Oh Yea Ouyang
So, there has been a lot of buzz about Ouyang, a 1 year old Chinese Buffet in Nashville. People from NAAAP Nashville were saying that this is the best Chinese in town. I thought, "Are you kidding me? All Chinese Buffets suck in Nashville and have poor quality food." Then the Scene wrote them up, and an Asian food blogger wrote them up as passable, so I had to try it myself. The 1st free night we had, we were off to find this place. One blog said that the restaurant is just south of K&S Market, a landmark on Nolensville Road. We google-mapped Ouyang, and off we went. We found Ouyang a building next to the now defunct Lowes Home Store space. Have you ever noticed how Tennessee Lowes Stores always have a little strip mall nearby and there is always the obligatory Chinese Buffet in the that strip mall? That is what I assumed Ouyang to be before trying it.
What I discovered was that Mr Ouyang hired a dim sum chef from New York (originally from Hong Kong area), and Mr Fu who used to own Shanghai Cafe (raves about this real Chinese food place, now closed). One should note something about Chinese food, and that different regions of China have different styles of food. South China (Hong Kong, region) has a history of dim sum, while Shanghai (central east) does not. The variation of food styles is similar to the USA where Southern New Orleans food is quite different from Boston (Northeast) food. Boston and New Orleans may share some basic food and flavors, but there is a complete difference in food styles.
What did we find in our visit? I found that the buffet is about the same old crap as you get in any other run of the mill Chinese buffet. Egg rolls, crab legs, sweet and sour pork, etc are not real Chinese food, and are abundant on this buffet. We opted to order only dim sum off the menu. Since I speak only English (except for a few Taisan works of food) they kept on pushing that generic Chinese buffet menu on me. I protested and FINALLY got the dim sum menu on one side, and a Chinese only menu on the other. I suspect the Chinese only menu may be Mr Fu's creations because he had a Chinese only menu at Shanghai. I was lucky enough to get a copy of this menu, and I am going to give it my mom to see if she will translate it for me. Stay tuned, about the Chinese only menu in the coming months, and maybe I can get a reasonable translation so us English speakers can enjoy REAL Chinese food, not this deep fried crap on the buffet.
Ok, so on to ordering for our dinner. We got piquot (little pork rib bites steamed in fermented black beans), shu mai (1/2 opened pork dumpling), now yook chow fun (beef with wide rice noodles), chive dumplings (made with some meat and scallions), lo bok go (taro root/radish root patties crisped up on a skillet). I was expecting heated up frozen food distributor industrial made food, but I was wrong. Every bite I took, it seemed that the taste and texture was that of something made in the kitchen, not frozen distributor food. I parsed apart my chive dumpling and the veggie portion was too fresh and snappy to be previously frozen. We really liked these dumplings. The lo bok go was good, and actually more fluffy in texture than expected. I have had some lo bok go that was hard as a rubber ball from being heated too long, but this one was fluffy like a perfectly made potato gnocchi (note, gnocchi should be light and fluffy, not hard and gummy). We liked the lo bok go too. The shu mai was definitely made in-house, and it had a chunky texture to it, a bit different from what I am used to. The flavor was fine.
Would this dim sum hold up to New York or Hong Kong, probably not, but for Nashville, it is definitely passable, with a couple of the items being good. Will I eat here again. Sure, but I will be ordering off the menu, and definitely not eating the buffet.
My opinion about Ouyang's business decision to have both a buffet and a menu that includes other items (Chinese only menu and dim sum menu) is Right On! There is a large demographic in Nashville that expects and wants the Chinese buffet, and they are the main stay paying customers. That demographic should be offered what they want, and keep them coming back. There is also the other style of customers (a much smaller population) who wants real Chinese food, and Ouyang accommodates those paying customers too. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be enough people in Nashville who really want real Chinese food to keep a real Chinese food restaurant afloat. That is why I think Ouyang can be the happy medium for the offering of Chinese food in Nashville. I hope that Ouyang can keep up with providing both styles of eaters with the food they want, keep Ouyang profitable, and keep dim sum on the menu in Nashville.
Labels: Nashville Eats