Chinese Food

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17,854
Location
Silicon Valley
Most Chinese (although often more pan-Asian) buffets around here are kind of sketchy. However, there were some that were really good with little worry about food safety or the quality of the ingredients. How long they would stay open is another matter. We had a couple here that were very good. I'd put them on par with the Asian section at a Las Vegas casino, or even better. However, they closed. One had this issue where they apparently didn't pay their employees. I'm not sure what was the issue with another place.

This one was quite good. They had to close down for some time because the mall had a rodent problem, but that also affected the mall's food court. I think the rodents we moving through the walls.


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There was another place south of San Francisco that I've been to a few times, but they were dealing with a lot of issues. None of the issues had anything to do with the quality of the food. The finally had to pay $2.6 million when they closed due to previous rulings of wage theft as well as a WARN Act violation for not giving notice before terminating that many employees.


This one was the latest. Never been there but heard it was good.

I have eaten a lot of Chinese buffet back when I was a poor student in college, and now I am eating a lot of free school food labeled "for institutional use only" in the pandemic lock down.

I can say prison food / hospital food / school food don't taste better than Chinese buffet. They are just healthier and cheaper. Chinese buffet do cut cost with lots of fried stuff and rarely any meat other than the cheapest cut of chicken and lots of glaze to fill you up, cheap.

Oh, back in the days we had Sushi buffet in the college town too, they were made with thin fish and thick piece of rice. We once bought Japanese students there and ask them how they like the sushi, and they politely said, "it's ok". For Japanese to not praise you it got to be pretty horrible.
 
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17,854
Location
Silicon Valley
I remember that place at Sun Valley Mall when it was called Todai. I would go there on on special occasions for lunch during my DVC days. they had another one at Stoneridge.

I’ve been to Moonstar a few times. Probably one of the better Chinese-ish buffets I’ve been too. There’s one really sketch one my parents enjoy in the East Bay, their justification for going there is all the cheap seafood they can eat. I get it, cheap Asian parents. In that place’s defense, their food is recognizable but the Latino crowd that goes there do make very good use of siratcha.

there’s a hole in the wall in Chinatown SF that makes a mean braised ox tail. But many Chinatowns are hanging by on a string these days.
I've been to Todai twice. They are not even remotely close to American Chinese. I heard the ownership was Korean.
 
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17,854
Location
Silicon Valley
Two of those are of Taiwanese origin. Crab rangoons are this weird hybrid thing that has almost nothing to do with any actual Chinese cuisine other than the wonton wrapper.

I've heard of Chinese friends taking their parents from Asia to Americanized Chinese restaurants where they had no clue what it was. One friend said his parents asked if it was Thai food.
I just saw a movie on Hulu called Finding General Tso. It was a great movie about American Chinese food and it was funny as well.

I am still not sure how Mongolian is Mongolian beef. I don't think genuine Mongolian use ANY of the ingredient in that dish. Also I still couldn't figure out which part of Mongolian BBQ is Mongolian or BBQ.
 
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6,559
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
He knows where to find the good food. Sometimes he hits up a Chinese restaurant and no one speaks any Chinese.

I've heard variations from my Chinese friends. Stuff like:
  • Seated at a table with a metal fork and a metal spoon. But they did actually have chopsticks available, but only on request.
  • Walked into a restaurant and walked right out when they realized the only front of the house employee was a white woman. However, this was in the middle of nowhere in Utah.
  • Went one place where the owner and employees were Chinese and they chatted up a lot because very few of the customers were Chinese speakers.
  • I was actually there at this place near Yosemite when they had an actual Chinese customer. The server was an older Asian woman, but I overheard her saying she was Thai and didn't understand much Chinese. This customer apparently wanted to make a special request but was having problems trying to explain it. So the chef came out and he was Chinese and was perfectly willing to take the request. I think it was for ground pork added to some noodles.
 
Messages
6,559
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
I've been to Todai twice. They are not even remotely close to American Chinese. I heard the ownership was Korean.

