doors that the restaurant belonged to the same family as Ocean Zen; the brushed metal doors were my first clue. Inside, a dark interior and a decor of wood, metal, and stone confirmed that the space had indeed once been OZ. Upon this reminder, I was eager to sit down and try the long-promised Chines cuisine.
Colby and Lyndsey were waiting for us, and we were fortunate to sit in a booth. Though the dinner crowd had yet to fill up the space, I could tell that the real estate around the free-standing tables would soon be crowded and difficult to navigate.
5SCG crab crab encourages parties to eat family style, so the four of us shared an appetizer and three entrees. We started off with the Crispy Lobster and Cream Cheese Stuffed Wontons with Sweet-and-Sour Ginger Sauce ($7.95, 5 pieces). We were already lovers of OZ’s rangoon, so our decision to try the wontons was easy. In and of themselves, they were fantastic: the shell was slightly sweet and crispy, and the filling was thick and smooth. Side by side, I don’t know that I would be able to tell the difference between OZ’srangoon and 5SCG’s lobster wontons because I really couldn’t taste the lobster.
We studied the menu a long time before settling on our three entrees. Everything sounded so good, but we finally settled on the Chinese-style Wok Fried Rice ($12.95, pork), the Crispy Orange Glazed Beef ($20.95), and the Garlic Chili Tossed Crispy General Tso’s Chicken ($13.95).
Chris was eager to try the fried rice because ever since Gee’s East Wind on East Sunshine closed in the ’90s, he’s been unable to find fried rice that rises to his standards. Here’s what he had to say about it:
For the first time, I found fried rice that matched the flavor of Gee’s. It looked like a natural fried rice dish with natural colors and real veggies, egg, and spices. Even the pork was the real deal. The flavor wasn’t too strong, and the soy sauce complemented the other seasonings–it didn’t overpower the rest of the dish. The rice could stand alone as a meal on its own.
I was pleased with the fried rice, too. It was cooked to the right texture—not soggy and not crispy—and had a good mixture of veggies and pork, too.
The Crispy Orange Glazed Beef blew me away. I’m not normally a fan of beef in my Chinese food because the quality of the beef is usually questionable, but our server assured us that they used high-quality beef tenderloin for this dish. I could tell! It was tender and almost melted in my mouth with the tangy orange glaze that covered it.
The General Tso’s Chicken was my least favorite of our selections; it was excellent, but it paled in comparison to the rice and the beef. Again, I could tell the quality of the ingredients surpassed the quality at most Chinese restaurants. The chicken was moist and covered with just the right amount of breading, and the sauce had a slight kick but not enough to deter the average diner. And the green beans served with the chicken were good, too!
Between the four of us, we had exactly the right amount of food, and for once, I came away from a great restaurant not feeling like I had totally engorged myself.
We were really pleased with our service. Not once were our glasses less than half full! Our server Jody was polite, friendly, and knowledgeable about the menu. After confirming that we were finished with our entrees, he and another server promptly cleared our table, and he anticipated that we would want to split our check straight down the middle. Even though we didn’t stay for dessert, he didn’t mind letting us digest at our table a bit before leaving.
Hands down, Chris and I are going to go back. We loved the fried rice, and we’d like to try the cashew chicken and the sweet-and-sour chicken, too. Now that we know how much food we get, when we do go back, we’ll probably keep our choices simple: an appetizer, some fried rice, and another entree. Even with all that food, I’m sure we’ll have leftovers to bring home. Here are some other observations from our experience you might consider:
- We went to 5SCG for dinner, but we think they have a smaller-portioned lunch menu.
- They also have a drive through with select items from the menu, but we’re not sure if it’s functioning yet.
- If the restaurant grows in popularity, parking will be hard to find during prime dining hours.
Have you been to 5 Spice China Grill? What was your impression of their food and service? Interested in what others had to say? Check out these other reviews:
- 5 Spice China Grill is open. No foolin’! (Go Magazine)
- Owners of Ocean Zen find a sweet spot (Springfield Newsleader)
- 5 Spice China Grill (Bob’s Whine and Dine)