I had never been to the City Grill so I had no real expectations for the place. It seemed as if the decor was still in transition. There were some beautiful scrolls and paintings on the walls. But some of the fixtures and the tablecloths in particular were slightly jarring to the Chinese aesthetic, giving the place a warm "family-style" feel. However, the overall ambiance was comfortable and friendly.
Sue, the owner, was also our server and could not have been nicer. (Her husband, Frank, is also the cook. Very much a family affair.) We started off with some hot Jasmine tea taking the edge off of our appetites.
The front of the menu explained that the cuisine was from the Black Dragon River in Northeast China:
These are the meals served on family dinning tables and featured on restaurant menus throughout the region. The popularity of these dishes stems from a complicated preparation and elaborate cooking process, which results in turning ordinary ingredients into extraordinary dishes with exceptional flavor, texture and aroma. Dragon River makes it possible for you to enjoy the taste of Northeastern China without having to travel there.After some pondering over the menu, wanting to try everything, we decided to start with an order of Pot Stickers and Crab Cheese Wontons.
Born and raised in Heilongjiang Province, Northeast China, we grew up with this family style food and loved the aroma of country cooking wafting from the kitchen. Some of the food was everyday dishes, some we could only afford for holidays. But all were deliciously happy meals and now wonderful memories. ...
At Dragon River, you will enjoy freshly prepared food with quality ingredients, locally grown when appropriate and available. You will taste the distinctive different sauces of each dish, the handmade-from-scratch buns, dumplings, wontons, and savory hearty soup, all free of MSG.
The wontons came out first and we could instantly see that they were indeed homemade, unlike the typical wontons at most places in town. The wonton dough was flaky and light, cooked to perfection, not too greasy. The filling was substantial and delicious, a nice balance between the crab and cheese.
Ashley and I both remarked that we could've easily just had these two items and been more than satisfied.
Next up were the main courses: Pork Rib Stew and Chicken Fried Rice. They arrived with perfect timing just as we were finishing the appetizers. Sue brought them to the table with a smile. The Pork Rib Stew looked and smelled amazing: a half dozen meat falling off the bones ribs in a bowl with potatoes and green beans, seasoned wonderfully.
The Chicken Fried Rice was also very good, with just the right amount of egg and chicken. We each made a bed of the steamed and fried rice and spooned heaping amounts of the Pork Rib Stew over it. It was beautiful. Seasoned very well. The meat so tender that it was easy to eat with chopsticks.
Sue was attentive to our every need and was genuinely happy with how much we enjoyed the food. We told her we would be coming back. Often. We committed ourselves to trying everything on the menu. Dragon River is a beautiful new addition to the dining options around downtown Bellingham. I could not recommend it more highly.
1319 Cornwall Ave. Suite 102. Bellingham, WA 98225
All photos by Ashley Berger and Scot Casey