The dining room is open: finally! This is good news for those of us who have been waiting for Johnny Chan 2 to graduate from carryout only to dine-in service. Frank Shi, proprietor of the venerable Chinese eatery, has been among the most careful in protecting his staff and his patrons from the dangers a virulent pandemic represents. He saw his way clear to reopening the dining room about a month ago, after more than a year of closure. He feels good about the way his restaurant addressed the health and safety issues confronting eateries like his and the people who patronize them.
“We open now for dine-in, but only from the menu. No buffet, just order from the menu. We not having the buffet,” he said. Asked if the decision on the buffet was temporary, Shi said that he would have to wait and see how things go. The sense is that he would rather err on the side of caution than to do something that would endanger any of his patrons. He has been a staunch adherent to that principle throughout the pandemic.
Demographics have played into his calculus from the beginning, he said. “We open, we have many older people come (to Johnny Chan 2) to eat. Young too (and all ages, really), but many older diner, and older people, more danger, so coming out and eating more danger for them. I don’t want any harm for people coming (here) to eat…”
Now with most elderly people in the Greater Cincinnati area having been vaccinated against the virus, concern over contracting the virus if vaccinated is all but nil for dine-in patrons of that cohort. In fact, data from the CDC makes it clear that the vaccines are remarkably efficacious. The latest figures show that while contracting the virus still is possible for the vaccinated, the likelihood is minuscule. Further, if contracted, the resulting sickness is said to be mild, with some vaccine makers claiming that their product reduces to zero the possibility of hospitalizations from the virus.
For vaccinated diners-out, the above datapoints are great news, offering great comfort. In working the restaurant circuit of late, numerous diners have amplified their feelings on dining out. The reaction is uniform: “Now that we’re vaccinated, it just feels safe to be here. Before, it just did not feel right.” One diner put it this way: “Before (being vaccinated), you felt like that scene in Jaws — remember — where the mayor in the striped coat was encouraging everybody to go back in the water after the shark attack. The water was appealing and all, but you just did not want to chance it.” Now, with vaccination comes a sense of relief, of safety from serious and even deadly illness, and dare one say it, a sense of normality.
When you and I go to Johnny Chan 2, we will find the typical Chinese menu with dozens of choices. But Johnny Chan 2 is far from typical. For starters, it for years has had the accolade of being one of the 100 best Chinese restaurants in the United States, which is home to more than 40,000 such eateries. In fact, there are more Chinese restaurants in this country than the combined total of chain restaurants featuring burgers, tacos, pizza or fried chicken, according to the Chinese American Restaurant Association.
Another notable aspect of Johnny Chan 2 is the scratch kitchen, according to Shi. “We make all sauces — Mongolian-style sauces for stir-fry. All sauces (are) special, handmade, not from outside (from pre-pack suppliers),” he said. His comment about pre-pack sauces is relevant, since in many restaurant kitchens complex or labor-intensive items such as rich sauces are purchased from vendors rather than made fresh in the kitchen. As a member of the dine-out public, which would you rather have; a processed pre-pack sauce or one made fresh at the time of your order?
In the final analysis, we go to restaurants for the dishes they bring to table, and at Johnny Chan 2 there are plenty of classic entrée items from which to choose. On the menu, among selections, look for: orange beef, Mongolian beef, and sesame beef; chicken with eggplant, chicken with cashew nuts, Hunan chicken, General Tao’s chicken, and sesame chicken; and vegetarian favorites that include my favorite eggplant Shanghai style, along with spicy Szechuan string beans and Yu Hsiang asparagus. While most seafood selections include shellfish or crustaceans, there are whole-fish specials that include walleye and other free-swimming open-water feeders that kosher-style diners may eat.
See you at Johnny Chan 2!
Johnny Chan 2
11296 Montgomery Road
Cincinnati, OH 45249