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Sunday, December 27, 2009

China Star Restaurant, Englewood

‭ ‬My first impression when walking in the door of this place was that it had several attractive lunch specials,‭ ‬and great prices too.

I was having trouble picking a single selection for lunch.‭ ‬While I don't often buy appetizers,‭ ‬I decided to get the appetizer combination platter this time around.‭ ‬It came with‭ ‬2‭ ‬each of egg roll,‭ ‬crab rangoon,‭ ‬shrimp roll,‭ ‬beef stick and chicken teriyaki.‭

7‭ ‬lunch specials were available for only‭ ‬$6.95‭ ‬or less.‭ (‬keep in mind that these could easily change at any time‭ ‬-‭ ‬see photo for selections‭ & ‬prices‭) ‬I had a difficult time deciding between the Chicken Teriyaki Sauce,‭ ‬Honey Garlic Chicken and the Mongolian Triple.‭ ‬My wife chose what was evidently a new lunch special selection,‭ ‬Szechuan Triple‭ ‬-‭ ‬helpfully identified as a spicy dish by two red peppers on the menu:‭ ‬chicken,‭ ‬shrimp and beef sauteed with broccoli,‭ ‬napa baby corn‭ & ‬mushrooms in a spicy brown sauce.‭ ‬I eventually made up my mind and went with the Mongolian Triple:‭ ‬beef,‭ ‬shrimp‭ & ‬chicken sauteed with green and white onions in a sweet brown sauce,‭ ‬served over crispy rice noodles.‭ ‬All lunch specials also included steamed or fried rice,‭ ‬appetizer of the day,‭ ‬plus your choice of soup.‭ (‬egg drop,‭ ‬hot‭ & ‬sour,‭ ‬wonton or creamy chicken‭) ‬I got the egg drop soup,‭ ‬rice and an egg roll to go with my meal.‭

The appetizer platter was brought out within about‭ ‬6‭ ‬minutes of when we ordered.‭ ‬There was a tiny blue flamed heating tray in the center of the platter,‭ ‬which was a nice touch.‭ (‬I suppose in case anything got cold‭) ‬With the possible exception of the shrimp roll,‭ ‬everything on the platter easily met our expectations.‭ ‬I would have to say that the crab rangoon were some of the best I've tasted‭ ‬-‭ ‬creamy,‭ ‬hot and fresh.‭ ‬Some places either overdo or underdo the sweetness of the filling,‭ ‬but this place had it just right.‭ ‬Beef stick and chicken teriyaki were about what you would expect‭ ‬-‭ ‬meat on a stick‭ ‬-‭ ‬and everybody liked those.‭ ‬Shrimp roll might more accurately be called a shrimp pocket.‭ ‬They seemed ok,‭ ‬but I might ask to substitute something else for them next time around. I also liked having a large container of duck sauce at the table, because it is probably my favorite Asian dipping sauce.

‭ ‬When the actual meals were delivered,‭ ‬I realized we were going to have leftovers.‭ ‬We had finished only about‭ ‬2/3‭ ‬of the appetizer tray,‭ ‬and while the lunch specials weren't oversized,‭ ‬we had already more than halfway satisfied ourselves on appetizers.

‭ ‬My wife said she enjoyed her Szechuan Triple,‭ ‬and that it was not too spicy at all.‭ ‬I loved the Mongolian Triple as well,‭ ‬and found myself savoring the sweet sauce over the spring onions and variety of meats. The restaurant was clean and quiet. Personally, I might have enjoyed a bit of oriental music in the background, but I suppose that might depend on my mood at the time. Overall, a very enjoyable experience.

Name: China Star restaurant

Location: 606 Taywood Road in Englewood (Northmont Plaza, where Taywood, 40 and 48 come together)

Telephone: (937) 836-7678

Dayton Dining

Sunday, December 20, 2009

El Rancho Grande Centerville

My wife and I visited the Centerville location of El Rancho Grande for supper. We decided to simply start driving and stop at whichever place caught our eye this time around. We had about an hour and 20 minutes to spend while the kids were occupied.

El Rancho Grande is eye catching, both from the street and inside. It has colorful Spanish inspired oversized artwork, and inside it has what appear to be stone arches that give it a south of the border feel.