Was founded by two brothers from Japan, but otherwise yeah the ownership group that bought them out was Korean. However, the big Asian buffet places in the Bay Area are generally Chinese owned. I hadn't been to Todai, but I was under the impression that they were aiming for the generic "pan-Asian" vibe. I found this photo from Todai Concord (before it became Tomi):

o.jpg


I guess there's something to authenticity. I loved Pasta Pomodoro when it was fairly new and owned by Adriano Paganini. I knew a few Italians, and they thought it was good. Then he sold out to a couple of investors (one was Indian-American) and it went south really quickly. I went in once after the new ownership and the messed with the menu so much that I didn't want to go back.
 
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6,559
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
Investors always ruin things. Todai before Tomi was ok but expensive (by the standard back then). We only went when we have a birthday person.

The two investors were University of Chicago MBAs. When I heard about it I was skeptical. The important thing was that they had zero experience in the restaurant business.

Yeah - I guess Todai had the birthday free with at least 3 paying customers. So did Tomi, but when I went they asked for proof.

With those places I didn't necessarily understand the prices. I could eat as much for lunch as I could for dinner. I know they typically have more expensive items for dinner. I went to Tomi once for dinner and almost the difference I saw was that they had sashimi in addition to sushi.
 
Messages
6,559
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
I just saw a movie on Hulu called Finding General Tso. It was a great movie about American Chinese food and it was funny as well.

I am still not sure how Mongolian is Mongolian beef. I don't think genuine Mongolian use ANY of the ingredient in that dish. Also I still couldn't figure out which part of Mongolian BBQ is Mongolian or BBQ.

It's not. The origin of "Mongolian beef" and "Mongolian BBQ" is from Taiwan. So are tapioca drinks. Interesting story about the inventor of "Mongolian BBQ". Guy was born in Beijing and fled to Taiwan, and originally wanted to call it "Beijing BBQ" but that wasn't going to fly in Taiwan in the 1950s.


I saw the Australian series "Ronny Chieng: International Student". They had this place on campus where a lot of the Asian students hung out that had tapioca drinks. One of Ronny's friends is an American student, who says something about trying to experience an authentic Asian culture by being there, consuming tapioca drinks, and watching the programming they had on their TV. The girl behind the counter (who sounds American) says that bubble tea is from Taiwan, the show he's watching is from Taiwan, she's from the Philippines, and Asian culture is not a monolith. So in the end what he's experiencing isn't authentic at all.
 
Messages
6,559
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
It's not. The origin of "Mongolian beef" and "Mongolian BBQ" is from Taiwan. So are tapioca drinks. Interesting story about the inventor of "Mongolian BBQ". Guy was born in Beijing and fled to Taiwan, and originally wanted to call it "Beijing BBQ" but that wasn't going to fly in Taiwan in the 1950s.


I saw the Australian series "Ronny Chieng: International Student". They had this place on campus where a lot of the Asian students hung out that had tapioca drinks. One of Ronny's friends is an American student, who says something about trying to experience an authentic Asian culture by being there, consuming tapioca drinks, and watching the programming they had on their TV. The girl behind the counter (who sounds American) says that bubble tea is from Taiwan, the show he's watching is from Taiwan, she's from the Philippines, and Asian culture is not a monolith. So in the end what he's experiencing isn't authentic at all.
Correction. The show was from Japan.
 
Messages
994
Location
MO
Love me some Chinese food. A guy in my old neighborhood owned a few Chinese strip mall restaurants. Two of his workers lived in the basement of his house. Older Chinese guys, they would come up from the basement from the side yard and wait in the driveway for him to back out of the garage. He’d take them to work at 9 or 10 AM and bring them back at 11 PM, 7 days a week. Then they’d go around the side yard to the walkout basement entry. They never went inside the main entry of his house or the main or 2nd floor. They didn’t own cars or have any visitors. I still know people in that neighborhood and the practice continues daily.
 
Messages
7,543
Location
California
I guess there's something to authenticity. I loved Pasta Pomodoro when it was fairly new and owned by Adriano Paganini. I knew a few Italians, and they thought it was good. Then he sold out to a couple of investors (one was Indian-American) and it went south really quickly. I went in once after the new ownership and the messed with the menu so much that I didn't want to go back.
I have a general feeling that CEOs and MBAs are out to ruin things and they are paid way, way, way too much for that they really do - wine and dine with the C-suite and customers and stare at Excel or Salesforce all day.

