Baaaaad Chinese

I’ve never written a review panning a restaurant before. But I’ve never had a meal this bad before.

We were hungry for lunch this morning while out running errands in Beaufort. Imagining a nice plate of something with a lot of broccoli, I suggested Chinese food. We had tried Taste of China and found it to be OK, but very Americanized Chinese. So we decided to try something different, Dragon King, located in a strip mall on US 70.

Over the counter was an illuminated photo menu, and the food in the photos looked appetizing. I’ve seen this sort of display before, and the food that is served never looks as good as the photos. I’ve always assumed that was just because the food we  eat is not “styled.”

But I had an epiphany as I sat at the table, waiting for my broccoli shrimp. “I’ve just realized that those are stock photos. I bet they use the same ones in all these Chinese restaurants.” We studied the photos for a bit, thinking to look more closely the next time we go to a different Chinese restaurant.

Our hot-and-sour soup was brought out by a very small boy, probably about 8 years old, who carried them from the kitchen one at a time. He made a face at me and deliberately placed both bowls of soup in front of Barry. The soup was neither hot nor sour, and the fried noodles served with it were stale.

As we ate our soup, a TV above our heads was blasting a brain-numbing infomercial for the Total Gym. Someone had turned it on for our benefit. I wondered if they received a commission on every Total Gym sold to a customer.

Finally, after about 20 minutes of the Total Gym commercial, our entrees arrived. The little boy brought Barry his General Tso’s Chicken. This explained the wait — it looked as thought they’d gone out and gotten him an order of Chicken McNuggets, brought it back, and doused it in a mixture of catsup and corn syrup. It was garnished with two perfectly-steamed, bright green broccoli spears.

Then the woman brought my broccoli shrimp. A disgusting mass stared up at me, a pile of olive-colored mush and four shrimp swimming in a salty brown liquid. You’d have to dig awfully deep in the garbage to find broccoli in that state of decomposition. I stared enviously at Barry’s plate — not the Chicken McNuggets, but those two broccoli spears, the only edible food on either plate.

I have eaten a lot of mediocre food in restaurants, but this was the worst food I’ve ever been served. Worse even than the “chicken breast sandwich” at Roland’s Barbecue, where they stuck a fried chicken breast, bones and all, between the unadorned halves of a white pasty hamburger bun. That was merely strange. This was criminal abuse of a vegetable. And four rubbery shrimp who died in vain.

I was both hungry and distraught when we left. A real treat was in order, something to erase the memory of the awful broccoli. A few minutes later, I was sitting in  a comfy rocking chair on the front porch of Parson’s General Store in Morehead City, eating a scoop of cherry ice cream. In hindsight, I wish I’d skipped lunch entirely. Then I could have had TWO scoops.


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