Tonight I decided to get some Chinese take-out from a fairly new restaurant, Leo’s Kitchen – Chinese Bistro Restaurant. This opened about two months ago at Foothills and Pleasant Grove. I walked in at about 5PM to what felt like nap time in between lunch and dinner. Two people were sitting at different tables. One of them hopped up as soon as I was inside and greeted me at the front counter. I had to look over the menu first, so I grabbed one of the big pink takeout menus (link) sitting there and started perusing.
Inside Leo’s Kitchen it feels like a pretty typical Chinese restaurant, although perhaps a bit on the plain side, decoration-wise. It looked to be very clean and had several different seating options, from booths and tables that seat around four to a few big round tables that looked like they could seat eight or more. I was the only customer at the moment, so all was very quiet. The menu is MASSIVE. Each page is packed with items. There isn’t much room for dish descriptions, so the name of the item is pretty much all you get, though a lot of them are descriptive enough to give you a general idea. I would have loved to experiment with some new dishes but you could probably spend weeks doing that, even if you ate here every day, so I figured I had better just stick to what I know for my first visit. I settled on three items: Crispy Walnut Shrimp, Kung Pao Chicken and House Chow Fun. I knew I would get some sort of noodle dish. Chow fun sounded good but I only saw four different ones: Malaysia, Beef (dry), Beef (wet style) and House. I asked what the House had in it and as I suspected it was a little bit of everything – beef, chicken & shrimp. She asked if I wanted it dry or wet. I’d never heard of these styles before so I asked what the difference was. She said that the dry has bean sprouts where the wet is in a kind of gravy and has a lot of different vegetables in it. I went with the wet, though both sounded equally good to me. My total came to just over $30 (The shrimp was the most expensive at $13 while the others were about $8).
I sat down in the entryway and was offered a water while I waited the 15-20 minutes for my order to be ready. While I waited, another worker arrived (perhaps Leo himself?) followed shortly by a couple customers. My food was brought to me at about 15 minutes exactly. The woman handed me the plastic bag, heavy with containers of food. It was stacked really well inside and didn’t move very much on my drive home. I don’t know what it is with Chinese take-out, but they have that knot in the handles down to a T. It’s strong, yet pull in just the right spot and the bag opens up effortlessly. Now opened up, I see the magic they worked with the interior structure, a piece of cardboard that gave everything a solid base to rest on.
In addition to my three items, there was a box of steamed rice, packets of soy sauce and the usual fortune cookies. The chow fun and kung pao chicken were each packed tightly to the top and nearly spilled out of the containers as I attempted to get the first scoop out. The crispy walnut shrimp was decently full, but nothing like the others. The shrimp in this were huge, as were the walnuts. This dish reminds me a lot of Bambu Asian Cuisine’s version. The shrimp had a very light, crispy batter, the walnuts appeared candied and the whole thing was in a sweet and creamy glaze-like sauce. It was really good overall.
The Kung Pao Chicken was a deep, yet bright red color. This was not battered, though some pieces appeared to have a crunchy texture. Peanuts and green onions were sprinkled in throughout. The chicken was very tender and the flavor solid. It wasn’t very spicy, despite the equally bright red peppers in it. I enjoyed this one a lot, almost as much as the shrimp.
Finally, the House Chow Fun. This was indeed packed with a variety of veggies. I was surprised by how huge the chicken was in this. There were a couple bites that I nearly went and got a knife for, but I managed without. It was heavy with a good amount of the chicken, beef and shrimp as big as the ones in the first dish. As I ate this, I realized that I didn’t come across a single noodle. Maybe they’re all hiding at the bottom and I’ll find them in the next couple days with leftovers (UPDATE: That’s exactly what happened, the bottom 2/3rds was all noodles). The gravy in it was pretty bland, as was the whole thing in general. The meats were tender, the shrimp fresh and the veggies in that state where they still have a bit of crispness to them. So everything seemed to be cooked fine, there just wasn’t a lot of flavor in any of it.
I have mixed feelings about Leo’s. One the one hand the serving sizes were massive (a couple of them anyway), and I’ll easily get 2 to 3 more meals out of it all, which makes the price pretty good. The chow fun was disappointing and the others were good, though not outstanding. I have to give them props on the packing of my take-out bag. They seem to care that it gets home intact which few places do. I feel like it’s good Chinese food overall, but I have this nagging feeling like it’s missing something. Perhaps that’s simply because I chose to take it home instead of having the full dining experience there. I would put this a bit below Rose Garden, Bambu and Roseville Gourmet so far. I still have a few more Chinese restaurants to visit.
A friend and I decided to see if we could find a place that was open on Christmas for dinner since we were both done with our family stuff. We ended up here. A few other options in Roseville that were open included Ruth’s Chris, Il Fornaio and Buca di Beppo. Obviously, the Leo’s Kitchen staff were extremely busy with the high level of dine in and take out business, though despite that we still had pretty good service. We had the crispy walnut shrimp, which was outstanding, maybe even better than the first time. We also had the General Chicken which was fantastic. Hot, crispy and full of flavor. For an appetizer we ordered the (6) pot stickers, which were easily the biggest pot stickers I’ve ever had, and they were also excellent. I wanted to come back and bump up the rating to 4.5 after factoring this visit in. Leo’s is now high on my list.