Yao’s authentic Chinese food winning customers over in Orange

ORANGE >> Guangmin Yao wanted the word “diner” to be part of his new restaurant’s name because of its homey connotation, but his “Yao’s Diner” certainly isn’t about heaps of comfort food as implied by its name.

Instead, Yao, a master chef with years of experience in China and America, serves the most authentic Chinese cuisine, popping with fresh vegetable and flavors, spices that tantalize and a taste that’s artful.

The restaurant opened recently at 514 Boston Post Road in a small plaza across from Bob’s Discount Furniture, in a spot that was long home to an Italian restaurant, then briefly a Vietnamese pho restaurant.

“For every chef, his dream is to open a restaurant,” Yao said through the interpretation of his daughter, Jenny Yao, 19. “So far, so good.”

Yao and his wife, Xuan Chen, were given the opportunity to open their own place through Norwalk restaurant owner Charles Eaton, who along with his wife, who is Chinese, opened a pho restaurant in the spot in Orange, but saw after six months that the Vietnamese soup wasn’t going over big in Orange, Eaton said. Pho is a Vietnamese soup.

Eaton, retired psychologist and U.S. Marine veteran who served during the Cuban Missile Crisis and in Vietnam, and his wife have for three years owned the popular Q’s Viet-PHO Restaurant in Norwalk.

They knew of Yao’s chef talent through the restaurant business and asked if he would take over their failed spot.

Eaton, who has traveled the world and been to China seven times for long periods, said, “This is the best authentic Chinese food I’ve ever had …The food is amazing.”

Yao’s Diner, open seven days a week, offers dozens of mouth-watering dishes made with lamb, seafood, shrimp, chicken, beef, fresh Chinese and American vegetables, and authentic soups and noodles. Yao shops each day for fresh produce and other products.

Yao gave visitors from the Register a taste of several of his dishes and in layman’s terms, every bite was scrumptious and definitely calls for a return visit.

A family recently dining in the new restaurant said the food was fresh and tasty.

“Authentic Chinese food has a very unique taste and I’d say it’s quite authentic,” said Steve Xue of Woodbridge.

The atmosphere is authentic, too: Glass-topped tables set with chopsticks, tea pots, cups and some serving dishes imported from China and a huge painting (reproduction) of people and activities at the Qingming Festival, painted by Song dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan. The painting, “Along the River During the Qingming Festival,” considered the most renowned in China, is often referred to as that country’s “Mona Lisa,” according to a written piece on the work supplied to diners.

Guangmin Yao came to the United States from China 10 years ago and his wife and daughter joined him here five years ago. The family lives in West Haven, and while Jenny works there part-time, she also attends Southern Connecticut State University where she’s majoring in accounting.

The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 9 p.m.