On the advice of a neighbor, Ms. Karen wanted to go to Linh Nam Chinese Restaurant on Ina Road. (Note to all you Tucsonans who pronounce “Ina” with a hard “I”, this road was named for a lady whose name was “Ee” na.)
Before leaving home, I looked up some online reviews. The ratings were all over the place. Some folks wrote that Linh Nam is the best Chinese they have ever tasted. Others basically said the food sucks. I told her that I didn’t see any good reason to dine there.
Leaving home, we drove up the street to pick up Neighbor Roy. Once in our car, Roy asked, “Where we are dining tonight.” Ms. Karen told him, “Linh Nam Chinese Restaurant on Ee’na.”
Roy wondered out loud if Linh Nam is the Chinese restaurant he once visited and had such a really negative experience. As we drove up to the restaurant and parked, Roy offered, “Yup, that’s the place.”
Linh Nam is in a strip mall just west of Thornydale on the north side of Ina Road. The proprietor has done a good job of making a small, nondescript space feel oriental. Fred greeted us and showed us to a table.
Fred may be the proprietor, I don't know. But he was definitely our server for the evening, and an exceptionally good one. Our drink orders were quickly filled. Roy ordered a hot tea. I had an iced tea with lemon, and Ms. Karen had a surprisingly good white wine: a Barefoot Chardonnay from California (Wow! Only $4.50 per glass).
We ordered the “Combination Appetizer” to share among the three of us: Crab Puffs, Fried Wontons, Chicken In Foil, Beef On A Stick, and Chicken On A Stick ($9.50). This dish came with sweet & sour sauce and spicy mustard. Teriyaki sauce was already on our table. Nothing special here, except that Karen liked the Crab Puffs.
Linh Nam’s menu is vast and includes many Oriental styles, including: Vietnamese; Szechuan; Kung Pao, Mandarin, Mongolian, Moo Shu, Peking, and Singapore.
So, How Was Dinner?
Roy ordered a Lo Mein dish with crispy noodles and beef, chicken and shrimp. He commented that his dish was high on noodles and low on meats. Worse from Roy's perspective, the noodles were not authentic Chinese house-made like the good ones he gets at Bamboo Terrace (his choice for Best in Tucson) and P.F. Chang on River.
Ms. Karen & I ordered the Family Style Dinner (B) ($13.99 ea.). Wonton Soup, Egg Roll, Crab Puffs, Chicken In Foil, Fried Shrimp, Egg Fried Rice, and choice of meats (for 2 people). She ordered Cashew Chicken and I ordered Mongolian Beef.
None of the 3 of us cared much for the Wonton Soup. And Neighbor Roy definitely did not like his Lo Mein dinner (although we noticed that he consumed it all). Ms. Karen & I declared our dinners to be a 3-Saguaro rating: OK, but nothing to write home about.
The total for our meals, including 2 glasses of wine, soups, appetizers, entrees and fortune cookies came to only $64.00, not including tip.
On the way home, we argued a bit about how to rate Linh Nam. Roy said he would not have given it more than 3-Saguaros. I agreed. However, Ms. Karen argued for an additional half saguaro because of the excellent service, appealing and inexpensive wine, and overall bargain in a pleasant Chinese setting. In other words, if you are in this neighborhood, the northwest side, looking for a relatively inexpensive Oriental meal, you might want to give Linh Nam a try. If you go, let us know if your experience is substantially different than ours.
Linh Nam Chinese Restaurant
3936 W. Ina Road
Tucson, AZ 85741