Monday, August 9, 2010

the Chinese restaurant test

When I try a new Chinese restaurant, the test of whether I'm going to respect it - i.e., whether I am going to go back willingly - is whether the hot and sour soup is good. I find this is an effective signal for the rest of the menu. If a restaurant can hit that right note of flavor - it can pretty much do anything else. I might even make a motion to have the chef elevated to the Board of Governors for the Fed.

Unfortunately there aren't many Chinese restaurants that can hit that note of perfection. The best Chinese restaurant in the known universe was Panda East in Amherst, MA. I can't vouch for it's quality now, as it's been more than a decade since I last dined at it. But if you could travel back to pre-millenial Amherst, you would indeed find one of the great hot and sour soups, and by extension, one of the best Chinese restaurants ever to have existed.

Unfortunately, Asia Buffet located in a strip mall at the corner of Harry Wurzbach and Eisenhower in San Antonio is no Panda East. To start with, the hot and sour soup was the most peppery variant I've every had. Clearly someone mis-translated the measure of pepper from teaspoons to cups back in the kitchen. The General Tso's chicken tasted more like honey chicken. The fried dumplings were dried out, as were many of the other items on the buffet line. On the plus side, they did have a sushi bar, and it was no worse than what you could buy at the local grocery store.

The price wasn't bad, but it wasn't great - $9.95 for a dinner buffet, $6.95 for lunch, not including drink. Considering how much inflation we've seen on restaurant prices in the last couple of years, I guess this isn't all that unreasonable. But I won't be going back to Asia Buffet any time soon on purpose.

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