Three-quarters of a mile from my almost-former-place-of-work (I’m terminated as of 9/30 and in any case the remainder will be moving to new smaller quarters) is a block with two food facilities. One building (and big back lot, with a decent-size parking area) is a sports bar that’s mostly a restaurant during the day. I think I’ve written about it before: good food, inexpensive, particularly noteworthy for the $2 freshly-made “cup” of soup that’s most restaurants’ bowl-size.
The other building is a big rectangle with five food places: A Subway with maybe half a dozen seats (almost entirely takeout); Bueno Bueno, a very good burroteria (like taqueria but their specialty is burros) with no inside seating at all (but two outside tables); a small corner place that’s been through four different iterations in the three or four (?) years we’ve been here, most recently the second iteration of a Japanese restaurant; a fairly good-size sit-down place that was Indian when we moved here, has been a Hawaiian lunch-plate place (and a couple of others), and is now a wrap/falafel/gyros place.
And a big sit-down space, probably 150 or so seats in all, that was always New Ma’s, a Chinese Muslim restaurant that served very good food and frequently had busloads of tourists *from* China visiting. (By unfortunate happenstance, the first time I tried it must have had an assistant cook on a really off day–but after staying away for a year, I went back and found the food quite good, as did my wife.) No sweet & sour pork, of course, or pork of any kind; all meat Halal; they did compromise enough to have a beer & wine license.
About a year and a half ago, New Ma’s closed for remodeling. The process turned the light, airy space into more of a nightclub space–black walls, heavy curtains, flat-screen TVs up on the wall. Eventually, after what seemed like way too long (and with an incongruous permit application for a full liquor license), it reopened–sort of. As a Japanese restaurant with almost no menu. They said “Oh, we’ll have Chinese too, next week.” By “next week” it was closed.
Then it reopened as an Italian restaurant with the emphasis on 5-9 p.m. happy hour. Tried it once for lunch. Wholly dispiriting “buffet” (four items, I think) or half a dozen menu items. The only thing I could plausibly imagine eating was the burger. It was OK, but seriously overpriced. That restaurant lasted for oh, three or four weeks.
Now…well, last week the doors opened again, this time as a different Chinese restaurant, with its name followed by “@ Green Lantern” (Green Lantern was the name of the shortlived Italian restaurant), and with the Green Lantern “grand opening” banner above the Chinese restaurant “grand opening” banner. Oh, and the building still says “New Ma’s”–the other rapidly-changing spaces always manage to replace the building-mounted signs, but maybe the management(s) here know something…
So, to get to the second part of an absurdly long lunchtime post, I tried the place today…after all, I’ll still be here three weeks…
Huge menu, but the lunch specials were the usual list, most of them $6.25. Ordered one. What I got: slightly gloppy hot-and-sour soup (plenty good enough for many suburban areas, way below what you’d expect in Mountain View) with a standard metal soup spoon. Then, a platter of the chosen entree (really too much for one person) and a cup of white rice. Fork and knife: No chopsticks, no separate plate for dining, no hot tea offered. The food? Again, adequate for some suburban areas (I think), but gloppy and dreary by local standards. $6.25. I won’t return.
At which point I thought about the little (50-60 seats) shopping-strip Chinese restaurant I went to last Friday, and will probably go to every week or two from the end of this month until we move out of Mountain View (if we do that, which we might if job possibilities continue to, um, pan out so well–we can take some money out of our house), and what I got there for $0.30 less:
- Cup of light, non-gloppy egg flower soup (with porcelain spoon)and
- Nice little salad and
- Plate of fried wonton strips.
after which, you get
- Slightly oversize dinner plate with a rational-size serving of your chosen entree, fresh, not gloppy, nicely prepared
- Plenty of vegetables added to the entree if needed–and the broccoli, at least, is just properly cooked, still bright green and al dente
- A good-size scoop of either white or vegetable fried rice
- A crisp, light, small egg roll
- A small serving of vegetable chow mein
and, of course, both chopsticks and fork–and tea unless it’s a hot day and you indicate you don’t need it.
Oh, and with the check:
- Orange slices
- Fortune cookie
Let’s see. Big-deal big restaurant versus inconsequential little neighborhood restaurant. No contest. At all. China Cafe (the one near home) actually belongs in Mountain View. The new place might just belong in Modesto…I give it a month, two tops, but I won’t be around to find out.
[We have Saturday dinner fairly frequently at China Cafe, even though it's a slightly shorter walk than we might prefer, 0.7 miles each way. All of the dishes we've had are lively, fresh, well-prepared, "ungloppy"...]
Hmm. Wonder how the neighborhood Chinese places are in Fremont or Livermore or, maybe, McMinnville or Portland…