They call the place the Eurasian Taste, but the flavor is really Adams-Morgan - for where else can a family hit an urban answer to a truck stop that has a menu in English and Spanish listing Chinese dishes, several African recipes, West Indian curries, vegetarian selections and chicken wings with black bean sauce?
Oh yes, and the music on the radio was German as the four of us blew in past the pinball machine, the juke box and the cashier's counter with the crib nestled in behind it. On we went, down this narrow rectangle of a room to one of nine tables along the left wall.
Each brown-and-white-checkered, oilcloth-covered table was neatly appointed with salt and pepper shakers and a bottle labeled "hot saurce." We quickly spruced up our setting still more with a round of beers and colas that came in colorful cans.
It was dinner time, but we couldn't help but notice the bargain lunches listed on the menu cover. There's chicken fried rice at $1.50. a pepper steak with onion at $1.95, egg foo young with shrimp at $1.75, chicken chow mein, sweet and sour pork or chop suey at $1.95 or a good old cheese-burger at a good old price of 85 cents.
While our ever-so-affable waitress pretended to have all the time in the world, we conducted the family's Great Decision Seminar, which - after more than a few revisions and extensions of remarks - ended in agreement on the basic four-order Chinese-appetizer kit of egg roll, fried wonton, egg drop soup and wonton soup.
It doesn't really matter who ordered what, or at least it didn't seem to when everything was set before us. Only when each member discovered that he or she liked a certain order did the dinning get protective.
The shrimp egg roll, at 65 cents, had just the right consistency. The egg drop soup, at 55 cents, held its own I mean, egg drop soup is egg drop soup, no?) and the wonton soup, at 85 cents, I liked - though everyone else thought is somewhat boring.
Where the 40 assembled fingers really got to wrestling was over the plate of six fried wonton, at $1,50, for these were pertfect - neither too soft nor too burned. A little squirt from the red plastic mustard-squeezer with the duck sauce (sweet and sour) in it, and the wonton wieghed in beautifully.
Now, as many of you veteran Family Outers know, there is a Chinese-restaurant adage to the effect that one parent's appetizer is another kid's entree - and in this instance, the fantail shrimp appetizer, at $2.45, hit to main-course spot for our 9-year-old daughter. They were huge, soft-and-puffy shrimp - four of them - that made a fine meal for her.
Our 11-year-old son, meanwhile, pecked at his pick of pepper steak, at $3.75, surgically removing every last green pepper to savor the slices of meat.
From the asterisked dishes - the pork; mostly what you found in a weird orange sauce were vegetables that had been sliced too wide - onions, peppers and bamboo shoots that at those sizes make quite a racket when you chew them. What they don't make is much of an impact.
My order of lemon Chicken Picata, at $3.95, was also a surprise - but a happy one; three thick pieces of boneless chicken in a grand brown-and-lemony gravy with rice. This one isn't a spicy dish, though given its pleasant little zing, it could have been awarded a half-asterisk.
There weren't any desserts listed, but each Eurasian taste-buddy was awarded a fortune cookie - warmed bridged edition of our fortunes, citing only No. 716, the sage cookie-prophet's parental-guidance entry: "It's a bad child who does not take advice."
Well, it's a blind parent who doesn't see a bargain in a bill for all this that comes to $22.61 plus tip. What the Eurasian Taste may lack in elegance is made up in the fare.