Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kwong Tung

It had been a long time since my last visit to the urban jungle. In fact, I'm guessing the last time was sometime before Thanksgiving last year. So my first stop for eats was of course Los Laureles, the best Mexican restaurant in the universe that I have eaten at. It was delicious as always. Later that weekend, we were again headed out for a meal and I requested that we stop at A'Dongs, the best Vietnamese restaurant in the universe that I have eaten at, a number considerably fewer than Mexican places, and one that is only a few blocks downhill from our apartment. Because it was cold and wet out, we drove which turned out to be fortunate. The place was packed and there were hordes of people standing in the wait to be seated area. To make matters worse, they have two main doors, one on each side of the building with the host/cash register stand right in the middle. With people rolling in both doors and the Vietnamese owner literally running all over the place, I suggested that we take a rain check on Vietnamese and try something else.

Since we were planning on doing some grocery shopping after supper and on a full stomach like you are supposed to do, we headed in that general direction. The Chinese place that we like was packed with people waiting in a long line and so was the Italian place. Even the Chinese Buffet was packed tighter than I had ever seen it. I was beginning to think that everyone in town was out eating out on this Saturday night when we saw the sign for a little Japanese restaurant in a row of dark buildings. Only a hand painted sign on the front windows let us know that it was the Kwong Tung Japanese restaurant, one that we had never heard about. Better yet, there was ample parking in front.

We couldn't see into the darkened windows so when we opened the door and saw not a single living human being in the entire place, I had two thoughts in close succession. First was that it was actually closed despite the sign saying it was open for another two hours. The second thought was that just the day before they had been raided by the FDA after massive amounts of patrons had been hospitalized for bad food in a highly televised fifteen minute segment on the evening news. So when the waitress came out and asked if we wanted a table or a booth, we were hesitant to do anything except run for the door.

Long story short, I ended up ordering General Tso's Chicken, a dish that is shrouded in mystery as to its origin but as far as I know, the Japanese lay no claims towards it. I'm not sure why since I am a firm believer of eating what the locals, in this case the Japanese do. The buffet versions that I've had in the past are one of my favorites of the buffet though never hold a candle in taste to something off the menu. Perhaps it was the description promising a sweet and spicy sauce or a version of it labeled as combo which had beef, chicken, pork and shrimp all in one dish. To make matters worse, after I had ordered, another man walked in and sat in the booth behind us. He was obviously a regular as they knew his name and drink of choice. They even asked him if he wanted General Tso's Chicken again. He told them that although he loved it, it really tore him up the day after he had eaten it and that he thought he would go with something less spicy this time. Visions of my first and only trip to P.F. Changs started flashing in my head. But it was too late to change my mind and I'm glad I didn't because it was outstanding! The heat was that slow Asian heat that I love that sneaks up on you in a delightful way. The sweetness kept you going back for more and there was plenty more to go back too. Although I had only eaten one light meal all day, I was only able to polish off half of my dish. I can't wait to dig into the leftovers now safely tucked away in the fridge. Also, there was nothing but gastronomical happiness the next day.

Best of all, they serve dim sum on Sunday's which is kind of like the Japanese version of the buffet but without all the work. You sit at your table while staff wheel past with carts loaded full of delectable foods that you merely have to point at and it is sat before you. Just in case a menu of all the foods available for dim sum wasn't enough, they have a gigantic poster full of pictures of the dim sum items hanging just inside the door. My mouth is watering now just remembering what the pictures looked like. So in closing, if you are ever in the urban jungle on a busy Saturday night when everyone and their extended family are eating out, try Kwong Tung. You won't have a wait for a seat.

P.S. When I get to try their dim sum, I'm sure I'll have something to write about that.


Bone said...

I misread this at first and was thinking the place actually had been on the news for bad food. I was like, Ed is crazy!!!

I enjoy the General Tso's from our local Chinese place, for a little while. After that, it feels like the general is re-fighting the Taiping Rebellion in my stomach.

R. Sherman said...

General Tso's is good, inasmuch as it's really heard to screw up. Great General Tso's is difficult, I'm told.

As for Japanese food, I'm not into sushi, but I like Sobi, a spicy beef over rice. Very hearty and very filling.

BTW, when I head north to visit my daughter in Kirksville, maybe we'll detour to Iowa to your Mexican place.


Ed said...

Bone - I'm pretty brave about eating things but not that brave!

R. Sherman - It is a long detour but the food is excellent.

Los Laureles
1518 E Grand Ave
Des Moines, IA 50316-3503