Wednesday, February 10, 2010

NHA Trang

Date: January 20, 2010
Time: Approx. 12:15pm
Location: Lincoln, NE
Restaurant: NHA Trang Vietnamese and Chinese Cuisine
Overall Rating: 2.5

Egg Roll: 1
Food Quality: 2.5
Price: 5
Service: 4
Atmosphere: 3

On January 20th we made another work group outing to NHA Trang on 11th and L Streets. At lunch time, this restaurant has a small buffet with not a wide selection, but all the typical favorites are included. Both steamed and fried rice were options. The Fried Rice was very dry and I don’t think it was because we were there at a bad time. It was prime lunch hour. The Cashew Chicken only had carrots and celery for vegetables. The flavor was average – not too much flavor, but also not enough. Disappointing. The Pork Egg Roll was dry, cold, small with a thin wrap, cabbage and a little pepper, which wasn’t too noticeable. Needless to say, it was not good at all. The Vegetable Egg Roll was about the same – small, thin wrap and not much flavor. I felt like it could use something else to give it some kick. At least it wasn’t dry!

The Crab Rangoon had a thick shell, was medium in size and was pretty much exactly what’d you expect. Nothing special. The Egg Drop Soup was very good! I’d say the best I’ve had so far in Lincoln. It had a salty flavor, carrots, peas and noodles, which I have never seen before in this soup. When I tried the Sesame Chicken the breading was soggy, not crunchy like it should be, like it had been sitting there a while. If you go for anything “sesame” at this restaurant, go for the Sesame Shrimp. I’ve never seen this dish before. It was awesome! The breading was crunchy and the sauce was delicious. The Vegetable Lo Mein had shreds of carrot, celery and onions. I love onions, but this had too many. The noodles were smaller than what I usually see. It had a light sauce that was good when it wasn’t masked by onion. When I came to the Twice Cooked Pork, I wasn’t sure at first if I’d like it, but this was the best thing I had on the buffet! The pork was tender and it had big zucchini, mushroom, and onion pieces. The sauce was packed with flavor! The Teriyaki Chicken on a stick had a savory flavor with plenty of sauce. Usually this item doesn’t come with any extra sauce, just teriyaki marinaded chicken. The chicken was slightly dry, but not choke-worthy. Ok…the Chicken in Special Sauce. When I picked this out, it looked like small chicken wings and thighs. Yum, right? However when I bit into the piece I picked up, it looked like I was eating the spine of the chicken, which almost made me gag. The sauce tasted like a spicy teriyaki, which was good, but I couldn’t eat it after seeing it. I’m gagging right now.

The background music was odd and too loud where we were sitting, but upbeat. The atmosphere had a casual Asian theme with Chinese light fixtures and pictures on the wall. In the back room where we were sitting, there were big round tables for large groups, which was nice because we were able to face people instead of looking down a long table. The restaurant was very clean from what I could tell.

The service was great! All people were very friendly. Plates were promptly removed and water refilled before asking. When I was up for my second trip, our waitress was refilling the rice and asked, with a big smile, if everything was good. She then said thank you when I complimented the food.

The price was right-on for the lesser selection and average food quality, $5.50 for the lunch buffet. From what I could tell it was all Chinese food on the buffet. I’d be interested in ordering off the menu and trying some of the Vietnamese cuisine. Perhaps that would raise their score a little!

Fortune: “A carrot a day, may keep cancer away.” A rather bleak end to our lunch after gorging myself with food and not eating one single carrot that day!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Great China Buffet

Date: January 8, 2010
Time: Approx. 11:45am
Location: Lincoln, NE
Restaurant: Great China Buffet
Overall Rating: 3

Egg Roll:
Food Quality: 3.5
Price: 3.5
Atmosphere: 3.5
Service: 3

For my first Chinese food adventure of the year, I went to lunch with co-workers at the Great China Buffet, across from Gateway Mall on O Street. Every once in a while we have to remind ourselves why it is not a good idea to eat at a buffet for lunch: Food Coma = Nap at Desk = Low Productivity. This was our first reminder of the year. I think I’ll be good until at least February.

