Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oriental Buffet

774 S. Truman Blvd.

Festus, MO.

Angel had a hankering for Chinese and there was no use trying to change her mind, not that we objected. We decided to return to the new-ish Chinese buffet in Festus, the one that we visited just after it opened. At that time the place didn’t fare very well, but it was new and I’ll always excuse first-week issues.

The Place:

In a strip mall just south of Highway A on Truman Blvd. It sits near the Great Clips, the place I get my hair styled. Inside it was still clean and neat, no used or mismatched furniture. The front counter was inviting and surrounded by Chinese bric-a-brac, jade statues, cork carvings, the usual. To the right of the counter stood a three foot long yellow, jade-looking Chinese style ship. The various nooks and crannies of the ship were stuffed with coins and dollar bills. I immediately concluded that the money would be used to fund terrorism. Angel rejected that perfectly rational notion, she’s naïve about the ways of the real world.

We were immediately seated near the back. Our table was directly beneath a speaker and Chinese-ish music played quite loudly. I’m not that familiar with Chinese music but this sounded like it was being played on slightly off-key harmonicas and zithers.* Our drink orders were taken as we stood behind our respective chairs, tea, tea, Coke. The young Asian lady nodded her head politely and scampered off. We bee-lined it for the buffet.

The Food:

We all three bypassed the sushi counter because nobody should have to eat that stuff. There was a dessert bar and a salad bar that we also passed up. There were two bars for main courses, the typical chicken, shrimp, pork, beef, rice and noodles, and (blech!) fried frog legs. I served up just a small portion of the things I like, a couple of chunks of General Tso’s a couple more of the honey-glazed chicken, a small portion of the brownish rice, seven or eight noodles, a rangoon, some bacon wrapped krab, and some (as labeled) buttered ‘popatoes’. (fried potato chunks). I stopped only when the plate was crowded but not overflowing. Angel and Adam were already at the table, there was very little conversation. The tea had been delivered, it was awful.

The food was in many cases just fine, there were some exceptions though. The rice was bland, uninteresting. What veggie bits there were in it tasted just like the rice. The noodles were better but maybe a bit too sweet. The chickens were all tender and fresh, quite tasty. The ‘house beef’ was awful, dry, tough, leathery, chewy. The rangoon was limp and the filling was a bit too sweet. The bacon/krab thing was quite good, it’s hard to screw up bacon. The krab it surrounded was completely tasteless, Adam called it the tofu of the sea. Angel asked me about the rangoon, I replied that it was a bit flaccid. (obvious joke deleted) She responded that the reason she didn’t get any was that they’re always that way, as if they’d been baked or steamed rather than deep-fried. I finished my plate and just sat for a moment, Angel did as well. We discussed the various items and the merits of each.

From my vantage point I could see the front door. In walked a young lady in a high maintenance hairdo, a little too much makeup, and wearing what I can only describe as a party dress, shiny, frilly, cut low at the highest points and high at the lowest points, exposing more cleavage and gams than you would normally find just around town. Very shortly after she walked in the door opened and in walked a clutch of three or four others in similar style. Angel noticed me staring (ogling), and turned to look, Adam did too, as I fully expected him to.

“Must be something going on.” Angel said. I continued staring because I’m a guy and that’s just what we do.

“Yep, I just can’t imagine why they’re here” I answered.

“Prom?” Angel asked?

“Too early in the year” Adam replied.

“What do you mean ‘prom’?” I snapped.

“What do you think they’re dressed like that for?” Angel fired back accusingly.

“Duh, hello! They’re prostitutes and they’re dressed for work!”

Adam laughed, Angel didn’t. “Keep our voice down, they’re not prostitutes, they’re just kids”

I laughed. “Like you would know, look at them all primped up beyond reasonable neighborhood standards, showing more skin than any innocent person would ever, and they’ve got boobs. They’re not kids, they’re prostitutes!”

“They’re teenagers, teenagers have boobs too.” She scolded, scoldingly.

“Not where I come from they don’t! Not the good Christian teenagers anyhow. Not that I ever saw.”

The girls/prostitutes walked past then disappeared into a back room.

“Where did they go?” Adam asked.

“Hello, party time! They went to the party room.”

“Just shut up.” Angel abruptly concluded the conversation.

We went for seconds, as my first portions were rather small I pretty much just got more of the same. Less rice, more noodles, another rangoon because a limp rangoon is always better than no rangoon. Angel and Adam got stuff that included broccoli which disappointed me. I don’t really like to be seen in public with broccoli eaters. They said it was good but I assume that’s what they are programmed to say by the talking heads on the Food Network. Some of those fanatics, food-fascists, are worse than Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck in their mindless ranting about ‘fresh, healthy veggies.’

The prostitutes came and went, always attached to cell phones, likely checking in with their pimps, johns, tricks and parole officers. They seemed happy but I knew that it was a just a façade, I watch the lifetime channel, I know how tortured and drug-addled they really are. It troubled me that this nice restaurant was a front for such illicit activities. Angel was too, I was sure, as she didn’t want to even think about it. She merely told me to shut up every time I brought up my displeasure and righteous disgust.**

Angel and I went back for dessert, she got brown pudding and a little cookie that she all but spat out when she realized it was made almost entirely of coconut. I was smarter and got the bananas with red sauce, some apple salad, and some yellow pudding. I was quite pleased and spat nothing out.

Summary.

We discussed this meal at length and reached a consensus. Some of the offerings were quite good, some not at all. At a buffet you can pick and choose, so it’s pretty hard to be completely disappointed. The bill came to thirty four dollars and change, a real bargain. For this price, even if only a couple of items are appealing to you can eat as much as you want. The tea was terrible, I highly recommend asking for plain water instead. The chairs were stylish, but too soft, like a living room chair that hardly anyone ever actually sits in for any length of time.

All that being said, this buffet is geographically closer to our home than any of the others we’ve tried, and none of the others in the area is really all that much better. It is likely in the future that when we crave Chinese that we will return. It’s cheap, close and some of the food doesn’t suck. I’ll rate it a three out of a possible seven chopsticks. Springfield MO. is still the Mecca of Midwestern style Chinese food.

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*Zither: (n) a musical instrument consisting of a flat shallow sound-box with metal strings stretched across it that are plucked. (Encarta Dictionary)

The Chinese version of this is called a ‘guzheng’, which is probably the incorrect spelling, not that it matters, I wouldn’t pronounce it correctly anyhow. The earliest guzheng was found in the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng, in Suizhou, Hubei, China, dated around 433 BCE. Which is probably why it sounded off-key.

** The fancy-dressed ladies. The following morning I returned to the area for a haircut. I was serviced by the chattiest lady in the joint, she just went on, and on, and on. At one point she queried one of the other stylists in her sing-songy, shrill voice: “So Brandi, how was homecoming last night?”

I passed this information on to Angel when I got home. “Oh that explains it.” She said. I was baffled. “That explains nothing!” I shouted very quietly. “Why would they allow prostitutes at a homecoming?” She, of course, had no answer for that.

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