Jay Allen Sanford 4:30 p.m., Dec. 24
Soup, soup, and more soup at Trieu Chau
City Heights restaurant breaks the cycle of chow mein and fried rice with a bevy of delicious soups and stews.
Trieu Chau Restaurant (4653 University Avenue, 619-280-4204) is named after a Chinese linguistic dialect (commonly transliterated as “Teochow”) that’s mostly spoken in the province of Fujian. Maybe that doesn’t add anything to the experience of eating at the blue and yellow building in City Heights, but it’s a nice piece of trivia. Fortunate diners might even get a parking spot in the small lot adjacent to the building!
The expansive menu complicates matters by pulling in Lao and Thai influences, resulting in a convoluted list that runs from stir fries to duck soup. Meals are cheap, with generous portions costing only $5-$7. One could easily fill up on dishes like the pineapple fried rice, which has more of an American Thai flavor and nice chunks of chicken hiding within.
Really, what diners should do is dig into the soups, because Trieu Chau’s soups set the restaurant apart. Ornate versions, like the Trieu Chau special, come laden with every kind of meat, from duck to fish balls, swimming in a rich stock. Simpler dishes, like the duck soup with rice noodles, just let smooth broth and savory meat speak for themselves. The soup is like pho, but the base is lighter and less boldly spiced. With an order of fried bread ($2) on the side, a bowl of soup at Trieu Chau is perfect for a light dinner. Lunch might serve as the best meal for Trieu Chau, since the hot soups are light enough that they don’t inspire instant naptime, as would a heavier meal.
Like most Chinese restaurants, Trieu Chau has agglutinated different cuisines and crafted something interesting from the result. It’s certainly a different Chinese restaurant than the average takeout joint--the “pig’s intestine” soup makes sure of that!