- 5680 S. 12th Ave., Tucson, AZ, 85777
- Overall User Rating:
- (0 ratings)
- Mon.-Fri. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
What was ordered: spicy house special ($4.99, orange chicken special ($4.99) for a total of $10.79, way under our Cheap Eats goal of a meal for two for less than $20.
Comments: Some people won’t set foot in a restaurant that fails a restaurant inspection. Some raise the bar higher, eschewing eateries that receive “needs improvement” or even “good” ratings.
For whatever reason, I’ve always had something of a morbid attraction to inspection-challenged eateries. On at least a few occasions, that trait has proven costly, gastronomically speaking. In the case of La Bella China, which failed a Sept. 29 inspection, my system seems to be holding up just fine.
You substantially reduce the risk of food poisoning and increase your chances of enjoying your dining experience at such establishments by opting for quality over quantity. That means going for cooked-to-order foods rather than grazing the selections that have been prepared in advance and sit on buffet for undetermined amounts of time. The $6.48 all-you-can-eat lunch special here, which includes all-you-can-drink fountain beverages, offers eight or so different options and seems to be popular with patrons. But we went with the $4.99 single-item lunch specials, which proved excellent values.
The specials came with a choice of egg flower or hot-and-sour soup. We tried both and were more impressed with the hot-and-sour variety, which had good flavor and a healthy smattering of mushrooms, tofu and bamboo shoots. The specials also included a scoop of serviceable if unspectacular, pseudo-fried rice and little vegetarian egg rolls about the length and thickness of your index finger.
The spicy house special consisted of surprisingly generous portions of decent-quality beef, chicken and shrimp with cabbage, onions, celery and carrots in a spicy brown sauce similar to what you’d encounter if you ordered satay or Mongolian beef. Though the celery was, for lack of a better word, gamey, the rest of the ensemble worked very well and provided a good kick of spicy heat. I’d order this one again.
My companion’s orange chicken was pretty much what we were expecting, breaded chunks of chicken in a corn-starchy, electric-looking sauce that was only slightly more citrusy than your basic sweet and sour sauce.
Service: Tableside service was prompt. La Bella China also offers delivery 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily
Bottom line: For $4.99, we were more than satisfied with the lunch deals, given the above-average soup offerings and the generous amount of featured entrees that came with the specials.
La Bella China won’t have you swooning in culinary bliss, but the no-nonsense fare is decently prepared, the dining room is clean and comfortable, and the price is right.