Some restaurants you love because you never know what you will eat -- the daily special will be something exotic and wonderful, or the regular menu is so varied that you order something different each time you go. Other restaurants you love because you know exactly what you will eat. I have one restaurant like that where I always have the hamburger, another where I always have the steak, a third where I always have the chicken salad sandwich.
And we have our favorite Chinese buffet, where we go to eat vegetables. Or at least we used to.
I've always been proud of my resistance to fast/junk food; I am not tempted by a quarter-pounder or chicken nuggets, not fooled by the salad offerings, able to go years without an order of those marvelous McDonald's french fries. I guess my fast/junk food susceptibility has been transferred to the Chinese buffet. When we're on the road, searching for a place to have lunch in an unfamiliar town, we always go for the Chinese buffet over the Burger King, and at home, when we feel the need for a lot of vegetables prepared by somebody else, we always go to Jumbo.
I know that Chinese food can be bad for you if you try. Some dishes have a lot of fat, especially faux-Chinese stuff like crab rangoon, egg rolls and fried rice. White rice isn't particularly nutritious. But we've always believed that if you go for the vegetables, and pass up the sweet-and-sour pork, you can eat a fairly nutritious meal at a Chinese buffet.
Our favorite Chinese buffet became our favorite because of the bok choy. They always had a tray of baby bok choy, steamed without sauce. You could put five or six of those little guys on your plate, bathe them with a little sauce from the Mongolian beef and a couple of bites of chicken, and chow down with maximal health benefit. Most days there was a tray of sauteed green beans, and you could augment your plate by picking some cauliflower and onions out of the spicy chicken or the seafood delight.
But we haven't seen any bok choy at our formerly favorite restaurant in months. Last week there were no green beans either, and not even a tray of vegetables with tofu. I took lots of broccoli out of the chicken with broccoli, but the meal was a big disappointment in terms of vegetables.
Meanwhile, what's on the buffet? Pizza, mashed potatoes, fried shrimp, soft-serve ice cream, apple pie, non-Chinese food driving the vegetables out to pasture in the culinary equivalent of Gresham's Law. We may well be on the lookout for a new favorite restaurant.