Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Super Chinese Buffet

2204 Michigan Ave
Arnold, MO

Some people never learn, others just take a bit longer. In our case we are the latter. This past Saturday we headed to Arnold to try the Texas Roadhouse. I know, I know I’ve ranted for a few long sessions about Arnold, but bear with me.*
Earlier on Saturday during my writers society meeting a fellow member, who also happens to be a fan of this quaint blog, approached me and handed me what looked like a business card. “It’s a call ahead card.” she said. Sure enough that’s what the card said. Not a reservation number, but a number to call ahead a few minutes before expected arrival to get on the waiting list.
So without really thinking it through we headed out. About the time we reached Pevely I used Angel’s cellular telephone and made the call. There was no answer, there was no voice mail or answering machine, it just rang and rang and rang. So I tried again a couple of minutes later. Nothing. Not even the common courtesy of having a robot voice tell me how important my call was. There was not even the courtesy of a thick accented guy in Bangalore or Delhi mangling my question, nor even a whimsical “Pulse el dos para Español”, just ring, ring, ring, ad infinitum.**
Angel, occasionally the optimist, thought and offered an explanation: “Maybe they turned it off because there is no line.” I mentally sighed and rolled my eyes.
Sure enough the place was packed again. I went in alone to check the wait time. A middle aged couple were on a bench in the waiting area along with what looked to be about a thousand other people. “How long’s the wait?” I innocently queried. “Don’t know, we called ahead and now we’ve been here at least a half hour.” He replied, exasperated. I approached the hostess stand swimming through a thick sea of mumbling Arnoldians. As I neared I saw the hostess’ lips move and form the phrase “About an hour” to another potential customer. I went no further.
I returned to the puppy-mobile and reported the news. I made a proclamation. “Family pay heed!” I started. “How good the food is in this place is completely irrelevant. It is not available to us in a perfectly reasonable window of time, even on a quite ordinary Saturday evening, therefore the quality of the food that we can not get too is completely meaningless!” Angel and Adam cooed with respect and admiration.
“Furthermore, dear family, I cannot recommend this establishment to anyone, friend or foe, rich or poor, lively or vapid. We have given this place two good tries; both times they have left us standing hungry in the cold. I can only infer that they do not want us inside, they do not want our hard earned credit, they simply do not want us as patrons!” Adam and Angel cheered and applauded, the air in the SUV was becoming electric. “We shall leave these grounds, never, ever to return. We will not beg, we will not cower, we will not subject ourselves further to this demeaning exercise! This place is not only dead to us; it will be as if it never existed at all!” The cheers rolled forward, the crowd went wild, horns blared around us, and somewhere I am quite sure, large sweaty growling Scottish men were lifting their kilts, baring and slapping their muscular backsides in avid support.
So we avowed to never return. You will never, ever, ever see a review of that particular place in this space. I do not solely blame that establishment, whose name I will never again utter. The blame goes to the people in and around Arnold that tolerate this sort of thing. Who waits for over an hour, just to be seated in a Texas-themed steak house? There are decent steaks at dozens of other places nearby. Why do you fools pack yourselves in to a place that is likely no better than Outback, Ruby Tuesday’s or Ponderosa? What is wrong with you people? You look like a bunch of yelping, drooling hyenas packed around a week old zebra carcass. There’s other food available people, within walking distance in fact!
Enough of that, for now.

So we went to the 'Super Chinese Buffet' down the road. There was no crowd and we waited less than five minutes to be seated. Once shown our seats we rushed to the lines and piled it high, returning as often as we liked, on our own terms.

The Place:
A shopping center in Arnold, next door to an excellent hobby store. The place was full, but efficiently managed. There was that quick wait, hardly noticeable. The place was tidy, and decorated a little on the darker side with the obligatory oriental theme. The tables were separated by a panel of wood, topped with glass. Between the glass panes were rural hillside scenes in carved cork. The light fixtures were made to look like traditional oriental lamps, tasteful and appropriate. The wall paper was textured, classy and clean, the carpet was copper colored with blue and yellow geometric patterns, not too worn down.
The tables we small and close. I sat facing the buffet lines, Angel and Adam sat opposite, facing me, as they should.

The Food:
The variety at this particular buffet is superior to the other buffets we’ve covered. There is a line for sushi-like offerings, one for Midwestern palettes; macaroni, fried chicken, etc. A fairly ignored salad line, and two or three dual sided lines of typical Chinese-ish offerings. Nothing really unique, but there was a generous variety.
As I usually do, I made up a sampler plate, just a tablespoon’s worth of everything that looked as though it might be good. This was really just to set up for the second round, which I call the ‘binge’ round, made up of only my favorites among the sampled, piled high enough to stuff into my face until I can no longer breathe.
I took notes while sampling, some of which are actually legible:
Angel remarked “Not enough veggies.”
Pot stickers: Very good.
Mong Beef: Ahlt tolufch ( I have no idea)***
Spicey chicken: IS!
Spicey shrimp: Not very.
Rice: Very good.
Noodles: pasty
Rangoons: twisted, misshapen, non-uniform, but tasty.
Mong Pork: A++
Gen Tso: Not so good.
Cashew chicken. Not bad but not prepared like any cashew chicken that I’ve ever had.
Chick on stick: too much ginger.
Bannanas with red sauce: Awesome! Even more so with a side of fresh strawberries!
Tea-refresher guy: Brusque, harried, or perhaps just rushed.


Summary:
Polling the family afterwards they concurred. It was good, the variety was nice, but nothing really stood out as being that much better or much worse than the other buffets we’ve critiqued. Better overall than the new place in Festus, but just not quite as good as the Oriental Buffet/Buffet Oriental in South County.
We’ll give it a ninety, and sure we’ll recommend it if you happen to be much closer to it than you are to Buffet Oriental/Oriental Buffet.

Coming up next: We will NOT be going to Arnold! I promise! I’ve had it with that useless town. It ought to be completely razed and the soil poisoned with salt.
We’re thinking maybe Imperial, we found a couple of possibilities there.
____________________________________

* “Bear with me.” A funny thing, as often as I’ve uttered that phrase or heard it, I don’t think I have ever actually written it. I looked at it and couldn’t figure out whether is should be ‘Bare’ or ‘Bear’. So I looked it up. It turns out you ‘bear’ with me much like you ‘bear’ a child. To do likewise, to ‘bare’ either would actually be A. Entertaining for me, not so much for you, and B. Illegal in most of the civilized world. Although there are web sites form Germany and a couple of the former Soviet states that celebrate entire families baring with each other. I won’t post a link, but you can see for yourself by using someone else’s computer in a secluded location and Google-ing “ Russian family nudism” , or something close to that. I will admit that I accidentally came across just such a site once while I was researching my own family history, a completely innocent mistake I assure you.

**Ad infinitum: Latin; “To infinity”
“ Ad infinitum et ultra!” Is therefore the proper Latin translation of Buzz Lightyear’s tagline: “To infinity and beyond!"

*** “Ahlt tolufch” On later reflection it occurred to me that the Mongolian beef was a little tough. So that’s obviously what I wrote. My mouth must have been full.

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