Best New Restaurants: No. 6 – Cate Zone Chinese Cafe

It takes a lot for a Chinese restaurant to make a splash on Olive Boulevard, but Cate Zone Chinese Cafe’s (8146 Olive Blvd., University City) regional cuisine has attracted lengthy wait times since it opened on the highly competitive corridor last November.

Cate Zone’s interior is casual and understated, adorned with black-and-white photos of NYC and wallpaper crisscrossed with the names of subway stops. The distinct lack of flash, pageantry or stereotypical decor (not a dragon, shrine or fish tank in sight), puts all of the attention squarely where it belongs: on the food.

Your server may not speak perfect English, but don’t be afraid to ask questions and solicit recommendations. The menu has plenty of familiar dishes – the sweet and sour pork, killer stir-fried noodles and crispy eggplant would please any palate – but Cate Zone sets itself apart by offering up a bevy of traditional favorites from northeastern China.

Off-cuts make myriad adept appearances in dishes like pork jelly and tripe in chile sauce. Don’t miss the super fresh and healthy-feeling Korean cold noodle dish in a slightly sweet broth with cucumber and kimchi. Want to expand your culinary horizons? Get in the Zone.

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine.