There are two China First restaurants in Burley, one of them in the 1200 block of Overland Ave and the second is in the 900 block of Overland Ave. This review pertains to our experience at the second. China First is easy to spot because the building is bright red in color. In the summer they have several beautiful flowering bushes along Overland Ave. that really stand out.
Ambiance: China first has a nice dining room but to get to it you first have to walk through an awkward entry that feels like it is part of the kitchen. Once in the dining room the restaurant is staged nicely and gives you the feeling you’re in an authentic Asian restaurant. I liked the fact that there were televisions tuned to cable news to distract us as we waited for our meals.
Seating: We were seated in a booth which was as comfortable as any booth I’ve sat in recently. There was substantial space on each side, making it easy to relax. If you prefer a table they have them as well and they come with padded chairs, adding to your comfort.
Noise: We practically had the dining room to ourselves, so noise wasn’t a problem. We did hear some sound coming from the kitchen but it wasn’t bothersome to our dining experience. The restaurant isn’t far from the rail road tracks that bisect Overland Ave, so when a train comes through, you will hear and feel it right through the seat of your pants.
Bathrooms: There is no getting around the fact that the bathrooms are not in the main area of the restaurant. To access them you go out the front door and around to the back. I would give them a 7 out of 10 for cleanliness but in spite of how they looked, they smelled horrible. I don’t know if it was a musty smell or something else, but the smell alone would result in my passing them over. The other detractor to the bathrooms was the temperature – which was downright freezing. I would no sooner sit on the throne at China First than I would a construction outhouse in the dead of winter.
Service: We were well cared for with our soft drinks almost beating us to being seated at the table. You will love the fact that the cup the sodas are served in is the biggest in town, probably around 20 ounces. When we were ready to go we were offered a to-go cup, allowing us to take our beverage with us. Throughout our meal we had the owner and the chef checking up on us regularly, but not so much as to waste our time.
Food: We ordered off the lunch menu which is found in a table tent format at your table, but when our food came out I was shocked at the serving size. So shocked was I that I had to reconfirm that they hadn’t made a mistake and sent out the full-blown supper serving size. Suffice it to say that either one of us could have split our serving in half and it would have fed the other without anyone going hungry. Your entree includes soup and a beverage and after tip we spent just $23, a real bargain for the amount of food we were served.
The menu is overwhelming at six pages long, but when you add two more pages of Mexican Food options and a full page of Sushi dishes, you’ll never find it easy to pick something. The lunch menu is very limited and is not found in the big full-sized menus they hand out, so look on your table for it.
I ordered the orange chicken which included fried rice and a huge pile of chicken. The meat inside the breading was mostly dark meat, making the chicken juicy and tender. I wasn’t a fan of the breading or the orange sauce, which I have come to expect to actually have an orange flavor as the name would suggest. Mine was more like a sweet and sour sauce, again without the sweet. Cheryl had the chicken and vegetable stir fry which came heaped up in a generous serving size. She was happy with the meal, especially the nice texture of the steamed vegetables. The dish had plenty of soy sauce to spread around on the chicken and vegetables.
Both of us left the restaurant with a take home serving that equaled what we had been able to eat at the restaurant. The bag they gave us to put the leftover containers in was a nice touch, something few restaurants think to provide.
China First is open from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and is closed on Sunday.
Cost of meal: $$
Food Quality **