Nice Time Deli - Irvine
I've reviewed Nice Time Deli before. But Nice Time Deli is no longer what it used to be: it's prettier now. It gleams like Steve Wynn got through with it. I went in recently after a long absence and didn't recognize the place.
This is the extreme makeover it desperately needed. Amazing what a few new chairs, a fresh paint job, and pendant lamps can do to a restaurant that previously looked so depressing it seemed like a droopy caricature of every long-toothed Asian hole-in-the-wall on SGV's Valley Blvd. stuck sometime in the early 80s.
After decades of service, I think it came to a point where the menus were practically disintegrating and the tables were buffed down to bald spots where thousands of elbows had rested.
These days, Nice Time Deli is looking fresher than even Tapioca Express a few doors down, which used to be the new kid on the block, now itself a little worn.
Of course, as with any cosmetic surgery, there is a cost: the dishes have all increased in price by a few cents here, a few dollars there.
But in my opinion, they still make the best fried pork chop at any price. And it's the real reason I keep coming. Not for the surroundings. Not even for the noodle soup that my pork chop came with.
The latter is like the bread in a Langer's pastrami sandwich--essential, but only because you'd feel silly eating the pastrami plain with a knife and fork. You order the noodle soup for the pork chop, not the other way around.
It's as wide as baseball mitt, slit into finger-like flaps up the bone and then covered in an impossibly golden, crunchy, bubbled covering of batter that's fused to every inch of meat. Every bite rattles your teeth with its crackle and singes your upper palate because it's hot out of the fryer. It is, all at once, sugary, peppery, salty, crispy and chewy -- a deep fried pork concoction that fulfills your chicken-fried food jones ten times over.
Yes, Nice Time Deli may look like it belongs in the Bellagio now. But that pork chop would taste good even if it remained as dated as Circus Circus.
Nice Time Deli
5408 Walnut Ave
Irvine, CA 92604
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