Monday, December 22, 2014

Lucky China

4038 Butler Hill Rd
St Louis, MO

Angel set us up for a weekend getaway at the Hampton Inn, a deluxe room with jacuzzi. This is the way we occasionally spoil ourselves. A simple plan. Get a great room, pick up some Chinese takeout, plug in the portable DVD player and binge watch season three of the TV series 'Justified'.
Most of that we could do at home, though not the jacuzzi part. However, the whole point was to get away  from distractions for one freakin' night. When you run a small business out of your home it is very, very easy to get distracted. Especially if that small business is populated by living, breathing, barking, furry animals.
The reason for this particular weekend was that my birthday was on Sunday.
Adam's was the day after, so leaving him alone at the house was as much a treat for him.
Angel had assumed the hotel was in Arnold. So we drove there. Oops, that's a Drury Inn, we were booked in a Hampton. So she fired up Tina, her new Tom-Tom GPS device and saw that we were about three miles away.
So up Lemay Ferry we went, just across the Meramec River into St. Louis County, then onto Butler Hill road and there it was.
The Place:
She'd checked ahead for a decent Chinese takeout place, but it was back in Arnold. So when we checked in, I asked the very helpful lady at the desk if there were any nearby Chinese places. She handed me a list of about twenty nearby restaurants with phone numbers. There were six or seven Chinese places on the list.
We saw a Walgreens from the hotel, Angel said she needed to pick something up anyhow, so we took a chance and just drove to it, hoping we'd see something on the way or nearby.
Just across from the Walgreens was a small shopping center, sure enough, in big bright red letters: 'Chinese Food'.
This is of course, kind of risky. Some Chinese places just aren't as good as others. Most don't have web sites so it's a little tough doing advance research. We didn't know this area very well either, so we didn't even have a recommendation.
There was a multi-page menu taped to the front window so we studied it first. It seemed to have everything we were after, so we crossed our fingers and marched in.

The Food:
A young Chinese man stepped up to the counter. Behind the counter, sitting on the floor, was an adorable little girl of about three or four, or maybe five or six, I can't tell anymore, poking away at an E-tablet. She also had earbuds in so she was completely absorbed and never even looked up.
Angel pointed at things on the counter menu, choosing three combo meals.
Three?
Yeah, three. It's the way we do things when we want a buffet but we want it at home. So she first asked for General Tso's, because sesame gets really, really sickly sweet after a while. next was the 'Cashew style' otherwise known as 'Springfield style' for those of us who know the center of the American style Chinese food universe. Then she picked a new one, Shrimp in Lobster Sauce. I liked the sound of that.
Each combo meal came with a couple of sides so when you do this, you get a pretty good variety. Fried rice, white rice and in this case, crab Rangoon.
We'd pre-packed a few paper plates and some real silverware, because we've done this before.
There was of course, about a ten minute wait. That's when I decided that we might be reviewing the place, if and only if it turned out to be good. This was a vacation and I didn't want to spoil it by blogging, so I hadn't planned on reviewing anything. But I had a feeling. So I went out front and started taking photos, just in case.
Soon enough, the food was brought out in a single thick bag by a young lady whose English was still a little rough, but we could make out that it sounded like what we ordered.
We got to the room, and laid out the spread on the buffet table. Well, okay, it was a desk, but a really wide one. As Angel opened everything I fiddled with the portable DVD and got it going on the big, swiveling, wall mounted flat panel.
I said it was a deluxe room, right?
"Wow." she said. I looked down. The containers were opened and what it was, well, 'pretty'. We're more accustomed to 'dump it into the bucket' joints. This actually looked arranged.
The glaze on the General's was beautiful, the bright steamed broccoli (blech!) lined up between the chicken and the rice. The rice itself was highlighted by some generous chunks of chicken.
The cashew style was generous with finely chopped veggies, it even had some of those tiny ears of corn. The Shrimp was enormous and bathed in a soup like sauce.
The wontons were all identically hand folded into a floral style.
It was almost too pretty to disturb.
We each filled our plates with a little of almost everything and pressed 'play' on the portable DVD.
Deputy U.S. Marshall Rayland Givens started off all fists and guns and hillbillies pushing dope and shooting each other. Perfect.
The best thing on the buffet, at least the thing that stood out the most, was the rangoons. They were crispy on all sides. Most places can't keep the bottoms crispy, Lucky had this perfect. All of them, the bottom as crisp as the edges.
It was all very, very good. Noticeably good, stand out good.
Summary:
I was planning to take the weekend off. The only reason I reviewed this place at all was because it was just that much better than most Chinese places. You know the ones I'm talking about. Everyone knows a place or two that they've tried once and decided never to go back to, even if that meant driving a little farther.
Hillsboro has one of those. We ordered there once, never again. I've never reviewed it or uttered it's name and I don't plan on ever reviewing it. I just don't care for Chinese food when I know it is going to be disappointing.
But Lucky is a standout. If there weren't thirty other Chinese joints between my house and Lucky's I'd make it our new go-to place. We will certainly go there again whenever we make it back up to that particular area of South County.


Epilogue:
In the morning we had some complimentary coffee, packed up and headed out. We decided to find some breakfast. Angel had located a Denny's down the road. I mean, road breakfast = Denny's right?
So we went in to the really crowded and busy place, were seated and offered drinks. I needed more coffee, we'd watched a LOT of 'Justified' the night before. Angel asked for orange juice.
We glanced at the seasonal menu appendix. Not being a fan of 'pumpkin' as a flavor, in anything, we both quickly passed on that card.
In the main menu, I thought for a moment about the country fried steak, but settled for a grand slam instead. Four breakfast items any combination. I went for biscuit, bacon, hash browns and two eggs, over medium. Angel also asked for hash browns to go with her scrambled eggs, ham and English muffin.
I thought about asking for juice too, the coffee didn't seem to be very good. Not old or bitter, just not right, maybe too weak.
The eggs weren't pretty like those you get at Waffle House, they were dull and flat. There was about a pound of butter in a ramekin for the one biscuit and there were more hash browns than anything else. A disproportionate amount. As far as feeding the eye this was not as pretty as the pictures. It looked rushed and unenthusiastic. The hash browns were done, but just barely. We like them crisp at least a little bit. They weren't bad, but they sure could have used a little more time on the grill. The eggs, a little less, it was barely runny. We were fed, but not quite pleased.
Waffle House would have been a much better choice.

Post-Epilogue Final Wrap-up and. Conclusion:
 Overall it was quite a nice weekend getaway. We had a good time, had time to really relax, got plenty of uninterrupted sleep. We were still talking about the previous evening's 'buffet' on the short drive home. We were packing leftovers.
So if anyone asks, I'm proud to say we 'got Lucky' that night and recommend everyone we know to do the same.





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