I miss Pasta Pomodoro - it was one of the few chains that got Italian right. I went to the one in El Cerrito and Rockridge from what I remember.
 
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6,559
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
I miss Pasta Pomodoro - it was one of the few chains that got Italian right. I went to the one in El Cerrito and Rockridge from what I remember.

My first time was at the location in Union City. Had the fruitti di mare. What they got right was simplicity. My Italian friends were telling me that it reminded them of restaurants back home, compared to looking like a caricature like Olive Garden or Romano's.
 
Messages
6,559
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
Love me some Chinese food. A guy in my old neighborhood owned a few Chinese strip mall restaurants. Two of his workers lived in the basement of his house. Older Chinese guys, they would come up from the basement from the side yard and wait in the driveway for him to back out of the garage. He’d take them to work at 9 or 10 AM and bring them back at 11 PM, 7 days a week. Then they’d go around the side yard to the walkout basement entry. They never went inside the main entry of his house or the main or 2nd floor. They didn’t own cars or have any visitors. I still know people in that neighborhood and the practice continues daily.

There were crackdowns on Asian buffets for their workforce and their living conditions.

 
Messages
17,854
Location
Silicon Valley
I have a general feeling that CEOs and MBAs are out to ruin things and they are paid way, way, way too much for that they really do - wine and dine with the C-suite and customers and stare at Excel or Salesforce all day.

I miss Pasta Pomodoro - it was one of the few chains that got Italian right. I went to the one in El Cerrito and Rockridge from what I remember.

I wasn't very into Pasta Pomodoro back then but I do agree with you about MBAs ruining things.

They shift the focus of the companies to wall street appeal instead of customer focus, and financial engineering to match formula that fund managers want, and you know most people buying mutual funds aren't really looking at each company in the portfolio and most would just look at growth every quarter and at most PE ratio. This is how good companies are ruined and the fund managers still made out like a bandit.

This is why I only own individual stocks and then maybe large cap Index Funds with low expense ratio.
 
Messages
6,559
Location
San Francisco Bay Area
I wasn't very into Pasta Pomodoro back then but I do agree with you about MBAs ruining things.

They shift the focus of the companies to wall street appeal instead of customer focus, and financial engineering to match formula that fund managers want, and you know most people buying mutual funds aren't really looking at each company in the portfolio and most would just look at growth every quarter and at most PE ratio. This is how good companies are ruined and the fund managers still made out like a bandit.

This is why I only own individual stocks and then maybe large cap Index Funds with low expense ratio.

You can see what happened with a lot of chain restaurants that get pushed around to different companies. Case in point would be Joe's Crab Shack. Founded by one company, sold to another, and when that company went bankrupt the founding company bought it back.

I think what happened with Pasta Pomodoro was that the founder was busy with his other chain (Super Duper) and decided that he couldn't devote the time any more.
 
Messages
5,685
Location
NJ
Love me some Chinese food. A guy in my old neighborhood owned a few Chinese strip mall restaurants. Two of his workers lived in the basement of his house. Older Chinese guys, they would come up from the basement from the side yard and wait in the driveway for him to back out of the garage. He’d take them to work at 9 or 10 AM and bring them back at 11 PM, 7 days a week. Then they’d go around the side yard to the walkout basement entry. They never went inside the main entry of his house or the main or 2nd floor. They didn’t own cars or have any visitors. I still know people in that neighborhood and the practice continues daily.

That's the same way it was with my Chinese neighbors that owned a Chinese restaurant. The younger folks would come out of the walk-out basement one at a time in a sort of procession up the side yard to the driveway. They would wait in the driveway until they were all there which took a few minutes. Then once they were all there, they'd hop in the car together and leave. They seemed happy so while I thought it was weird, didn't think anything was amiss. And the neighbors had a bunch of kids, too. They had cars and once they reached college age, they all seemed to move away. I'd see the kids at the school bus stop and getting off the bus so they went to high school. The man of the house likes to gamble because I sometimes get his casino mailers mixed together with mine.
 
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