August 2011

Chin Dynasty: Where Chinese Cuisine Meets Fine Dining

Author: Peter Zink | Photographer: Photography by Anne

The Chinese takeout establishment is a familiar and friendly site. You witness the busy, frenetic pace of cooks, shuffling quickly to replenish trays of food ordered from the front. Then there’s the buffet line of piping hot chicken and pork, where you smother your food in a sweet or sour sauce. And you can’t forget your complementary sidekick. Is it going to be a bed of fried or steamed rice? You grab your dish, sit down with family and friends at a small corner table where you gorge yourself on your tasty choices and call it a night. Or if you’re in a big hurry and have somewhere else you need to be, you take your food out in one of those signature cubic boxes with a folded origami lid and a thin wire on top for easy transport. You eat what you can for the night and throw the leftovers into the fridge for reheating later.

If that sounds like your typical Chinese restaurant routine, you’re in for a surprise with Chin Dynasty, because that’s not what they’re all about. Chin Dynasty does Chinese food like no other establishment in the Lowcountry: freshly made and served in a fine dining restaurant atmosphere without a high price tag. Located next to the Sea Turtle Cinema off of Buckwalter Highway, the difference is palpable the minute you walk in. Subdued lighting and elegant glass stemware greet you at each table, and the white leather chairs are spotless. The whole restaurant offers a quiet and intimate vibe that’s perfect for good conversation and drinks. Besides the main dining area, Chin Dynasty offers a full service bar along with a separate sushi bar addition. For the working lunch or large party crowd, there are two screened off private dining areas in the back that can seat 10-12 people.

Formerly the Kobe Sushi Bistro, Chin Dynasty opened its doors just over a year ago. Owner Jackie Zhao realized that while there were plenty of places in Bluffton to get fast Chinese food, nobody offered a great sit-in Chinese dining experience. So when Zhao reopened the space as Chin Dynasty, he wanted to make sure he got it right. He hired high-end chef Ken Wang from Washington D.C. to put his spin on some traditional Chinese favorites.

Even the new restaurant’s name is epic in scope. Chin Dynasty refers to the famous first emperor of the Ch’in lineage dating back to 221 BC, Ch’in Shih Huang Ti. Before Ch’in there was no unified Chinese empire. It was Ch’in who ushered in a standardized alphabet, built famous landmarks like the first Great Wall of China and the city mausoleum, guarded by life-sized terra cotta soldiers. He left a legacy of imperial rule for the next two millennia and is considered the father of the unified China we know today.

With a revered figure like Ch’in in the name, the restaurant carries a big vision and a message that they try to do Chinese food differently. To live up to their ambitious namesake, Zhao and Wang emphasize fresh, high-quality ingredients in every dish they serve. Hardly anything is brought in pre-cooked. Nearly every dish is made from scratch from their most basic ingredients. Zhao and Wang are constantly searching for better tasting ingredients that don’t break the bank. “If there’s a higher quality ingredient, we use it. For example, we picked a beef that I think is one of the best out there. It’s incredibly popular with our customers because of that,” Zhao said.

Their focus on providing fresh produce makes it hard for customers to choose a favorite dish. Some popular items include the chicken lettuce wrap, which has a nice flavor contrast between zesty spiced chicken and freshly cooled lettuce. Another is the Crazy Ocean, a wild assortment of shrimp, scallops, mussels, and squid mixed with bell peppers, snap peas, and spices sautéed in a Panang curry sauce. And if you’re looking for a fun spin on a traditional breakfast staple, the scallop pancakes are hard to beat. Don’t worry if you’re looking to venture beyond Chinese dishes either. South Asian classics such as Pad Thai and Singapore Street Noodles are also available.

And of course if you don’t feel like sitting down for a long meal, Chin Dynasty can still accommodate you with their extensive sushi bar. It’s a perfect option when you’re looking to grab a quick bite before a movie but want to opt for a nicer setting than a fast food establishment. Perennial favorites like the California and spicy tuna roll are present on the menu, along with more creative options like the Angel Roll with its fried shrimp, avocado, and cream cheese interior, topped off with fried crab. Chin Dynasty also offers locally inspired variants like the Bluffton Roll with layers of white fish, spicy tuna, avocado and eel on top or the Beaufort Roll with its deep fried smoked salmon, crab, cream cheese, and avocado.

With an array of delicious dishes, Zhao feels fortunate to be able to open a restaurant in the Lowcountry. “This area is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I get to meet people that come from all different types of places to retire here. Everyone is very nice,” he said with a smile. Just as he enjoys Bluffton’s beauty, the rest of us can enjoy a new addition to the region’s repertoire.

Chin Dynasty is located at 108 Buckwalter Parkway, next to the Sea Turtle Cinemas. They are open for lunch Monday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. They are open for dinner from 4-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 4-10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. For reservations, call (843) 757-7998. For more information including both the main and sushi menus, visit chindynasty.biz.

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