okgourmet.com    Home of Steve's Restaurant Reviews

Lai Wah Yen

Av. de las Americas #276
Ciudad Juarez, Chih.
(656) 613-1291

Lai Wah Yen is one of the "original" Chinese restaurants in Ciudad Juarez, and has been in the same location for as long as I have been in the El Paso/Juarez area (and who knows how long before that time?). Located across the street from the more famous Shangri La, I have for the most part thought it was better than Shangri La.

Recently, though, I'm taking another look. Lai Wah Yen is an "old style" Chinese restaurant, serving the standard dishes such as chop suey, chow mein, sweet and sour pork, etc., although it does have a few Hunan and Szechuan dishes. I certainly would not say that the menu was very adventurous, though. There are no tofu or even any vegetarian dishes. The menu simply consists of about six or seven different sauces served with various types of meat.

There are several dinners (actually more like banquets, with huge amounts of food) that only cost slightly more than the single entrées, so this is a good way to try the food. I had the "Comida Deluxe" served to two or more people, and in which no substitutions can be made. This had a huge amount of food with several appetizers, soup, four entrées, and fried rice (and also includes tea). The good thing about it is that it contains several items with offsetting flavors, and the food seems fresh. The bad thing is that none of the items were exceptional.

The item I enjoyed the most was the almond chicken--normally white sauce is my least favorite Chinese sauce but the one here had a good flavor, and the fresh vegetables and almonds brought it out even more (the chicken was OK--at least it did not detract from the other flavors).

The sweet and sour chicken was OK but the sauce was like the Americanized sweet, gloppy version instead of the real Chinese sauce with offsetting flavors.

The broccoli beef was just not enjoyable--the brown sauce was not very good and the beef was even worse, but at least the broccoli was good.

There was also a duck dish with sweet and sour sauce that I did not like (it may have been too fatty, but in any case I think ducks should probably be left swimming on lakes rather than on restaurant serving trays).

I had eaten at Shangri La a few years ago (before I started writing my detailed reviews), and even though I wasn't blown away by the food there, I now think it is better than Lai Wah Yen. The interior of Shangri La is more pleasant, they do not try to serve ridiculous amounts of food, and it is less expensive. Mainly, though, I did not like the fact that Lai Wah Yen has ash trays on every table (fortunately nobody was smoking around me). I remember that Shangri La had a place where I could get away from the smoke, but I cannot say for sure that it was a designated non-smoking area. For now my recommendation would be to go to Shangri La, but I will have to go back for a more recent impression of things there.



Cuisine: Chinese
Cost: $$
Tea: Jasmine (bags)
MSG: Yes
Smoking: Smoking Allowed

Most Recent Visit
Jun. 24, 2005

Number of Visits: 7

Best Item
Almond Chicken

Special Ratings
Almond Chicken:
Sweet and Sour Chicken:
Broccoli Beef:
Cabbage Soup:
Egg Roll:
Fried Rice: pork