Monday, August 10, 2015

Oriental Buffet

774 S. Truman Blvd.
Festus, Mo.

After last week's very disappointing Chinese (Panda Express) meal, we needed to refresh our palates. One of the most telling indicators that the food wasn't that good was that no one ever touched any of the leftovers. Angel says that's a sure sign that it was just wrong.
So we decided to go to a decent Chinese place and rub the Panda's face in it.
The Place:
Less than one mile south of, and on on the same road as Panda.  PE is on a lot just north of the big Walmart, Oriental Buffet is in a shopping center on the lot south of Wally World. Yeah, that close. It doesn't appear that their business has suffered much from the big Hibachi Grill, also less than a mile away, or the mighty Panda. OB looked as clean, well staffed and popular as ever. Overhead, twangy Chinese instrumentals played quietly, as if a part of nature itself.
The steamer trays were loaded up. The first station, for  sushi, was offering pretty and colorful stuff in sticky rice, stuff that I will never take. I just don't like sticky rice.
We were greeted at the front counter and immediately led to a four top in the middle of the tidy dining area. Without even sitting down, we gave our drink orders, tea, tea and coke and were pointed toward the ample serving area. Yeah, that fast.
The Food:
The offerings at Panda were very limited. Not here, I counted seven or eight types of chicken, several types of shrimp and other seafood, including frog legs, lots of wrapped fried things, different kinds of rice and noodles, a whole station for salads, another for desserts. . .  you get the point.
We loaded up. As usual I took small samples of lots of things, rice, noodles five different chickens, bourbon, honey, orange, black pepper and General Tso. I also grabbed a spring roll a rangoon, a couple of fried shrimp and some pepper beef. In other words, everything I 'd had from the Panda, plus much more.
By the time we returned to the table, the drinks were waiting. It just doesn't get faster from order to forkful than this.
Angel's plate looked similar, though she'd also found some sauteed green beans and had some chicken on a stick. Adam had some of his favorites, broccoli (blech!), white rice and sweet and sour chicken. I like sweet and sour, but for some reason, buffets around here think that the chicken for it needs to be coated like a corn dog in breading. When I make sweet and sour at home, it's no different than that for the other sauce/coating options, very lightly breaded, just enough to make it crisp.
The first thing I dug into was the noodles. I love noodles. But I like fried rice as well. This poses a dilemma at some non-buffet Chinese places, noodles or rice, rice or noodles. That's why I love a buffet, I can get both.
Angel  and I agree, the rice here was so much better than at the Panda. Which is ridiculous, fried rice
is one of the simplest things to make. You certainly don't crowd it with veggies, especially corn. Who puts corn in fried rice? But I repeat myself.
Even Hibachi, the colossal buffet on the nearby hill makes better rice, and chicken and everything else. Even though when we did a two night comparison a while back, Hibachi lost out a little to the Oriental Buffet.
There wasn't a lot of conversation while we cleaned our plates. And clean them, we did.  This was a great idea, to restore our respect for the cuisine.
We all had small dessert plates, mine, of course was banana pudding, with a vanilla wafer, and the bananas in thick red sauce you only find at Chinese places.
Simple. Everything was better than at the Panda. It was fast, had a much wider variety and as if that weren't enough, the bill came in six dollars under what we paid at the Panda.
I've had better Chinese food. Primarily when I was stationed in Japan. But that's a bit of a drive, I doubt that I will ever have that again. However there's also Springfield, Mo. where Angel is from and where I spent seventeen years of my own handsome life. Springfield is where you find the best Americanized Chinese food in the country. Seriously, it doesn't get better. If you've ever had 'Cashew Chicken' or as it is known some places, 'Springfield Style', you'll understand, it was first created there.
However, I don't live there anymore either. So The quest is constant to find at least pretty good versions. In our vicinity, in the small window of driving time we can allow for these weekly excursions, Oriental Buffet wins every time.
The tea isn't very good, just ask for water instead, there's so many great flavors on your plate that you don't need to worry about what you drink.
The staff is efficient, tidy, busy and quickly on the spot to remove plates or refill your tumbler. The price is right, the selection and quality is a lot better. AND they have takeout options!
I do not understand why anyone would prefer the third rate food at Panda Express over this place. Of course, I also don't understand why there's always a line at the drive through at White Castle. Some people just want crap, I guess.

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