On BerksCountyEats.com, we use multiple subcategories for our reviews, including fine dining, casual dining, Italian and Asian.
What I have found since starting this blog is that Asian is a very broad term that covers a wide variety of foods. There are vast differences between Chinese and Japanese cuisine. And both are widely different from Thai food. The only real similarity is the portion of the world from which they come.
But at China Penn, you can get a taste of three different cuisines in one place.
China Penn has been in Exeter Township for more than 30 years. It has undergone some changes in that time, including an ownership change a few years ago, but it continues to thrive today with a menu that would put many diners to shame.
The menu is actually three menus in one. There is a Chinese section, with favorites like General Tso’s chicken and chow mein; a Japanese section with sushi and sashimi; and a Thai section that included pad Thai, rice and noodles, and curry dishes. It was the Thai menu that most appealed to both of us on our visit.
My stomach was growling by the time I arrived at the restaurant so I knew I needed something to fill it sooner than later so I started off my night with a bowl of chicken coconut soup. Inside the coconut flavored broth was one large chunk of chicken breast, long slivers of carrots, and fresh herb leaves. It was a delicious combination—just enough coconut to add a note of sweetness without overpowering it. Having to cut the large piece of chicken with my spoon was more than a little frustrating, but well worth the extra effort.
The main course was certainly one of the prettiest plates that I have received since doing Berks County Eats. Most of the plate was covered in my dinner, basil chicken. The rest was covered by a beautiful floral arrangement made out of pink cabbage and shredded carrots.
While I don’t recommend eating the flower, I highly recommend the basil chicken. The stir-fried dish featured white meat chicken tossed with basil leaves, green and red peppers, and red and yellow onions. It looked like a lot of food, it was a lot of food, but a lot of the plate was filled with vegetables so I convinced myself that I was actually eating light, despite cleaning my plate.
While I had never been to China Penn before, the restaurant was an old favorite for Julie and her family, at least while it operated a second location on State Hill Road in Wyomissing. Wanting to relive her past, she ordered one of her favorite menu items to start: egg drop soup.
It’s a little weird to think that it’s basically just chicken broth and eggs, but it’s still really good, and it’s easy to taste why it’s a go-to dish for so many people.
After our trip to Thaiwat last year, Julie developed a taste of Thai tea. And when she saw it on the China Penn menu, she could not resist the creamy, sweet drink.
For the main course, Julie went back to the Thai menu at the Thai BBQ chicken. Instead of the chunks of white meat that were stir-fried in my dish, Julie’s meal was served with a whole sliced chicken breast plus dark meat, layered among vegetables like green peppers, cabbage, onions and carrots.
The name is deceiving because there really is no barbecue sauce to speak of. Instead, the dish is served with a bowl of peanut sauce for dipping. The thick sauce had a heavy peanut flavor, but more natural than peanut butter. It made the perfect accompaniment for the dish.
Our meals totaled about $35, a little more than we were expecting, but we also weren’t expecting to get two bowls of soup and a cup of tea. All-in-all, it felt like we got more than our money’s worth.
It’s cliché to say that China Penn offers a world of flavors, but with three distinct menus featuring three distinct cuisines, maybe in this case, the cliché fits.
Ambiance: Very Good
4203 Perkiomen Ave
Reading, PA 19606