Needless to say, with this being a buffet I stuffed a lot of variety into the visit and if you are looking for variety, this is the place to go! They have Chinese and American food, including a salad bar and sushi! I’ll start from the beginning. Don’t waste your time on the Spicy Chicken, unless you don’t like spice at all. The name is deceiving and it needed more flavor. The Vegetable Lo Mien is always a good safety dish, an American favorite. It’s hard to mess this one up and I’d say theirs was right on par. The General Tao’s Chicken was excellent! Just the right amount of breading and flavor, not too spicy (and I'm a spice wuss). The Egg Drop Soup had green onions. It was about average, nothing surprising. The Pork Egg Roll was very disappointing. It tasted so processed that I couldn’t even cover the taste all that much with soy sauce. Since we’re going that direction, the Cashew Chicken was heartbreaking too. It had no flavor and only carrots and celery as vegetables. My two favorite dishes were real downers. Last item on the first round, the Pepper Shrimp was mild, yet interesting. It was lightly breaded with just a hint of pepper. Very nice.

Round two showed a bit more promise. The Spring Roll was the saving grace for the “roll” family. It had a thin wrap filled with cabbage. Small but delicious. The Crab Rangoon was awesome with a light outer shell and plenty of flavorful stuffing. It was almost small enough to be bite sized, which is not common in American Chinese restaurants (or any American restaurant). The Sesame Chicken was just as to be expected. Sweet and tasty! Lastly, the Sushi. I tried four different pieces. I swear one was stuffed with just shredded cheese and sour cream. How much more American can you get than that! None were un-edible, but none had that much flavor either. Tasted like I was just dipping sticky rice in soy sauce.

For the lunch buffet, the price was $7, including tax and a refillable drink. Not bad considering how much variety they have and the fact that you can eat as much as you want. With it being a buffet, the service is hard to judge. They were prompt in clearing our plates and that’s about all we had for service. The atmosphere is pleasant - soft music in the background, plenty of light from large windows, an ample amount of Chinese décor, and from what I could tell it was very clean. A good choice if you’re looking to overstuff at lunch in a hurry!

Fortune: “Your love light shines on another”.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Date: December 12, 2009
Time: Approx. 12:00pm
Location: Lincoln, NE
Restaurant: Zhang's
Overall Rating: 4

Egg Roll: 5
Food Quality: 4.5
Price: 5
Atmosphere: 2.5
Service: 3
Overall: 4

I’ve been meaning to write about Zhang’s for quite some time now. I first discovered this place in mid-summer and have been back several times since. I’m eating it right now and trying to save half for dinner tonight, but I can’t seem to put my fork down. I have the “just one more bite” syndrome. The lunch special portion size is just the right amount to eat for two meals and still feel full after each (or feel overly stuffed after one meal, which I have also done). :)

Let’s start with the Egg Roll. From what I can tell, it is stuffed with cabbage, green onions and chicken, yet it has a hint of sweetness. I’d really like to find out where this sweet taste comes from because it is surprising and wonderful! I haven’t found an egg roll like this since I ate at the Dillon’s grocery store Chinese food counter in Independence, Kansas back in high school. I know….you didn’t expect me to say grocery store Chinese food, but believe it. I’m going to go so far as to say this is the best egg roll I’ve had in Lincoln so far! No soy sauce or sweet & sour sauce needed! An egg roll that’s simple in ingredients, but packed with flavor. Wish I could have one everyday! Is Santa Claus reading this?

Okay, I need to move on from the egg roll. The Cashew Chicken had just the right sized chunks of celery, carrots, zucchini, onion and green onion. The chicken seemed like it was just lightly dipped in flour and pan fried to perfection with a slight crunch. This dish had just the right amount of sauce and was packed with flavor (sweet, salty and tangy)! Needless to say, I loved this cashew chicken and that is why it’s my new favorite.

The atmosphere is lacking a bit with one picture of Chinese symbols and a large photo of a sail boat. That being said, it is more of a take-out place and seems like they have built their reputation around that aspect instead of stellar ambiance. The facilities are very clean and they do have a flat screen TV to watch while you’re waiting. The service is fine enough. Not bad, not great. The food definitely makes up for it.

