Sometimes a girl needs something solid, reliable, even predictable, be it Chinese food or a nice guy. Before the age of 25, a gal like me needed a man who drove a fast car, had a criminal record, and always needed a shave and an aspirin. Guys who called me the wrong name, slept until 5 p.m. and wore leather pants on a Sunday were my specialty. They kept me waiting. They kept me wondering. And they provided me with enough wild, spicy adventure that I seldom noticed in time that my heart (and occasionally my checkbook and hubcaps) was gone.
As I grew to a wise and steady maturity, I realized that a nice man, much like a consistent meal, was far more important to my sanity. That’s how I felt dining at Rising Star Chinese Eatery. The food was good, dependable and without any surprises. The service was excellent; the atmosphere was warm and pleasant. Nothing about my experience was out of the ordinary—but a tiny, secret part of me that still craved excitement was disappointed.
The place was pretty slow at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, and my server seemed eager to break up the monotony that stemmed from a slow spell and too much time spent listening to the John Tesh radio show that droned in the background. Two sodas later, my dining companion and I looked over the menu to find that not much piqued our interest. There was a moderately sized menu with conventional favorites in every category of beef, pork, poultry, shrimp, veggie and fried rice.
The appetizer list presented the usual suspects like egg rolls, barbecued pork ribs, pot stickers and fried shrimp. We decided to order the crab rangoon (six for $3.25). Soups were nothing out-of-the-ordinary to choose from, only egg flower, wonton, noodle, and hot and sour. We chose the latter ($1.50) and moved on to entrées.
Main dishes here were much the same: unexciting choices like vegetable and tofu, sweet and sour chicken, beef with broccoli and cashew shrimp. There were lunch combo plates that included two entrées, fried rice, egg roll and soup for around $8 a plate. We selected the No. 12 Szechwan shrimp and sweet and sour pork ($7.95), orange tofu ($6.50) and Hong Kong chow mein ($8.95).
The chow mein turned out to be our favorite dish, loaded with pork, shrimp, chicken and a nice, caramel-colored soy sauce. The meats were especially well-prepared and quite tender. On the meat-free side, I was unimpressed with the tofu, which was standard-issue and lightly fried. The spicy, citrusy soy sauce was an interesting russet red color, however, and not bad with the requisite sprinkle of green onion slivers.
I didn’t care much for the sauce on the sweet and sour pork (it was mostly sweet with no sour), but the Szechwan sauce was warm and properly moistened the plump shrimp and lumps of green bell pepper and carrot. The fried rice was savory and salty—though not particularly colorful—and when added to a bite of chow mein, it was fine and dandy.
John Tesh continued to get on my nerves throughout the meal. I'm not sure how I was deprived of the gene that makes people like elevator music and talk radio, but this lunch made it more apparent. I'll never develop an appreciation for Amy Grant or helpful tips on how to potty train your dog. I mentioned to our server how much I despised the dinner music/commentary ... and he chuckled at me. I have pull in this town, lemme tell you.
While paying the check my companion and I got into our most predictable argument over Bruce Lee versus David Carradine. Would it have been better or worse if Lee had been offered the role of Caine instead of Carradine? We asked our server to break the stalemate by choosing a side.
“So who do you think was cooler?” I asked him. “Was it David Carradine?”
“Huh? Who’s that?” he asked, nonplussed.
“You know, in the Kung Fu show,” I nudged him.
He didn’t budge.
“See!” screamed my lunch guest. I suppose my date won that one. At least he's a good, solid, reliable guy—in the face of my checkered dating history, I can handle any defeat now.
The Alibi Recommends:
Hong Kong chow mein • Fried rice • Szechwan shrimp
Rising Star Chinese Eatery, 7001 San Antonio NE, 821-6595. Hours: Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Closed Sun. Price range: inexpensive to moderate. No booze, credit cards accepted.