Oriental Gourmet, North Arlington

A few days ago, I was reading over this thread, and combining its general tone with my own experiences, I made the hypothesis that Oriental Gourmet might just be the best “white-carton,” Americanized Chinese restaurant in the area.

I decided to take some people’s favorites, add my own into the mix, and then change up the meats and sauces, coming up with this:

P5 Pork w/ Black Bean Sauce ($10.95)

S27 Fish Filet w/ Black Pepper Sauce ($14.95)

V8 Spinach Stir-Fried w/ Garlic ($8.95)

Patting myself on the back, the combination of flavors, ingredients, and balance was just right – more importantly, this meal was fantastic as far as Americanized Chinese meals go. At Oriental Gourmet, you’re not going to get the lip-curdling, palate-numbing flavors of a Hong Kong Palace Szechuan crippler, nothing of the sort – this is straight-on, full-bore, unapologetic Chinese food for American palates. But, the ever-important difference is that it’s done well!

How well?

Well, well enough to have another go at it.

A few days later, I went as soon as they opened for lunch, and got the exact same order, the only difference being that I got the lunch-sized Pork w/ Black Bean Sauce ($7.95, and a noticeably smaller portion than the dinner version).

The only difference was one you might expect: the prime-time dinner meal was more perfectly cooked. In particular, the onions that accompany the stir-fry were ever-so-slightly undercooked, producing a slightly crunchy texture (which, in turn, doesn’t release all of the sweetness); other than that, the fish could have seen another twenty seconds of wok time – it was hot, but not *piping* hot. These two things would not have been noticeable unless I was doing an active comparison. But I was, so I noticed.

Regardless, my hypothesis – that Oriental Gourmet may just be the best white-carton Americanized Chinese restaurant in the area – stood the test of two versions of the exact same meal at dramatically different times.

Raised to Italic in the Dining Guide, and elevated several notches to where it should have been all along.

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