Zhang’s is my new go-to for Chinese food at lunch and if you happen to work West of 27th street and South of Highway 2, I’d highly recommend it for you as well. Although, you might want to call ahead to place your order. Every time I’ve been there, it has been steady with business at lunch time, so the wait could be more than you’d like for a lunch break. However believe me when I say, the wait is worth it for this delicious, fresh cooked Chinese food!

Fortune: "A financial investment will yield returns beyond your hopes." Let's hope so!

Friday, August 28, 2009


Date: August 13, 2009
Time: Approx. 12:00pm
Location: Lincoln, NE
Restaurant: Windchimes
Overall Rating: 3.5

Egg Roll:
Food Quality: 4
Atmosphere: 3.5
Price: 3
Service: 4

As a birthday gift from my co-workers we went to Windchimes Chinese restaurant for lunch. (Thank you all so much!)

The Cashew Chicken was excellent (even when eaten cold for dinner that night)! The vegetables were big and fresh. There were mushrooms in it, which is not common in this dish (loved it!). The sauce was a bit darker than I’m used to seeing and had more flavor than usual. They used whole cashews, which is always favorable to my taste buds. The portion sizes are very generous as well.

From what I could tell from my fellow diners’ plates, all the dishes were served with white rice. And all the dishes came with a bonus chicken wing or leg, which I thought was strange at first, but LOVED in the end. The chicken had a crispy outer layer with a very light teriyaki sauce. Delicious! I could even stretch to say that it was the best teriyaki chicken wing I have ever had! Substitute some buffalo sauce and I could very well say the same for the best buffalo wing I’ve ever had. I even asked Andrea if I could have hers (she’s a vegetarian and gladly permitted). All the dishes had a couple pieces of fruit as well. Nice touch, but when eating Chinese food, fruit is the last thing I personally want to consume. The Egg Roll had a light wrap with chicken and cabbage. It was the first time I’ve ever tasted pepper in an egg roll. I embraced the change, but in the last bites had to use some soy sauce. By the way, the soy sauce came in these cute miniature pitchers that have “soy sauce” written on them. It was a very nice touch and I have to look up where I can buy one! The Hot and Sour soup was great. All the right flavors and substance for this soup. The Crab Rangoon had plenty of flavor and were just the right size.

The prices were decent. You won’t break the bank, but they are a little higher than some other places in town. However, the restaurant is very clean, the wait staff was friendly and prompt, and the atmosphere was light. There was an abundance of sun shining in the windows and the Chinese décor was plentiful. I would say it is a little more “upscale” than the average Lincoln restaurant. This would be a great place to take clients or your sweetheart on a date. They had a tempting display of wine at the entrance and a large gong that we desperately wanted to hit. I would not doubt that someone has done it in the past. Visit their website for more information about the food, location, and even Chinese-Tibetan culture!

"You will soon be honored by someone you respect."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Fortune Cookie

Although fortune cookies are a modern invention, a legend has been developed and circulated to explain their origins. According to this legend, in the 14th century, when the Mongols ruled China, a revolutionary named Chu Yuan Chang planned an uprising against them. He used mooncakes to pass along the date of the uprising to the Chinese by replacing the yolk center of the mooncake with the message written on rice paper. The Mongols did not care for the yolks, so the plan went on successfully and the Ming Dynasty began. It is claimed that the Moon Festival celebrates this with the tradition of giving mooncakes with messages inside. Immigrant Chinese railroad workers, without ingredients to make regular mooncakes, made biscuits instead. It is these biscuits that may have later inspired fortune cookies.

Another theory of the origin of the fortune cookie dates back to the 19th century. A cookie very similar in appearance to the American Fortune cookie was made is Kyoto, Japan, and there is a Japanese temple tradition of random fortunes, called omikuji. The Japanese version of the cookie differs in several ways: they are a little bit larger; are made of darker dough; and their batter contains sesame and miso rather than vanilla and butter. They contain a fortune. Most of the people who claim to have introduced the cookie to the United States are Japanese, so the theory is that these bakers were modifying a cookie design which they were aware of from thier days in Japan. Fortune cookies moved from being a confection dominated by Japanese-Americans to one dominated by Chinese-Americans sometime around World War II.

This information compliments of a Wikipedia search on "fortune cookies".

