Friday, February 6, 2009

Joy Luck

Today, I decided to use up the last of my first set of discounted gift certificates from Restaurant-Dot-Com, which I had purchased last June. I had gotten mostly good deals from them, but the last eatery on my dance card was a bit out of the way for me. Only I had business in the neighborhood today, so I planned ahead and brought my gift certificate with me. Unfortunately, the restaurant in question - Cafe Brasil in Rock Hill, Missouri (at the corner of Manchester Road where Rock Hill Road turns into McKnight Road) had closed its doors for good.

I decided to cope with my disgust by stopping to eat at the first promising place I noticed on the way home. And the winning restaurant turned out to be the Joy Luck Buffet on Manchester, just west of Hanley Road. Now, I have frequently felt let down after eating at affordable Chinese buffets. And when I haven't felt let down, I have tended to feel overcharged. Joy Luck was the rare Chinese buffet that left me feeling more than satisfied and less than ripped off.

So here I am to tell you that I just discovered your favorite Chinese restaurant today. Only you probably don't know it yet. Wait till you visit Joy Luck for lunch! Its huge buffet has a huge variety of dishes. The food is better-than-average-quality Chinese-American cuisine, some of it spicy, all of it (as far as I could tell) quite palatable. The dining area is pleasant and clean, and the price tag for one all-you-can-eat meal was $7 plus change. No, that isn't a typo. In my neighborhood there is a Chinese buffet of comparable quality where you can pay $13 for the same meal, and the only things it has over Joy Luck are fruit cobbler and a Mongolian grill.

OK, the lack of fruit cobbler is a blow, but I can live without the optional Mongolian grill. On the other hand, all the other usual suspects are present and accounted for. Eggrolls (seafood and plain). Crab Rangoon. Yummy pot-stickers. Plain and combination fried rice. Soup (egg drop and hot & sour, at least). Chicken dishes galore: with mushrooms, with cashews, with lemon sauce, Szechuan, General Tso, Kung Pao, sweet & sour, egg foo young - the list goes on. Crispy roast pork. Spicy beef. Honestly, I didn't have room in my hungry belly to try half of what they had on offer, and nothing that I tasted was below-average. None of it was a culinary revelation, either; but we're talking about a lunch buffet here. A $7 lunch buffet that ran tastebud circles around some pricier places I've tried.

I probably won't be in the Joy Luck neighborhood very often; I can't comfortably eat enough to make all-you-can-eat seem worth $13; so I doubt that Chinese buffet will be a major food group for me. I'm more than content with the short-order Chinese places close to home. But if you're passing through the Brentwood or Maplewood area, make an effort to stop at Joy Luck and fill up both legs for the price of one. Tell them a satisfied customer sent you.

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