Sunday, July 31, 2011

Apollo Chinese Restaurant

Every once in a while I just get a craving for simple, delicious pork fried rice. Basic greasy fried rice from your standard Chinese place—nothing special, just good comfort food.

I recently had this craving for two months. I don’t know why I didn’t do anything about it—the craving would come, I would consider getting Chinese food, and then I would do something else. On one recent hot and humid afternoon I decided to do something about it. I think that the weather really put me over the edge. The oppressive heat was so reminiscent of China that I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I kept thinking about how I used to walk down the street from my apartment and visit this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant on the corner with a man spooning out fried rice into buckets for just a few measly cents in U.S. currency. I would go pick up a bucket of egg or beef fried rice and then savor the salty MSG, filling rice, and chili heat. Granted, the fried rice I would buy on the corner in Chengdu was quite different than the American-Chinese food of my craving, but somewhere in my mind fried rice and hot weather are knit together.

Being unsure where to get some good fried rice in the Collegetown area of Ithaca, NY, I checked out my friend Celeste’s blog 90 Restaurants, 90 Days, a site on which she documents her culinary experiences in Ithaca before leaving the area to pursue other ventures. This blog became a go-to for me during my time in Ithaca. After checking out Celeste’s reviews of a few Asian restaurants I honed in on Apollo Chinese Restaurant, and was immediately convinced that it was the best option. It sounded like the best cure for my craving and they were right around the corner from me.

One of the most satisfying parts of the experience was that when I walked into Apollo the scent immediately took me back to the smell of food in China. It’s so interesting how a particular scent can transport you through space and time, and I definitely experienced that on my recent venture to Apollo. The pork fried rice was exactly what I was craving. My ideal pork fried rice consists of greasy, salty rice laden with hunks of bright red roast pork, bits of scrambled egg, onions, carrots, and peas. I like the rice to be brown from a bit of soy sauce and slightly crispy and clumped together—perfect for scooping up glorious mouthfuls with chopsticks. This was exactly what Apollo delivered.

When I checked out the menu and was tempted to order a few dishes, but it was really just the pork fried rice I was interested in. Even though I was getting a very basic dish I got the feeling (and can see evidence of it in Celeste’s review) that they do “real” Chinese food right. I was more than satisfied and had my craving filled by the fried rice, but if I were to return again I’d probably want to try out their steamed pork buns, one of their various noodle soups, Peking duck, or double sautéed pork (I’m guessing this is the same as twice cooked pork, one of my favorite dishes). Alas, I’m far departed from Ithaca now, but if you’re in the area and looking for a fried-rice fix then it’s the right place to be.

Apollo Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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