Monday, July 6, 2009

Imperial Palace

Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Time: Approx. 11:45 a.m.
Location: Lincoln, NE
Restaurant: Imperial Palace
Overall Rating: 4

Egg Roll:
Food Quality: 4
Price: 4
Atmosphere: 5
Service: 3.5

Last Wednesday, Andrea had the splendid idea to go to Imperial Palace for lunch. I, of course, accetped. Immediately when you step into this place it has a great ambiance. There are Chinese artifacts all over and the detail from the chairs to the ceiling surrounds you with Chinese culture. This would be a great date restaurant or just a fun night out with the family. The lighting is dim. Feels a bit like stepping out of a dungeon when exiting, but that all adds to the uniqueness.

We started off with Egg Drop Soup. It wasn't the best I've ever tried. After a couple slurps, I had to add some soy sauce. However, I rarely find an egg drop soup where I don't have to add soy sauce. The soup also had corn, carrots and peas. For a main entree, I chose the Cashew Chicken lunch combo with Sweet & Sour Pork. Note, the lunch combos come with choice of soup but no side item. The Cashew Chicken was excellent! I'm salivating thinking about it right now. It has a garlicy flavor to it, which was unlike any cashew chicken dish I've ever tasted. The change was delightful. All the vegetables were the same as usual in this dish (celery and carrots) and the chicken was what you'd expect. The Sweet & Sour Pork was average with thick breading and a very sweet, thick sauce. The pork pieces, although small (plus), had occasional hard pieces that I had to spit out (minus). That's as far as I'll go with that description. The Egg Rolls were vegetable only, and from my inspection it looked like they were only stuffed with cabbage. The outer crust was light and flaky, but there was no real flavor to it. I had to add some sweet & sour sauce to the last few bites. I would guess this may be more what a "traditional" Chinese egg roll would taste like, since this restaurant is more on the authentic side (I've heard). I did like that it was not massive and not too filling, so I could try more of everything else on my plate. The Crab Rangoons were smaller than I'm used to seeing, but that's not necessarily bad. The breading was light and crispy, even around the filling part. Very nice! Andrea tried the Vegetable Tofu dish. She said it was "nothing special". The tofu was a little softer than she prefers. So, if you like a softer consistency tofu, go for it.

The prices were reasonable for such sizeable portions and tasty food. The lunch specials range around $6. The two egg rolls were $2.75 and half an order (4) of crab rangoon was $2. The service was prompt and the food came out super fast. You can definitely tell the owners of this restaurant have been around for a while and know what they are doing when it comes to running a reputable restaurant. Just after I got back from this lunch, I received an email from a friend. This friend said she works with a doctor from China and he recommended this place BUT to order off of the "Chinese menu". Apparently, there is a special menu for Chinese people or anyone else who cares to look at it. It comes in Chinese or English. I'm very curious and will be going back be continued.

Fortune: "Time makes you wise. Ask advice from someone older than you."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Authentic vs. American Chinese Food

In between stops on my Chinese food tour, I thought I'd give you some fun facts about Chinese food. This one comes from a Wikipedia search on American Chinese food. Enjoy!

American Chinese food typically treats vegetables as a garnish while cuisines of China emphasize vegetables. This can be seen in the use of carrots and tomatoes. Native Chinese cuisine makes frequent use of Asian leafy vegetables like bok choy and kai-pan, and puts a greater emphasis on fresh meat and seafood. As a result, American Chinese food is usually less pungent than authentic cuisine.

American Chinese food tends to be cooked very quickly and with a great deal of oil and salt. Many dishes are quickly and easily prepared, and require inexpensive ingredients. Stir-frying, pan-frying, and deep-frying tend to be the most common cooking techniques which are all easily done using a wok. The food also has a reputation for high levels of MSG to enhance flavor. The symptoms of a so-called Chinese restaurant syndrome or "Chinese food syndrome" have been attributed to a glutamate sensitivity, but carefully controlled scientific studies have not demonstrated such negative effects of glutamate....American Chinse cuisine often uses ingredients not native and very rarely used in China. One such example is the common use of broccoli in American Chinese cuisine.

To read more go to

Who knew there was such a thing as "Chinese food syndrome"? I really better watch out for that! And if authentic Chinese food does not include "a great deal of oil and salt", then I will have to say "no thank you", give me the American version any day! Oil and salt is what defines American food, right?