I hadn't realized how spoiled living in Irvine had made me, since there are so many good Asian restaurants, particularly Chinese ones, catering to a mostly-Asian group of customers. I became used to very specialized, regional menus, with bilingual menus, quite often. Even whole malls like the one that used to be two blocks from our house with nothing but Asian restaurants--Japanese, Chinese bbq, Chinese delis, noodles, boba joints, an herbalist, and a Chinese market. And that was just one mall of this kind--there were more, one in fact just across the street, and one about a mile and half down the road, three times the size, with a parking lot that was always full, even in the middle of the day, and lines outside the Chinese bakery that went around the block.
Here, the next town over, it's another world, more like the one I grew up in back in Philly. Yes, there are ethnic restaurants--a couple of pretty good Persian places, sushi, a pizzeria that sells quite credible Peruvian empanadas, and an Afghani hole-in-the-wall that I enjoy. But this evening we went to our first local Chinese restaurant, and though it was pretty good, it really can't live up to the standards I developed living in Irvine, where there are no utensils but chopsticks unless you ask for them, and even then, you might never get them (I never asked, but my son always did).
It looked like those chop suey joints I grew up with, before Chinese food took off here in the States, and though the menu was much much more developed than that, the noodles were slicked with grease and very light on vegetables. The soup was mediocre. The steamed dumplings didn't spurt soup upon the first bite the way they were supposed to. And this is the best that this part of the county has to offer, by all accounts. I'm sure we'll go there again. It wasn't bad. But most likely, the next time I want Chinese food, I'll just head back up to Irvine to my old haunts.