Chow’s Chinese Bistro opened in Santa Fe in 1993. I remember a friend telling me about a great new Chinese place I should try, and I did. The food was a step up from ordinary—fresh, bright flavors, and ingredients beyond mix-and-match vegetables. In 1999, the first Albuquerque Chow’s opened on Juan Tabo, followed by another at Cottonwood mall in 2005. Proprietors Richard and Lucy Zeng and their son Jason opened Fan Tang two weeks ago in Nob Hill.
In 1989, Richard moved from China to Santa Fe. At the age of 40, the Chinese language and literature scholar immediately began working in the restaurant trade. When he opened Chow’s in the early ’90s, Jason, then 13, got his first job bussing and learned the business from the ground up.
Dishes are generously portioned for individuals rather than family-style. The menu draws freely from many Asian cultures with the emphasis on Chinese. Richard tells me they use as many as 30 recipes to dress their dishes or as dipping sauces, each made from scratch. You won’t find any standard sweet-and-sour packets here. I especially enjoyed my coconut curry chicken. The coffee chicken is a total departure from the ordinary.
In addition to the food, I was impressed with the Zengs business acumen. The wok chefs are drawn from the ranks of Chow’s trained experts, as is much of the staff. Richard and Jason treat their staff well, as I experienced when I joined them for a staff lunch of poached chicken and green scallion in garlic sauce. All that homemade chicken stock has to come from somewhere, right?