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Update: ChinMi is closed.

In a word: A riddle wrapped in seaweed inside a gas station.

The specs: #0082
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; Sara with no H's review.

Latest ChinMi news and reviews

JM ate the pepper steak.
John ate the sweet and sour chicken.
Nichole ate a piece of unagi (eel) and the curry udon with coffee.
The bill was $34, or $11.33/person, plus tip.
John gave ChinMi a π; JM gave ChinMi a B- ; Nichole still can't decide whether to give ChinMi an A or a C (see our grading rubric).

We've had some fabulous and memorable meals, but there's none we'll remember like we'll remember ChinMi. If Madison is 64 square miles surrounded by reality, ChinMi has taken a little bit of Madison to Verona.

The restaurant used to be on Henry St., and some sources still seem to think it is. Given ChinMi's downtown pedigree and that we planned to go on a Friday night, Nichole thought calling ahead for a reservation would be a wise move. The Daily Page gave their hours as an impressive 6am to 10pm, and indeed, someone did take her booking for 3 when she called at 8am.

When we arrived, it became quickly apparent that reservations weren't necessary, or even written anywhere.

ChinMi/Cenex exterior

ChinMi is now housed where the Verona Hometown Restaurant used to be. Customers enter via a Cenex station and pass by a counter where regulars drink coffee and play Lottery pull tabs.

Click to view detail: ChinMi/Hometown Restaurant mugs

JM's pepper steak was unremarkable but filling and left enough for a doggie bag.  John's opinion of his sweet and sour chicken was about the same.  Neither good nor bad, it was just there.  Both of them felt a little cheated that their rice was put on a plate with an ice cream scoop.

Cafeteria-style scoop rice

John also noticed that out of the seven dishes we ate from, only two matched one another.

Though the adage "Don't get sushi at a truck stop" would seem to hold, Nichole's piece of unagi wasn't too bad. She might not get it again, however.

Unagi and egg roll

The curry udon. Udon: check. Reminiscent of packaged ramen, only bigger. Curry: check. Typical flavor and use of potatoes, carrots, and onions. Atypical meat. What was that springy, pinkish, salty meat? It was so familiar. It was ... corned beef.

Corned beef in curry udon

By this point we weren't at all sure we were not having a group hallucination. We took pictures - pictures that have come back blurred, due to what we believe is the strange energy surrounding ChinMi. Note the waving cat:

Saluting golden cat statue/clock... we think

and the fortune cookie suspended in midair:

JM's cookie standing under its own power

Before we left, Nichole asked the very kind server what kinds of toast they offered. The Pinkwateresque spirit of ChinMi was confirmed when her answer came back, "White, wheat, and raisin." Hence Nichole's ambivalence about ChinMi. It transcends good and evil. It just serves food; it doesn't cultivate an image or target a market niche. It just is. Go and see for yourself.

ChinMi, as we remember it


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This is the funniest posting yet. I think there was seriously some weird energy in that place--you have the pictures to prove it!!!

Great story, awesome pictures. Nasty food. :)

By the way, I was just reading the Isthmus Dining Guide ... when I turned the page, and there you were! In color and everything. You are both so cute. Bravo!

The nastiest chinese food i have ever had in my life

I rather enjoyed the review. I am responding because I am a regular at the "energetic" ChinMi.

What wasn't mentioned in your review was the availability of American cuisine. The restaurant has combined a rather interesting truck stop approach with an Asian/American twist.

Weekend mornings are usually busy, and for the Madison belittled smoking crowds, yes Chinmi’s smoking area is large enough to accommodate them.

I think Chinmi is doing a fine job in a town, where the Hometown Family Restaurant and Truck Stop once ruled. If you still want a “hometown” feeling. Stop in on a weekend.

Face it guys, in reality, your camera was from Walmart. Right? Cheers!!

Thanks for your comment! OK, I'll cop to it - the blurry photos are my fault - taken when I was new to working without a flash.

I'm sure ChinMi does truck stop food proud. None of us doubted that they'd do burgers and breakfasts just fine, and the raisin toast is a mark of quality. Instead we tested the Asian fare and learned that sushi lovers shouldn't make a special trip (unless, as you rightly note, they like Marlboros with their tekka maki).

After seeing a variety of such odd ball oriental-ish resturants out here...the culprit could be SPAM! Of course that doesn't explain the strange texture.

When they were off of State they were a really good stop for Sushi/Noodle dishes. It's sad to hear they have lost some of their charm and flavor when they moved.

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