When we sat down to eat, they brought out some tortilla chips and salsa for us to much on while we decided what to eat. There were so many selections that it was a bit difficult to decide. I'll also have to admit that even though I took a couple of years of Spanish way back in high school, I find it hard to remember what all of the Spanish menu selections are. (photos and descriptions on the back of the menu would be truly helpful for those who don't speak Spanish) I will give them a big plus for fast service - they were ready to take our order within just a few minutes, and they brought out our food only 9 or 10 minutes after we ordered. I was pleased to note that they were playing traditional Spanish music in the background.

We ended up getting combination platters for about $10 each. I had the #24, which was a chalupa, burrito and chile relleno. My wife had the #22 - a taco, burrito and rice & beans. The portions were generous, and neither of us were able to completely finish our food.

My favorite was the chalupa - sort of a large flat tortilla with melted cheese and salad toppings. It ended up heavy on the guacamole, which I love. Also, although I can handle horseradish hot, I just can't take much pepper heat at all, and the chalupa was mild. I also enjoyed the chile relleno, which is a cooked bell pepper portion filled to overflowing with melted cheese. However, it was a bit on the spicy side, and my nose was running by the time I finished it. Then I tackled the burrito, which was filled with a very finely diced meat mixture. The taste was excellent, but it was just too spicy for me. Plus, we were feeling rather full by that time. If you can handle more than a mild level of spiciness in mexican food, it probably wouldn't be an issue for you.

Room for improvement department: I'm all for CFL energy saving bulbs, but not when they are installed only a few feet from your eye and unshielded in any way. I looked around and saw that all the booths had been equipped with these. If you're unfamiliar with them, they can really cut down on energy use, but they often seem almost glaringly white and bright. When dining out in a booth, you really want a subdued, yellow light - not something that hurts your eyes. I'm hoping that El Rancho Grande will install some of the CFL bulbs that have a frosted, diffusing glass layer to make it easy on the eyes.

Location: 1020 Miamisburg Centerville Rd. (south side route 725, between Lyons & Paragon Rd)
telephone: (937) 610-3456
Open 7 days a week

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hometown Buffet 745 Lyons Rd. (Washington Park Plaza)

Once in a while, you're hungry enough to eat several plates of food, but perhaps you can't make up your mind about what type of restaurant to visit. (Italian, Mexican, seafood?) Or, perhaps you have a group, and not everyone enjoys the same kinds of food. In these cases, a Buffet is called for. Today, my cousin and I visited Hometown Buffet east of the Dayton Mall. We ended up getting the regular lunch buffet for $8.66, including tax.

This buffet is mid sized - certainly not the largest or smallest I've been to. However, there is a good variety, and the food quality is better than I expected. I couldn't resist starting out with one of my favorites, and something I haven't often seen at buffets - grilled cheese sandwiches. I enjoyed it enough to go back for seconds. I also decided to try a marinated steamed summer squash, and was pleasantly surprised at the good flavor. From there, I proceeded to try the lean barbecue chicken, some baked fish, sweet sesame chicken, and penne pasta with ham. The barbecue chicken was very succulent and moist, with a flavoring that was not overly hot or sweet. The baked fish was rather mild, and though decent, I think that it was a bit overpowered by the other flavorful choices on my plate. The sweet sesame chicken was just what I was looking for along the lines of a bit of Asian cuisine. However, the best surprise turned out to be the penne pasta with ham, which had a buttery sauce. I probably could have enjoyed a full meal of that one alone.

The salad bar is about what you might expect, with a decent selection of fruits, vegetables, dressings and items like pea salad, and bacon and broccoli salad. Drinks are included in the buffet, and choices range from chocolate milk to lemonade, and many varieties of pop, including cherry coke.

Big Positives: The silverware was clean, and used plates were promptly cleared from our table. Nearly all of the selections were clearly labeled. Unlike some of the other buffets I've visited, there were no empty or nearly empty selections which remained that way for any significant amount of time, which meant no waiting to have full access to all of the selections. One server even came by to ask if we wanted some cinnamon rolls.

Location: 745 Lyons Rd. Centerville, Ohio 45459 telephone: 937-438-3075
Hours: Sun 8-8, M-Th 11-8:30, F-S 11-9 (Washington Park Plaza)
"Genres" Seafood, Italian, American, Mexican, Salad Bar, Soup, dessert
Breakfast Buffet on weekends, endless soup & salad $5 for lunch weekdays
Deal: currently on the website, sign up for "eclub" and get a buy 1, get 1 free coupon

Dayton Dining