Saturday, July 31, 2010

Road Trip: Part 7

Before we got to Bloomington, the scenery changed again. This time, we were looking at huge cornfields. Oh, we’d seen corn before, but they were smaller farms. Now, tie was all corn, as far as they eye could see.

We picked an exit that had the potential for a room and some food, too a quick drive up and down the street to see what lodging was available, and ended up at America’s Best Inn, which is a euphemism for your basic motel.

Although a sign on the side of the building proudly proclaimed “Free High-Speed Internet,” the strongest signal I found was labeled “La Quinta 2.” There was a La Quinta across the highway, but somehow I doubted that America’s Best was really La Quinta 2.

With lodging arranged, we turned our attention to food. There were menus in the lobby. Three of them were for Chinese restaurants, so we picked the closest one.

When you walk into a quirky little restaurant, there are sometimes hints that this could be one of those amazing hidden gems…or not. The two bicycles in the dining room next to what looked like a stove…yes, those were hints.

While the menu in the hotel lobby was fairly short, the menu at the restaurant had a more substantial variety. The waiter offered drinks, and when I chose hot tea, he brought me a small, handle-less cup and a stainless stell pitcher with hotwater and loose tea. He said it was a jasmine tea. We were off to a good start.

I ordered an egg roll and we decided to split pot stickers. I ordered the moo shoo pork, and the waiter walked away. We called him back and he said, “Oh, I thought you were going to split it.”

That was odd. I our younger, hungrier days, when we went to Chinese restaurants we’d often each order a meal and ome more to split. We don’t eat as much now, but we haven’t reached the point where we’re ordering a small meal and splitting it.

The egg roll was freshly fried and hot, and came with a sweet and sour sauce. I asked about hot mustard and the waiter said that all they had were packets – they didn’t make their own – which of course led me to believe that everything else was made on premises.

The pot stickers were a little more browned than I’m used to, and a bit greasy, but not bad. The dipping sauce was good.

Then dinner arrived.

Oh my. My moo shoo pork was rolled up for me, and there wer five rather large rolls. Five.

Hubster had ordered egg foo yung, and there were three patties, each the size of a half-pound burger, a cup filled with a suspicious gravy, and a bowl of rice that probably held three full cups.

That’s a lot of food. No wonder he thought we were sharing.

The first bite of moo shoo was good. There were some fresh and still crispy vegetables, but they could have used just a bit more of the plum sauce. By the time I got into the second one, I detected a bit of greasiness, but it wasn’t awful. Hungry as I was, I could only couldn’t quite finish two.

The egg foo yung looked interesting. Instead of the flat patties I’m used to seeing, these were big and fat. And did I mention big? There were three of them. But the interesting – and not in a good way – thing was the gravy. The egg foo yung that I’m used to comes with a dark brown, soy-sauce laden clrear gravy, thickened with corn starch just enough to make it not watery. This was a thick, light beige gravy with a consistency somewhere between Jell-O and oatmeal.

It was obviously thickened with flour instead of cornstartch. But that wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was that you shouldn’t be able to stand a spoon up in a cup of gravy.

The meal easily would have fed four people, with leftovers. The cost? Seventeen dollars and change.

We opted not to take the leftovers with us, since we’d be in Chicago by lunch time. A shame to waste that much food, but I think the restaurant needs to take some of the blame for not noting that these meals easily fed two…or three. Returning guests would know, but considering this was just off the highway and near a couple handfuls of hotels, you’d think they’d be getting a lot of one-time guests.