The Earth is in peril! Too many restaurants these days sport flashy advertisement and colorful exterior only to fool the unaware with mediocre food, lousy service, and exorbitant bills. In an act of desperation and urgency, the gods bestowed upon one small restaurant the power to compete with the big dogs. Can a place of such small stature beat the odds and emerge victorious?
I’ve already said how small this place is. The crowd responds: “How small is it?” Well, I’m glad you asked!! Best Kitchen has only about 32 seats in it. Their location is cramped between a cellphone store and a grocery store in a strip mall. As a result of this store’s size, it can be easy to miss. In my book, “hidden gems” such as this one already earn points. It feels as if I’m a part of this elite, “Kids Next Door”-esque club where only the knowledgeable may gain entrance (the secret word, by the way, is Moo Goo Gai Pan). When you enter, the jingling of the literal door bell not only makes you feel like you’re at home (more on that later…), but also signifies a bit of a time warp (“LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAAAIIIIIN!!!!”– I’ll stop…). Immediately, the sights of porcelain Buddhas and neko cats, Chinese characters, and serene wall portraits of lagoons transport you around the globe and back in time to an easier, slower-paced time. That is, until you hear the kitchen in the back…
It’s Your Turn! Combo! Get! The Menu/The Order
So, you’re walking up to the counter, the smell of the food creating a zen garden of awesome in your brain. Then you realize. Where are the menus? You see a stack of papers on the counter and a couple of pencils in a cup. Bingo. Those are your menus. It’s as simple as picking what you want and circling it on the paper. Best Kitchen’s menu is pretty expansive. With 16 appetizers, 8 kinds of soup, 7 kinds of fried rice, and 79 other kinds of dishes ranging from beef and broccoli to chicken lo mein to the sweet and sour combo, there’s plenty to choose from. There are even a few vegetarian options for you card-carrying herbivores out there. And that doesn’t even touch the super spicy Szechuan dishes, special combos, and house specialties. Even better, when you bring your menu up to the counter, BOOM! That’s your order right there. No asking dumb questions. No waiters deciding it’s a good idea to sit at your table while they take your order (seriously don’t understand that one…).
Critical Hit! It’s SUPER EFFECTIVE! The Food
There are two ways you can go about Best Kitchen: the take-out way or the eat-in way. For your edification (and my sanity), we’ll pretend that you’ve decided to eat in the restaurant. After you’ve sat and turned in your order, you’ll begin to smell your order and hear a rapid exchange of Chinese in the back. Consider this your “Captain Obvious” moment of the day: nine times out of ten, food cooked by people who live in the culture of the food is generally going to be really good. And when you learn that the couple who owns the joint are recent immigrants, your little high quality food sensors should be going off (you don’t have those…hmm…we must be different models…you should try a software update…). These people know about these spices. They know about this style of cooking. This type of food has been in their family for years! Tasty.
After you sit with your can of Arnold Palmer or whatever, you’ll see the colorful paintings on the wall. Looking opposite the paintings, you’ll see…the same paintings again. The decorators were smart in their layout, expanding the space by using a giant mirror. After you’ve noticed it’s a mirror, you’re likely to look at your face or something (that zit’s not gonna pop itself). Then the food shows up.
Let us say you’re sitting in a restaurant. When food is presented to you, what do you expect? Ceramic plate? Fine silver? Perhaps a cloth napkin if your fancy shmancy clothes are on? Well, what if I told you that your food arriving to your table in plastic and Styrofoam containers, your plastic silverware nonchalantly placed next to your plates, and your 32oz Arnold Palmer can sitting open and half-empty is the best you’re going to get? I know…a bit anti-climactic…okay, VERY anti-climactic. But think about this: with such lackluster cutlery and plates, the food really stands out. Besides, half of this place’s appeal is through takeout. But enough about the plates. Let’s get to eating! You’ve been waiting all review for this. All of this scrolling you’ve done will be rewarded…right about….
….now. So, your food is in front of you. Aside from the unorthodox plating situation in front of you, the first thing you’ll notice is the portion size. Borderline outrageous. Now, yes I know, this place does food for a group. Part of the joy of going for Chinese with friends is sharing food with people. However, a combo, which includes protein, rice, and an egg roll, has been known to fill my stomach to capacity. And I haven’t even finished yet. Yeah. Now, my standby is usually the General Tso’s Chicken, Extra Hot with Fried Rice. Again, for ease, I will review this dish, but whatever you order at the restaurant is your decision and will have its own flavors and styles and stuff. The chicken itself is fried with a sticky sweet and spicy sauce. It’s served with broccoli (it’s not as nasty as you think!), pork-fried rice, and a pork and cabbage egg roll. The chicken itself stays crispy from its hot oil bath, despite the sticky sauce it’s covered in. The sauce can come in three varieties: mild, hot, and extra hot. I happen to be a chili-head (or psychopath…take your pick), so the extra hot sauce, laden with chili peppers, is right up my alley: spicy without being deadly. The fried rice… You would never think rice toasted with some cubes of pork and onions would ever be that tasty.
Now, I know I’m ignoring the vegetarian readers out there, but let’s figure if this starch-a-pork-a-licious (that’s a word) side is as good as I’m advertising it… imagine the vegetarian goodies they have to offer. Moving on to the egg roll. Some places offer bread at the table. Some offer popcorn. Some offer slightly-addictive, garlicky starch sticks of magic (cough cough Olive Garden). Here at Best Kitchen, though, munchies means egg rolls. I like thinking of the egg roll as kind of like the breadstick with a surprise inside. Yeah, you can dip the shell in the sauce for sauce-a-licious egg roll shell, but I like the fact that a lot of the rice ingredients are also in the egg roll. It’s like a preview of what’s to come…
Best Kitchen has defeated Opponent! Experience get! The Wrap Up
The winner has been decided! Best Kitchen has won! To the victor goes the spoils, right? Well… I’d call you the victor in all of this, right? What do you get out of your experience here? A great meal? Yep. An authentic meal cooked by people who know the ins and outs of authentic Eastern Cuisine (not to mention the Sino-American stuff we like to call “Chinese” food)? Check. A restaurant that has earned the distinction of 2012’s Post-Journal’s Reader’s Choice for best Oriental Restaurant in town? Bingo. Bonus Points, Extra Experience, and the Boulder Badge? Uh…maybe. Either way, Best Kitchen isn’t the only small place in town fighting for notoriety. It’s just one of the many Mighty Morphin’ Micro Munchie Markets I’ll be reviewing. And of course, with their powers combined, these restaurants help feed greatest champion…well, y’know… Tune in next time when I take on the next restaurant! Until then!