Sunday, April 04, 2010

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
(949) 654-8542
5408 Walnut Ave
Irvine, CA 92604

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18 Comments:

At 7:48 AM, Blogger Bill said...

I've eaten in this area but never really tried NTD I wish I did.

 
At 8:20 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Actually, Nice Time Deli changed décor a while ago when they changed owners. The cooks are still roughly the same with the same basic recipes. But if you look at the name of the place, even though english is the same, the Chinese name has changed. It used to be 好年東 (Good Year East), now it's 好年春 (Good Year Spring).

You should also try to szechuan place that's right across the little alley/street, they're not bad.

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

miJust want you to know I went to Lua Bistrot for my Birthday dinner. The place is really nice inside. Hip, minimalistic decor.

The staff is so extremely friendly and try so hard. Service is generally good, but they miss some of the finer points. Its not their fault, you just kinda expect fine dining because of the way the place looks, but you have to remind yourself that you are paying really cheap prices to keep persepctive. I don't want to imply that the service is bad, because its actually pretty good, especially for the price.

They don't speak the best english so be careful with the menu. We asked about the seared ahi and they said it was really big and were lead to beleive it was an entree. Turns out it was an appetizer. So we had to order another entree after it came out and it came out 15 minutes after everyone else was served their meals.

I ordered the filet. I suggest no one does this. Because its $9.00 more ($17.95) than the steak and eggs and looks the same and you don't get the fried egg. Its a tiny bit smaller, but still big! Same sauce, same sides. They say rib eye for the steak & eggs, but I think they use the same kinda meat for both entrees an very tasty.

The steak fries are very garlicy, maybe a bit overboard (and I really love garlic) I had it on my breath all night and could not get it out for a couple of days. The meat was rally tender and tasted great!

We all got the soup of the day which was cream of carrot. It was only $2.95!!! It was so good and smooth and velvety. Very rich with lots of carot sweetness. As good as anywhere!

Rotissere Chicken is good, but a little too heavy on the garlic.

They also give you a free creme brulee at the end.

We got avacoda shakes too. They are very very avocady...not very sweet.

3 people with apps, bottle of Sterling Wine, desert, soups about $100!!!!

Be careful on the menu, he would describe some of the apps as "clams" when in fact they are oysters. If you can navigate your way, you will be fine!

 
At 10:23 AM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Good to know! I'd visit except for the fact it's quite far from UCI which I usually go to during the weekends :). Nice Time Deli in my area are all gone. There's a new Nice Time Deli now in Arcadia but it just has a small yellow sign and not the full signage. Plus it's ultra dark inside so I'm not very willing to visit.

 
At 11:09 AM, Blogger joanh said...

squid potage! that's what we usually end up there for. i can't believe it's all shiny and pretty now..

 
At 2:27 PM, Anonymous JB said...

I am curious about the pricing of the Pork Chop Noodle Soup.
Also, as much as I know you, Elmo, will [like me] fall in love with one thing on the menu and order it every time, am wondering if you or anyone else could recommend other things they serve?

 
At 3:45 PM, Blogger Greg said...

@eattraveleat - if you're coming down all the way from arcadia, NTD is not far away at all. In fact, if you take the 5, it's actually right there. NTD is Walnut/Jeffrey... Even if you're coming from campus, it's only a 10 minute drive (if that) down University/Jeffrey.

@JB - it's like 6.95? I haven't been there in a while... Their chicken thigh is also very good. In fact, I used to go there more for the chicken than the fried pork chop. Their other noodle dishes are generally the same fare. The salmon fried rice is just ok.

 
At 4:05 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Bill,

I practically ate there weekly when I was in college. Cheap. Good. And oh yeah, cheap.

Greg,

Ah! Thanks for the information. I had no idea about the ownership change. Makes perfect sense now. And I've come close to trying Chong Qing Mei Wei, but I have to be in the right mood to be setting my whole mouth on fire.

DD,

Great review! All you need now is some pictures and you've got yourself a blog post. Glad to know that they're using the same (or similar) meat for the $8.95 dish. Even more glad that you had a great time. Happy belated birthday!

EatTravelEat,

Yeah, when I'm in Arcadia, I'm eating at DTF. Oh and I just found your Nice Time Deli post! You have a nice picture of the interior even!

joanh,

Need to try that and just order the pork chop on the side, which is actually not as economical, now that I think about it. Better idea: I'll just have someone else order the pork chop noodle so that I can just steal it.

