Perhaps because I’m Chinese, I’m single, I eat out a lot and I also entertain a great deal, friends always ask me what’s my favorite Asian restaurant in Lawrence. My answer, usually, is that I go to all of them because they all have dishes on their “special Chinese menu” that I like. But if I have to rate them according to which ones I go to more frequently than others, then it’s true that I do have my favorites.
On top of the list would be Oriental Bistro & Grill on 23rd Street—it offers the widest variety of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Korean dishes, and I’ve never had a bad meal there. Next would be Jade Garden on Kasold Drive—the place draws a lot of Asian students, and that’s always a good sign. After that, it’s a toss up between Encore, Yokohama and Zen Zero, all in downtown Lawrence. As for Chinese buffets, hands down it’s King Buffet on 23rd Street—besides the usual items you find at all Chinese buffets, King Buffet also regularly features roast duck, eggplant in garlic sauce, stewed tofu, etc. Other Chinese buffets in Lawrence mostly try to outdo each other as to how many ways they can cook and disguise chicken.
The service at all the establishments I’ve named above is fast, friendly, courteous.
This, in contrast to an experience which I had recently, on Christmas Day, at a popular local Chinese restaurant which I will not name. I had a 6:30 PM reservation there, in its semi-private room, for a special pre-ordered dinner for nine people. When I arrived at 6 PM to make sure everything was okay, I discovered that the semi-private room was filled to overflowing with other people. The owner told me that my group had been moved to a corner in the back part of the restaurant, where we were subsequently squeezed in like sardines, with tables of uneven height joined together, making the table-top cooking somewhat precarious and dangerous. On top of all this, the appetizers arrived late, and the specialty dinner which I had pre-ordered was missing several items we had agreed on.
The next day, because it was obvious that I was not happy about how my party had been treated, the owner left a long voice mail on my phone, part of which said, “I’m sorry I did not give you the room we had agreed upon. Another group came in with 20 people and I had to give them that room. You are an intelligent person. You only had nine people. Twenty people is more than nine people.” What I find shocking is that I had been a loyal customer at this particular restaurant for over 30 years, that I had habitually given large parties there, not just on birthdays and holidays, but also cast parties for many of our theatrical productions.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. 2016 is the upcoming Chinese Year of the Monkey. I hope that 2016 continues to bring this particular restaurant more “monkey business” than it can handle. Meanwhile, there is no shortage of other better Asian restaurants in Lawrence to tempt us with their better food and better service.