JB,

The pork chop noodle is $6.45 now. Used to be $5.25 three or four years ago (if I recall correctly). Here's the full menu (and more pics) courtesy of Eileen . I rarely stray from from the pork chop noodles, but I also like the oyster omelet as an app.

Also they put the pork chop on top of rice too, which ground pork, tofu and egg cooked in soy sauce. that one's pretty darned good too.

 
At 9:15 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

That looks SO good. I bookmarked the place.

Also reminds me I want to make pork schnitzel again soon...

 
At 12:11 AM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Elmomonster,
You mean my DTF post? Or is it the last comment? ;)


Greg,
Aha! So it wouldn't be that far if I wasn't so lazy to drive. For us it's usually about 20 minutes from Bison from 210-605-405-73 route which we usually take for going to UCI. Or maybe it's lack of local knowledge as our GPS loves to take longer routes in our local area. :) We pass by a lot of businesses while we drive to the NTD area.

 
At 3:07 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Nice Time Deli is one of the only places you have reviewed that I have actually eaten at! (With the exception of Zingerman's in A2, and a couple of other places.) I fondly remember it as one of my three favorite Irvine dining experiences. The other two being Taiko and Thanh. (I think I spelled that right.) I will have to make a point to revisit this new and improved NTD

 
At 8:24 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Melissa,

*slap hand on forehead* schnitzel! That's what this is like exactly! Except crunchier.

ETE,

I'm sorry. I had a brain fart. For some reason I mixed up Eileen's post with yours. Yikes. I need more sleep!

Juliet,

It's also one Irvine restaurant that has survived all these years. Taiko is also on that list!

 
At 8:38 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

BTW,

I don't know why Blogger has decided to suddenly delete the first two comments by Bill and Greg. Blogger sucks.

 
At 9:05 AM, Blogger Greg said...

@elmo - blogger hates me, that's why.

Luckily, I had my previous comment cached:

Actually, Nice Time Deli changed décor a while ago when they changed owners. The cooks are still roughly the same with the same basic recipes. But if you look at the name of the place, even though english is the same, the Chinese name has changed. It used to be 好年東 (Good Year East), now it's 好年春 (Good Year Spring).

You should also try to szechuan place that's right across the little alley/street, they're not bad.


A bit more about the szechuan place, of course the best stuff are the spicy (and beyond spicy dishes) but their 米線 (rice noodle) is not bad.

@EatTravelEat - Ya, okay, if you're at the 73/Bison intersection, easiest way is to continue down Bison towards campus then make a left turn on Mesa and then right turn on University and in about 4 miles, you'll get to Jeffrey/Walnut which is where NTD is. It's definitely not that far from campus.

 
At 9:06 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Oh, I'd just like to add that the rice noodle is not a spicy dish.

 
At 1:36 PM, Anonymous Evelyn said...

Funny how you referenced Las Vegas and Nice Time Deli in the same post... I went there after returning from staying in Las Vegas just yesterday. It has become a family regular restaurant... The waitresses recognize my family now. Haha

The store has changed owners, I believe. Primary reason for the change.

The pork chop is great! But you CAN order it by itself. Just ask for it. It goes well with the lamb fried rice. It's not too silly to eat it by itself, though. It's considered a "小吃"... streetfood/snack food.

May I suggest a reallyyy good Chinese restaurant? Try Mandarin Restaurant in Fountain Valley. It is superb, and the restaurant is very spacious/airy. Nice ambiance and great food!

 
At 3:40 PM, Blogger Greg said...

@evelyn - ya, the pork chop rice is good too. The lamb fried rice must be a new thing, I haven't been there in ages.

Mandarin Restaurant 中華餐館 over there in FV (Brookhurst/Ellis, right across the street from Shinsengumi) used to be in Irvine for years over where that Jamillah restaurant is now. Loved it and I go to Mandarin Restaurant all the time.

 
At 3:17 PM, Blogger Shanti Acupuncture said...

this is still my favorite place to go when i go to irvine. It was the place of choice for me and my husband when we were dating back at UCI. Its been 10+ years and we still loooove this place! And the waitress even knows what we want to eat as soon as we sit down. :-P

 

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